What is the OMAD diet and why is everyone talking about it?

It’s the new type of intermittent fasting everyone’s talking about, which guarantees weight loss and allows you to eat anything you want. But there’s a catch… 

You’ve been hearing a lot about intermittent fasting lately – and guess what? It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. First there was 5:2, then 16:8 and now… brace yourself for OMAD. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the OMAD diet?

OMAD takes intermittent fasting to the extreme, incorporating only ‘One Meal a Day’. The idea is that you eat one substantial meal during a one hour eating window at roughly the same time every single day, and nothing else for the rest of the day.

The only hall pass is for calorie-free fluids, like water, black tea and black coffee. There are no strict food rules per say, so anything you wish to put on your plate, from deep fried chicken and hot chips to lentil salad, will do (although healthier options are ‘encouraged’).

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Is the OMAD diet healthy?

Would I recommend the OMAD diet? The short answer is: absolutely not. The long answer is as follows…

The main goal with the OMAD diet is weight loss, but just because it’ll help you lose weight, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Depending on how much you consume in your one meal a day, you could cut your calorie consumption so drastically that you lose weight far too quickly – and if that’s the case, you’ll actually lose lean muscle mass rather than the fat you’re trying to budge, which is obviously not a good thing.

There’s also a huge risk that by cutting your food intake so significantly, you’re going to miss out on essential nutrients. Not just enough calories to keep your metabolism firing, protein to maintain muscle and fibre for a healthy gut, but also micronutrients that keep your body working it’s best (think: Vitamin C for a healthy immune system, iron to deliver oxygen to your body’s cells and calcium to maintain strong bones and teeth). If you become deficient in any of these essential nutrients, you’re at risk of serious health issues down the track.

It’s no surprise that with such little food intake, you’d suffer some rather uncomfortable side effects, too. Extreme hunger, weakness and irritability would follow suit, making the daily grind almost unbearable. Not to mention the impact OMAD could have on your social life (goodbye weekend brunches and spur-of-the-moment dinner dates).

Dietitian’s verdict on the OMAD diet

All in all, my verdict on OMAD is this: it’s simply far too extreme, boasting all of the hallmarks of a quick-fix fad diet. Not only do I see it as unrealistic and unsustainable, but outright dangerous for some groups of people (pregnant women, children and those with certain medical conditions like diabetes).

While less-extreme types of intermittent fasting have their time and place, I wouldn’t recommend OMAD for weight loss, good health or otherwise. Trust me, there are plenty of other lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health without starving yourself to the nth degree.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her at Honest Nutrition or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.