How The Almost-OMAD Diet Will Simplify Your Life
If you’re like most of my patients and followers, you can get overwhelmed by all the lifestyle tips, self-care rituals, and dietary do’s and don’ts out there. Achieving optimal health can start to feel like a full-time job!
As a functional medicine practitioner, it’s my job to help you establish a lifestyle that is manageable, sustainable, and works for your health goals AND your schedule in the long term. That’s why I want you to know about the Almost-OMAD diet. It’s one of the only lifestyle practices I’ve found that saves you time, money, and simplifies your life. Keep reading to find out how!
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What is the Almost-OMAD diet?
First things first: OMAD stands for “One Meal A Day'' and it’s a type of intermittent fasting protocol that leaves a 23:1 fasting-to-eating window. This means you fast for 23 hours a day and eat for one! You can eat whenever you want — breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The OMAD diet isn’t right for everyone, so I often suggest leaning more towards something I like to call an “Almost-OMAD” approach. With this plan, you spread out your eating window to 2 to 4 hours instead of 1 hour. This allows time for you to eat your food in a relaxed way that will not trigger digestive issues or inflammation. The Almost-OMAD diet is the OMAD diet with the addition of a key Break-a-Fast meal.
Your Break-a-Fast Meal
With the Almost-OMAD diet, you’ll fast for between 20 and 22 hours within a 24 hour period. Then you’ll break your fast with one smaller transition meal that I call the Break-a-Fast meal.
You’ll eat this meal about one hour before your full meal. It will help you transition into eating by prepping your digestion with a smaller amount of gentle, gut-friendly foods. Great Break-a-Fast meals are smaller, lower in fat, lower in carbs, and have a moderate amount of protein. Here are some ideas:
- Bone broth, which will help support your gut’s mucosal lining
- Soups, which will start your digestion off with something warm and soothing
- Smoothies, which are filled with nutrients but don’t require a lot of digestive energy
- Hard-boiled eggs, which are high protein and high fat but also easy on the gut
- Cooked greens, which are nature’s best superfood and chock full of phytonutrients.
You should eat this meal slowly, making sure to chew your food completely before swallowing it. Remember, your gut has been resting and repairing on your fast. Your goal with this meal should be to make it as simple and digestible as possible!
Beyond that, all you have to decide is what time of the day you’ll break your fast and how you’ll fit a single day's worth of calories and nutrients into your Almost-OMAD meals. To do this, you’ll have to incorporate how many calories and nutrients you need for your age, weight, and activity level, then make sure your Break-a-Fast and main meal meet these requirements.
Like the OMAD diet, the Almost-OMAD diet isn’t for everyone, so let’s talk about some of its pros and cons:
The Pros of Almost-OMAD:
Intermittent fasting has been shown to provide a wide range of important health benefits as our bodies move out of “sugar burning” mode where we burn off the carbs and sugars in our blood and into ketosis, where we start burning fat for fuel. Fat provides a more stable and long-lasting type of energy that can help improve our blood sugar health and mood, crushing cravings and hunger.
And as a general rule, the longer the fast, the deeper the benefits. Some of the most exciting benefits of fasting include:
- Increased autophagy: Fasting increases cellular renewal to clear out old, dead cells and make room for new, healthy cells. (1)
- Increased human growth hormone (HGH) levels: Fasting increases levels of this hormone that helps build muscle and burn fat. (2)
- Lowered inflammation levels: Fasting is known for its ability to reduce inflammation. When you aren’t eating, your body can divert its energy towards repair. (3)
- Decreased disease risks: Fasting is also associated with stabilized blood sugar and metabolic health, along with reduced cancer risk. (4)
As a longer form of time-restricted feeding (which is when you restrict your daily eating window to only a certain number of hours), Almost-OMAD allows for some of the deepest benefits all around.
The other major pro of the Almost-OMAD diet is the time-saving element. Imagine only having to cook and clean once per day! This doesn’t work for everyone — if you have kids or a big family it might not be the right choice for you — but in certain situations, this is a game-changer. No more trying to come up with creative, healthy meals three or four times a day! No more cleaning the kitchen constantly! No more lugging your healthy lunch to work!
The Cons of Almost-OMAD
While the pros are significant, the cons can also be pretty significant if Almost-OMAD isn’t done correctly. The first thing I want to flag is for those of you who may have a history of disordered eating or food restriction. The Almost-OMAD Diet is not the healing strategy for you and can reawaken a history of binge eating. I say it all the time, intermittent fasting is about showing your body love, so if your motivations are starting to slip into self-punishment or restriction, then stick to the dozens of other lifestyle practices that can help you get similar benefits.
The other major con has to do with digestion. Getting all the nutrition you need all at once in a short period of time can be hard on your digestion, which may actually increase inflammation in the body. Clearly, this isn’t good, especially if your main reason for intermittent fasting is to decrease inflammation or soothe digestive distress by giving your gut a break from the process of digestion.
The Almost-OMAD diet still isn’t right for everyone, especially if you have a history of disordered eating or you’re new to fasting! If you have a chronic health issue you should ease into fasting and talk to your doctor. I encourage you to check out my book Intuitive Fasting that will help you identify the fasting routine that works best for you. When you order the book and fill out this form, you’ll receive access to my private online fasting group and a shopping guide for the meal plan in the book.
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- Bagherniya M, Butler AE, Barreto GE, Sahebkar A. The effect of fasting or calorie restriction on autophagy induction: A review of the literature. Ageing Res Rev. 2018 Nov;47:183-197. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2018.08.004. Epub 2018 Aug 30. PMID: 30172870.
- Ho KY, Veldhuis JD, Johnson ML, et al. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. J Clin Invest. 1988;81(4):968-975. doi:10.1172/JCI113450
- van Herpen NA, Sell H, Eckel J, Schrauwen P, Mensink RP. Prolonged fasting and the effects on biomarkers of inflammation and on adipokines in healthy lean men. Horm Metab Res. 2013 May;45(5):378-82. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1330015. Epub 2012 Dec 12. PMID: 23235922.
- de Cabo R, Mattson MP. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. N Engl J Med. 2019 Dec 26;381(26):2541-2551. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1905136. Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 16;382(3):298. Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 5;382(10):978. PMID: 31881139.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
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