The OMAD diet seems to be blowing up, gaining in popularity among people who see it as an effective way to lose weight. So, what is it? How does the OMAD diet work, and is it right for you? What are its potential pros and cons?
“Simply put, OMAD means eating one meal in a day,” says Lana Nasrallah, a clinical dietitian with UNC Health, a not-for-profit integrated health care system based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Unlike other eating regimens, there’s not a great deal of research on the OMAD diet, she says.
While eating once a day is the basic framework of the OMAD regimen, it allows for the consumption of beverages without calories outside of meal time, says Maxine Smith, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.
How the OMAD Diet Works
The OMAD diet is an extreme form of intermittent fasting. With the OMAD regimen, you fast for 23 hours and eat during the same one-hour window each day, Nasrallah says. Unlike other eating regimens — for example, the Mediterranean diet — the OMAD plan doesn’t specify or recommend what you should eat. There’s no requirement, for instance, to eat a certain amount of fruits or vegetables. The plan also doesn’t specify when you should consume your single daily meal.
While eating once a day is the basic framework of the OMAD regimen, there are some variations in how to implement it, Smith says.
These approaches include:
— Eating one meal a day or having one main meal with one or two low-carb and low-calorie snacks.
— Consuming water, coffee without sugar or cream, plain tea without sugar or milk and other non-caloric beverages during the fasting hours.
— Interjecting the OMAD diet into a broader, less restrictive eating regimen. For example, you might adhere to the OMAD diet two days a week rather than following it every day.
— Restricting calorie intake to a small window of time each day, to incur the benefits of time-restricted eating. This is a type of intermittent fasting.
OMAD Diet Pros and Cons
If you’re considering trying the OMAD diet, it’s important to know the possible pros and cons, says Preeti Pusalkar, a certified clinical nutritionist with Hudson Medical and Wellness in New York City.
Here are three pros of the OMAD diet:
— It’s easy to plan meals, and you don’t have to count calories.
— The eating regimen is a relatively fast and easy way to lose weight.
— Some people report having improved mental clarity and focus on the OMAD diet.
Four cons of the OMAD diet include:
— Chronic calorie restriction, which can be difficult to sustain in the long run. Such a restrictive diet can cause hunger, irritability, nausea and dizziness, and the potential of lowered gastric motility. The difficulty of sustaining this regimen can lead to regaining lost weight. Feeling hungry could cause some people to eat processed foods.
— Inadequate nutrient intake. Following the OMAD regimen restricts calories and can also lead to inadequate intake of essential nutrients.
— A decrease in exercise, because fasting and restricting calories often causes people to feel depleted of energy.
— It might not be safe for certain populations. “Don’t follow this diet if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a history or have existing comorbidities, because it may not be safe to do so,” Pusalkar says.
It’s a good idea to seek professional advice before trying the OMAD diet. “Always check with your health care provider either way before considering something this drastic,” Pusalkar says.
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