The trendy tactic of intermittent fasting has brought out a group of drastic dieters. This crew is taking intermittent fasting to a whole new level and trying a new form of fasting called One Meal a Day (OMAD).
OMAD is a way of eating that requires the dieter to eat only one meal every 24 hours within a one-hour eating window. While this method may help you drop a few pounds in the beginning, it may consequently pose a threat to your body and your weight loss goals in the long run.
Less extreme versions of intermittent fasting that allow a four or eight-hour eating window have been shown to improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin sensitivity, and aid in weight loss. Eating one unusually large meal can have the opposite effect of shorter intermittent fasts.
Long periods without food hit your health from all sides. Here are a few evidence-based reasons why OMAD is not recommended by most nutritionists, doctors, and dietitians:
One meal within one hour is a very small space to fit in all the essential vitamins, minerals, calories, and macronutrients your body needs every day to function properly. Too few calories and nutrients can compromise your immune system, break down the muscle mass in your body, and zap your energy reserves.
Our bodies also need a slow drip of certain nutrients to utilize them properly. For example, it’s impossible to optimize your protein intake with only one meal a day. Protein is a key nutrient for weight loss, but to see the best physical results, your body needs adequate protein spaced equally over the course of eight to ten hours.
The One-Meal-a-Day trend can also have a significant impact on hormones, especially for women. Fasting for long periods can affect the hypothalamus or the part of the brain that regulates hormones like estrogen that are crucial to menstruation. And it may also lead to lower progesterone levels, which reduces the chances of ovulation.
Eating only once a day requires you to ignore many of your body’s signals of hunger. It can quickly leave you feeling weak and sick. When the time to eat does come, it’s all the easier to overeat, which results in a surge of the fat-storing hormone, insulin.
If you’re testing out the OMAD diet for weight loss, this strategy could be making your journey a lot harder and longer. Going too long without eating might actually encourage your body to start storing more fat in response to starvation.
Fasting for 23 consecutive hours will likely signal to your body that you should enter starvation mode—its natural protective state to keep you alive during an extended period of calorie restriction. To your body, the OMAD diet looks similar to starvation, which encourages it to hold onto as much energy as possible in case more food isn’t coming anytime soon.
This can slow down weight loss and your metabolism, lowering the number of calories your body automatically burns in a day. The OMAD diet can also lead to an abnormal increase in appetite as your body tries to take care of you by focusing on finding food.
Longer fasts on occasion may bring some temporary results. But there are much healthier and more sustainable ways for us to eat while reaching our health and weight loss goals.
For most people, fasting between 14 and 16 hours each day is the ideal range. This schedule provides the most benefits, protects your body from hormonal harm and nutrient deficiencies, and allows you to feel full, energized, and satiated each day.
When within a healthy eating window of about eight hours, intermittent fasting brings many health benefits, like:
Whether you’ve heard of OMAD, or you’ve developed an unintentional eating pattern of skipping meals frequently without meaning to, there’s a much better way to improve your weight, fitness, and overall health. Stick with a 14-16 hour fast, and focus on hitting and spacing out the right amount of daily protein for weight loss.
New to intermittent fasting? Check out my two-part guide to learn how to fast the right way.
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