OMAD Diet: 10 Reasons Why You Need to Try One Meal a Day
Are you interested in the easiest way to burn fat, improve your mood, grow your brain and lengthen your lifespan? Not to sound like an infomercial, but fasting can do all these things.
In rodent studies, for instance, fasting for 24 hours every day or twice weekly, extended their lifespan up to 30% [*].
This is why one of the first strategies I recommend to improve your health is fasting.
The OMAD diet or one meal a day diet, is an extended version of intermittent fasting. It’s my preferred way of eating.
This post will explain everything about why people are interested in it and the science behind how it works.
Table of Contents
The Evolutionary Basis of Fasting
In today’s society, most people lack control. They don’t control their emotions, their reactions or their health.
The epitome of this is the tyranny of food — especially carbohydrates.
Look around. Most of the world revolves around food. Wherever people go they carry a snack with them, lest they have to be hungry for a few hours. People structure their days around the prototypical 3 meals. And to them, deviating from the typical schedule sounds crazier than defying gravity.
But this isn’t normal. It was only recently that we domesticated animals and grains and had constant access to food. Homo Habilis, the first Homo, emerged 2.8 million years ago. It’s only in the last 10,000 years that we had agriculture — that’s only 0.3%.
If evolution of the Homo species was on a yearly calendar, it would only be on the last day of the year — New Years Eve — that we developed agriculture.
Before this period humans ate intermittently. We had to work for the food — we couldn’t stroll into any random coffee shop and pick up a pastry. Kill or be killed.
Instead, humans would be fasted all day while they hunted and gathered, and they would eat afterwards. They had to work for their food…literally.
The modern interest in fasting is attempting to get us back to this evolutionary norm.
Fasting is the best first step to take back control of your life. From a stoic perspective, how can you take back control of your life if you’re always at the whims of your hunger?
Fasting is your rebelion. The best way to take back control of your health and your life.
The Science of Fasting
Dietary recommendations have destroyed your health by changing both:
(1) what you eat and
(2) when you eat.
If you want to improve your health, you need to restore both to your evolutionary ways.
Let’s jump right in. Why does fasting work?
Fed vs Fasted States
You can only get energy from two sources: Food or body fat. But you can’t get energy from both at the same time. When you’re getting energy from food, this is called the fed state. When you’re getting your energy from body fat, this is called the fasted state. Insulin and glucagon — two hormones — regulate this process.
Your body isn’t used to such a quick hit of energy because for most of history we were not eating pringles. So this puts you in what I referred to above as the fed state — but on steroids (insulin signals this).
After you eat junk food, your body has abundant energy available and will only burn that for energy instead of your stored body fat.
Because we’ve been brainwashed to eat this junk all day long, most people are perpetually in the fed state. They are never burning body fat.
Intermittent Fasting: How to Enter the Fasted State
It takes ~12 hours to lower insulin far enough to actually burn body fat and entered the fasted state. But most people are eating all day, and not giving their bodies enough time to lower insulin levels and burn body fat.
Even after their 8 hours of sleep most people shut this natural process off by eating a high carb (also translated to dessert) meal first thing in the morning.
To counteract this, many have started to intermittent fast. Instead of shoveling food into your mouth every waking hour, people purposefully restrict their eating window.
The most common way people do this is by skipping breakfast and eating lunch and dinner.
This leverages your 8 hours of sleep time to make the total fast easier. If you just eat lunch and dinner from 12pm – 8pm for instance, you’ll fast for 16 hours.
This is pretty much the exact opposite of what all American’s do given most people still believe “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.
Well that claim is faker than Beyond Meat. The very worst thing you can do for your health is eat junk first thing in the morning. This shuts off fat burning for the whole day, spikes insulin and blood glucose and will make you even hungrier 4 hours down the road.
In fact, the early morning is when insulin and ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) are the lowest and you should be fasting. The only reason some people are so hungry in the morning is because they’ve trained their body to expect a massive hit of high glycemic energy right when they wake up. But fench Toast + OJ every morning is the fastest way to get diabetes.
Whereas if you fast until lunch, your insulin levels will fall sufficiently to burn your stored body fat.
This has immense benefits I’ll get into below.
Why You Don’t Need to Constantly Eat
In the early to mid 1900s, most people only ate 3 meals a day. But in the late 1900s, people started to eat 6-7 times a day. Doctors recommended many small meals to “speed up your metabolism”.
Guess what? The only thing that’s speeding up is how fast you give money to big cpg and big pharma companies. And how fast you develop insulin resistance.
When you eat insulin levels increase, which signals to your cells to suck in energy from your bloodstream. And when you sleep, insulin falls, telling your body to use stored energy to run your vital organs.
The reason you store and have body fat is so that you can use it as energy when you’re not eating. Fasting is really just eating your own body fat instead of eating food.
But if you’re always eating, you never actually enter this process.
How Do You Produce Energy Without Food?
When there’s no food around your insulin levels fall and glucagon levels rise. This pushes you into the “fasted state”.
When you’re in this fasted state, your body has a few priorities. First of which, is ensuring a constant supply of energy from your brain. Even under fasted conditions with no exogenous glucose available your brain needs glucose to function.
In response to the high glucagon : insulin ratio your body does a few things:
- Shuttles stored liver glycogen to cells for energy. Most people store approx 100-150 grams of glycogen in the liver (this is glucose that you store)
- Start to break down fatty acid molecules into glycerol and glucose, to power the brain. Yes you read that correctly. Body fat can be broken down into sugar.
- Breaks down deficient and old proteins into glucose via gluconeogenesis to power the brain. This protein is not muscle cells. The protein that breaks down is old damaged protein and skin and intestinal lining.
- Shuttles body fat to the liver to make ketone bodies (like beta hydroxybutyrate). Ketone bodies will be used to provide ~10%-20% of the energy your brain requires.
There’s no reason to fear fasting. Your body stores a tremendous amount of energy at any given time in the form of body fat and liver glycogen. This is a great analogy from Ben Bikman below.
Imagine you are a fuel tanker carrying 1000s of gallons of fuel. But when your small gas tank runs out, you still need to go to the gas station. This is how your energy system functions when you’re not burning body fat.
Instead, imagine the tanker could burn all the fuel it carries. This is your body fat. You carry 1000s of calories of energy around in the form of fat, but never allow your body to burn it.
When you enter the fasted state, this changes.
This is where all of the benefits of fasting come. Entering the fasted state allows your body to burn body fat for energy and switch over to ketones which are a better metabolic fuel.
What is the OMAD Diet or One-Meal-A-Day Diet?
OMAD is a form of intermittent fasting. The most common form of intermittent fasting is fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8. Instead of eating for 8 hours, people on the OMAD diet eat for only one hour and fast for 23 hours.
Most people eat dinner as their only meal and fast again until dinner the next night.
Why would people do this?
From an evolutionary perspective, it aligns perfectly. Instead of constantly nibbling on foods, we fasted and then feasted. We hunted for a large kill throughout the day and feasted at night. We didn’t sit down as a family and drink orange juice and sugar cereal for breakfast.
Most people that do OMAD do it because they’ve experienced the tremendous benefits of fasting for 16 hours — and they want to kick them into superdrive
Many of the benefits I’ll describe of fasting below are experienced more intensely by extending the length of your fast. There are diminishing returns, but I believe that many of the benefits get stronger when increasing your fasting window from 16 to 23 hours.
10 Benefits of Fasting and the OMAD Diet
One of the biggest benefits of fasting is its simplicity. Fasting will completely change your relationship to food.
Most people need to plan their days around food. They plan their lives around food. If they go without food for 3 hours they will explode with hanger.
If you train yourself to fast, not only is going without food for a few hours easy. It actually empowers you.
On the OMAD diet, all you need is to plan one meal a day. You don’t need to count calories. You just eat to satiation once a day. You’ll spend much less time cooking, preparing and searching for food. And you’ll also save some money.
Learning to fast is one of the most empowering ways to take back control.
#2: Fasting Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Because of the disastrous health recommendations over the last 100 years, 100s of millions of people are insulin resistant today.
When you’re more insulin resistant, your body requires MORE insulin from your pancreas to push glucose and energy into cells. This increases the amount of insulin in your bloodstream at any given time. New research is implicating insulin resistance in almost every chronic disease.
There’s no chronic disease that’s not related to insulin resistance:
- Heart disease [*]
- 62% higher cancer mortality [*]
- 160% higher gastrointestinal cancer mortality [*]
- Prostate cancer [*]
- Alzheimer’s disease [*]
- Aging [*]
- Inflammation: Elevated CRP and IL-6
- Acne [*]
Think of chronic diseases like a tree. The fertilizers and starch, grain and sugars. And insulin resistance is one of the strongest roots.
Fasting has been shown to decrease insulin and glucose levels. This study showed a 20-30% reduction in insulin levels from intermittent fasting [*]
#3: Fasting Promotes Fat Loss
In a fasted state, you finally unlock your body fat as fuel. Remember, that’s why it’s there in the first place. Instead of just wearing your body fat as a fashion statement like a dad bod, you actually use it for energy.
This was a vital mechanism for survival when we didn’t have constant access to food. But most people have trained their bodies to lose this mechanism. If you don’t use it you lose it.
In this study, participants were encouraged to intermittent fast for 18-20 hours. They were allowed to eat whatever they chose. After just two weeks, the mean fat loss was 3lbs [*]. 6/10 stated they’d continue fasting after the study.
In this study, 8 individuals reduced their feeding window by 4 hours. Over a course of 16 weeks on average they lost 7lbs [*]. This is just from a 4 hour reduction. Imagine combining that with a healthier diet?
Additionally, fasting triggers epigenetic changes in your body that promote more fat burning. This study showed that fasting increased UCP3 gene expression by 5x at 15 hours of fasting [*] This gene is responsible for fat burning in muscle cells.
Fasting is the most effortless way to eviscerate body fat.
#4: Fasting Reduces Inflammation
Fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation [*]. Inflammation is a key process in aging and chronic disease. Persistent inflammation has been shown to contribute to a number of diseases such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders and cancer [*].
Additionally, obesity is often characterized by high fasting states of pro inflammatory cytokines.
Fasting has been shown to reduce all inflammation factors such as CRP and TNF-alpha.
#5: Increases Cognition, Memory and Focus
When you fast, you’re signaling to your body that there’s no food available. Contrary to what most people believe, your body does not shut down in response. It doesn’t start playing the victim card. “Oh, woe is me! I have no food!”
It does the exact opposite. It goes into overdrive mode to find it. “The Obstacle Is the Way”.
As a result, your sympathetic nervous system activates and your body releases adrenaline, cortisol and growth hormone. Your body pushes as much stored energy into your bloodstream as possible, to use as fuel for the hunt. Cortisol, adrenaline and growth hormone prime you for action.
This is why so many people report increased cognition and heightened awareness when fasting. In this study subjects who fasted reported that they felt more awake [*]. This study showed that fasting activated the neurotransmitter orexin-A which promotes alertness [*]
A big reason for the classic post lunch grogginess, is because eating allows your body to finally relax. Fasting can and will help.
Additionally, fasting increases BDNF which not only maintains cognitive function but improves it [*].
BDNF is a neuronal growth hormone responsible for the creation of new neurons. High levels of BDNF are associated with increased intelligence, mood and memory. When you release BDNF, your brain forms new connections. Evolution selected for individuals clearly who could learn fast and think on their feet during fight or flight situations.
If you’re interested in peak performance, fasting needs to be a part of your regimen.
#6: Increased Metabolic Rate
Fasting also increases your metabolism. Similar to the point above, your body goes into overdrive to search for food.
Your body accelerates your metabolism to give you more energy to search for food. Because if you do go too long without food, you’d die. Don’t worry, this is a very long time. One man even fasted for a year [*].
This study showed that up to 4 days of fasting resulted in an increase in metabolism [*]. Most people are afraid of their body shutting down during fasting, when in reality it does the opposite.
By increasing your metabolic rate, fasting will burn even more fat.
Really, you should be afraid of your body shutting down from lulling it to sleep from 6+ meals a day.
#7: Fasting Increases Autophagy, the Natural Cellular Cleansing Process
Fasting activates autophagy, the natural cellular cleansing process. This is one of the biggest benefits of fasting. And many people hypothesize that it only begins once you fast beyond 16 hours.
What is autophagy and why is it important? Autophagy is a natural cellular recycling system that improves your health.
Over time, your body accumulates damaged proteins and mitochondria (energy power houses).
Many studies suggest that this is why we age. Over time, your bodies become cluttered with junk and start to break down. You lose the ability to generate new mitochondria and clear out old ones. And the old, damaged mitochondria don’t function properly and release free radicals. That creates a downward spiral where you get even more ill.
When you’re young, autophagy occurs naturally. But over time, your body slowly downregulates this process [*]. As a result, as you get older you’re both accumulating more damage from a lifetime of living and have a reduced ability to clear out the damage.
If you want to live longer, this may be one of the most important things you can do for your health.
According to this study, autophagy plays a “key role in preventing diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiomyopathy, diabetes, liver disease, autoimmune diseases and infections” [*].
How do you activate autophagy?
Autophagy is regulated by amino acids, nutrient intake and hormones such as glucagon and insulin. One of the key regulators of autophagy is a nutrient sensor called mTOR.
mTOR is like a general contractor for your cells. When mTOR is activated, cells are in growth mode. When it is downregulated, your body is in a catabolic state — use existing resources for energy mode.
When insulin and nutrient intake is high, mTOR is upregulated which shuts off autophagy. When mTOR is downregulated, it promotes autophagy. Insulin activates mTOR…so if you’re constantly eating, especially refined junk, you’re never activating autophagy.
How do you downregulate mTOR? mTOR activation depends on the presence of nutrients. Think of autophagy as one of the last refuges for energy. Once your liver glycogen is depleted, your body scrapes together any energy it can find. One of the best sources is dysfunctional proteins that your body can turn into glucose.
Depending on your current dietary status, liver glycogen takes anywhere from 16-20 hours to deplete. Exercising, however, can accelerate this process.
When liver glycogen is depleted, old junky proteins are broken down to amino acids and either used to rebuild proteins or turned into glucose for energy.
This is the most potent anti aging and anti chronic disease tool. Many chronic diseases, for instance, are characterized by defective proteins.
Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by the accumulation of amyloid beta or Tau protein which blocks proper signaling in the brain. Autophagy can help clear this protein out. Cancer is also characterized by excessive growth of dysfunctional DNA and proteins.
In all likelihood, if you’re fasting less than 20 hours, you’re not activating autophagy. One meal a day is a much better plan if you’re interested in activated autophagy.
However, to reap all of the benefits you may need to fast for longer.
#8: Starves Bad Gut Bacteria
Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to improve gut health. It both allows your gut to rest and also starves the bad bacteria. This study of mice fasting showed increased levels of “good gut bacteria” and decreased levels of the bad bacteria [*].
If you have gut issues, try fasting.
#9: Fasting 16+ Hours Increases Growth Hormone and Lean Muscle Mass
Contrary to what most people believe, fasting will not make your muscles wither away. In fact, a big reason why our bodies go into ketosis is to spare muscle mass.
Many of our metabolic pathways are constructed to spare muscle mass at all costs. The misconception that fasting destroys muscle arises because when you fast for long enough, protein is broken down into glucose for energy. But it’s not muscle protein. As discussed above, the body prioritizes defective proteins, skin and your intestinal lining first.
This study pictured below confirms this. After alternate daily fasting, patients were able to lose significant fat mass with no change in lean mass.
To ensure muscle mass is spared, your body releases what are called counter regulatory hormones. One of which is growth hormone. During a fast, your growth hormone spikes to ensure you don’t lose muscle mass.
Therefore, fasting is one of the best anabolic techniques.
This is one of the reasons why exercise, the carnivore diet and fasting are the best ways to build muscle. You’re providing your body with all of the nutrients and protein your muscles need to grow and giving your body creatine plus growth hormone. It’s a cheat code for muscle gain.
After you break the fast, your growth hormone is elevated and your body goes into overdrive building up your muscle proteins. Like with autophagy, this is a renewal process, building you up stronger than before.
#10: Fasting Improves Your Discipline
Discipline and willpower are muscles that you need to train. It’s too bad, because almost everything in modern society trains you to lower your willpower.
Everything is programming you to rush to the next dopamine hit. People want everything at the click of a button.
Instant relationships. Instant food delivery. Instant dopamine hits via video games.
Nobody wants to work for anything anymore.
They just want to sit on their asses, shovel food into their mouths and get social approval from their friends on Instagram.
The problem is that anything great comes with suffering. But people are too addicted to comfort to ever sacrifice the present for future gain.
In this regard, fasting gives your mind and your body a rest from the incessant bullshit.
In a world where hyperpalatable foods are ubiquitous, fasting takes tremendous willpower. Everybody around you will be trying to pressure you into eating. But you know that the real gains come after discomfort. And you will fight it. Every time you fast, it will train your willpower so that when the going truly gets tough you’ll be prepared.
Tips to Start OMAD / FAQ
Cut Carbs So You Use Body Fat
If you’re only eating one meal a day, I suggest you reduce your carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates release insulin and replenish liver glycogen.
Carbohydrates are pure comfort. They will train your body to use glucose as fuel, instead of fat like it was made to. This will make it harder to get back into the fast each time because a fast uses fat for fuel. Excessive carbohydrate intake will also reverse some of the benefits of fasting.
Can You Drink Coffee and Tea?
Caffeine is not only fine, but is great on a fast. Coffee has even been shown to increase some of the benefits of fasting, like autophagy.
What About Mct Oil and Butter Coffee?
I suggest not adding any calories to your drinks. These calories will be burned before body fat. Additionally, increasing energy balance will turn off autophagy.
However, if your goal is simply body fat loss and you’re already well on your way there, small amounts of MCT oil will not kill your efforts.
Should You Workout Fasted?
Working out fasted is great. But it’s not optimal for gaining muscle. Studies show that you burn more fat when training fasted, but this fat is intramuscular fat — not body fat [*].
However, from my experience I have less energy when I workout fasted. This study confirms that individuals often train less intensely during a fasted workout [*].
If I am on the OMAD diet, I like to workout 1 hour post meal. Why?
Anabolic hormones like growth hormone are still elevated, and I get the extra fuel from the meal.
So you can workout fasted. But if you’re trying to put on the maximum amount of muscle, I don’t recommend it.
Check With Your Doctor
Before starting your fast, check with your doctor. Especially if you’re treating any major health issues. But please, make sure your doctor doesn’t think the standard american diet is healthy.
Are you ready to take back control of your health and your life? The carnivore diet and fasting are the most potent antidotes to the addiction to comfort that’s ubiquitous today. What are you waiting for?
We’ve talked about a lot here, and I really hope that you get a lot out of this article. It wasn’t easy for me to learn all this information – it took me years to learn about these things and improve my own health.
It doesn’t have to take that long for you. If you want to continue this journey and start improving your health, check out the getting started with the carnivore diet guide I prepared for you by clicking the button below.
It’s time to take back control.