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Eating One Meal A Day: A Stupidly Easy Way To Lose Weight?

1881 Comments | Diet

eating one meal a day diet

Few people have yet to experience the glory that is eating one meal a day.

  • No, eating one meal per day won’t make you fat.
  • It won’t make you lose all your muscle.
  • And it won’t screw your metabolism into the ground.

But it does allow you to feast like a fucking king every single night while eating your favorite foods.

And no, this isn’t a scam and there isn’t even any secret “guru” magic behind it.

It’s really just common sense.

But fitness and common sense is a lost art these days.

If you follow it, eating once per day JUST WORKS.

And if  you’ve struggled with more traditional diets that make you eat  3-6 meals per day, then this may be the most stupidly simple way for you to successfully lose weight, ever!

If you’ve dreamed of eating 24 ounce steaks, with a mountain fries and ice cream, EVERY SINGLE night while still losing fat and building muscle then read on.

Eating one meal per day in a nutshell

The basic idea behind eating one meal per day is simple.

Every day, you eat one big ass meal (preferably at night). The basic idea is to get the majority of your calories in a single meal.

And during the day, you don’t eat anything.

However during the day you can eat 1-2 pieces of fruit or some protein after you workout.

This allows you to eat much more, feel fuller, and better adhere to your diet.

Update: For a modified approach to eating one meal per day for people short on time, check out the Quickshot Diet.

Remember, eating one meal a day is NOT magic

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When I first started eating one meal per day, I had this weird belief that eating once per day gave me the power to lose more weight than traditional diets.

While this might seem like the case, nothing could be further from the truth.

It might be nice to believe that eating once per day causes all these different hormones to change in my body that help me to burn “more” body fat. But that’s just not the case.

And insulin levels – everyone always brings up fucking insulin levels.

Don’t worry about your damn insulin levels.

Just focus on creating a calorie deficit – that’s the only way to lose weight and always will be.

Eating once per day just happens to be a great way to create a deficit that many people can actually stick with.

For example, let’s say you need to eat 2000 calories per day to lose weight.

Diet #1 has you eating 3 meals and 2 snacks.

Diet #2 has you eating one meal.

In the end of the day, calories are exactly the same.

You’re just splitting your calories up a lot more in Diet #1.

That’s it. There is no magic. Just simple math.

5 reasons why you should eat one meal per day

I originally came across the idea of eating one meal per day from the Warrior Diet back around 2008.

At that time I was brainwashed by all the “eat 6 meals per day or die” BS and the Warrior Diet was my first foray into intermittent fasting.

I’m not saying it works for everyone, but if you love to feast every single day, have more energy, and potentially be 200x more productive during the day, then maybe this something you should give a shot.

Here are 5 reasons I recommend eating once per day:

Reason #1: Increased energy

How many times have you eaten lunch only to feel super tired 2 hours later? It sucks.

We’re all told lunch is supposed to give us this magic boost of energy, and maybe it does for some people, but I’ve found that most people just fall into a 2pm slump where they eat lunch and their productivity shoots down the drain.

When you fast throughout the entire day, you experience this amazing surge of energy that lasts the entire day.

Reason #2: Never feel deprived when dieting

One of the many reasons people fail at diets is because they don’t get this sense of satisfaction with what they’re eating and how much they’re eating.

When you follow the conventional 6 meals per day model, you have survive on a couple hundred calories every few hours.

At the end of the day, you just never feel satisfied.

You feel like something is missing…

Ironically, eating once per day solves this problem for most people.

The act of fasting throughout the day is a very powerful appetite suppressant, so when you have your massive feast at the end of the day, you practically feel “stuffed” every night.

Reason #3: More time & more productivity

Imagine how much more work you could get done if you didn’t have to worry about eating during the day.

No more worrying about that mid morning snack, no more stopping at subway during lunch, and no more 2pm energy slumps.

All this time you save can now be used to do more productive things that truly matter (like looking at pictures of cats online).

Reason #4: EVERYTHING tastes better

Fast the entire day then eat a grape.

Just one grape.

I guarantee that grape will be the best tasting grape you’ve ever had in your entire fucking life.

Look, I don’t know the scientific reason for why food tastes so much better after a fast, and frankly, I don’t care.

But some of the best meals in my life have been after a long fast.

Reason #5:  Because eating cake every night is awesome

Cake

Cake is good. But not this much cake.

You know what’s awesome? Cake.

You know what’s not awesome? Not eating cake.

Cake makes everything in life better but with traditional dieting, you aren’t allowed to eat cake, which sucks.

Everyone needs more cake in their life (scientifically proven), so why not have a slice…or two, every night.

When you only eat one meal per day, you can afford to have some cake every night since your calorie budget is so much bigger.

Is coffee, water, tea, or diet soda okay during the fast?

Yes, as long as it’s zero calories, it’s fine.

Coffee and tea is actually a great appetite suppressant.

Eat 1-2 pieces of fruit during the day

While it’s totally fine if you can go the full day without eating anything, a lot of people do get hunger pangs no matter how much experience they have with intermittent fasting.

In this case, you can have 1-2 pieces of fruit throughout the day. This shouldn’t add up to any more than 200 calories plus you won’t feel a huge drain in energy compared to eating something high in carbs like a granola bar or a sandwich.

I recommend 2 large apples due to the large fiber and water content to keep you full

Supplement with some whey protein after you workout

If you train hard with weights 3-4 times per week while fasting (and you should) and follow the 1 meal per day diet then you should consume some 100% whey protein powder after working out so you don’t go half the day without any protein in your system.

I’m not really anal about the post workout “window of opportunity,” but it’s best to get some protein in within 2-3 hours after your workout.

Why 100% whey protein? Because it has the most complete amino acid profile which is great for muscle growth and recovery.

As for which protein powder is best? Try Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard.

The one meal per day approach might not work great for muscle building

You can absolutely build quality, lean muscle by eating once per day.

BUT…some people need A LOT of calories to put on muscle and if you’re supposed to eat 4000 calories per day, it’s going to be pretty hard for some to get that in one meal.

So unless you have a huge appetite, I would probably be better off splitting it up into 3-6 meals.

For more info on gaining weight and building muscle, check out these posts:

Eating one meal per day vs. other intermittent fasting protocols

Eating once per day is just one version of intermittent fasting.

And there are dozens of other fasting/feasting protocols out there that play with different fasting and eating windows.

But after looking at all of them, you’ll notice that the majority of them have the same underlying concept – fast for an extended period of time and get the majority of your calories in a small eating window.

Let’s look at some of the other intermittent fasting systems and how they compare to eating once per day.

One meal per day vs. 16/8 Leangains

If you follow Leangains, this means you’ll be fasting for 16 hours per day and eating for the other 8 hours.

During the 8 hour eating window, you’ll typically be eating 2-3 main meals.

There really isn’t a big difference between a Leangains style fast and eating once per day. The main difference is in the eating window and that all boils down to personal preference.

One meal per day vs. Eat Stop Eat

Eating once per day and Eat Stop Eat are not the same thing.

Many people confuse the two since they both involve 24 hour fasts.

Here’s the difference:

Eating once per day – Fast for 24 hours, under eat during the day, and get your entire daily calorie intake in one meal, every day.

Eat Stop Eat – Completely fast for 24 hours 1-2 times per week (no calories at all), eat a “normal sized” meal at the end of the 24 hour fast.

The problem some people might face is defining what “normal sized” means. It’s basically telling you to not eat until you’re stuffed and make sensible food choices.

But if you want to get more technical, your meal after an ESE style fast should be no more than 40% of your daily calorie intake.

Read my Eat Stop Eat review here.

ESE forces you to create a massive calorie deficit on your fasting days while the one meal per day approach simply changes up your meal frequency but you still get the same amount of calories every day.

One meal per day vs. 2 meals per day

Nothing different here besides meal frequency. If you want to eat 2 meals per day, that’s fine, just make sure your overall calories are the same by the end of the day.

Can you mix and match different diet & fasting approaches

Absolutely!

I am all about diet flexibility.

If you want to follow the one meal per day approach one day and do 2-3 meals per day the next, that’s totally fine.

For example, you can structure your diet to look something like this:

  • Monday: 1 meal
  • Tuesday: 2 meals
  • Wednesday: Eat Stop Eat
  • Thursday: 1 meal
  • Friday: 1 meal
  • Saturday: 4 meals
  • Sunday: 1 meal

Remember, a calorie deficit is the most important thing to create when dieting.

So just because you’re following a one meal per day diet doesn’t mean you literally have to eat one meal per day, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

If you want to go out and have brunch on Sunday, then screw it, have 2 meals that day. Don’t be obsessive about this stuff.

The one meal per day FAQ

I’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions from readers about eating one meal per day.

Hopefully this answers all your questions and gets you on the right path.

What kind of foods should you eat?

There isn’t any single food that you should or shouldn’t eat.

If you have specific macro/calorie goals, you still need to hit them. The only difference is you have the luxury of hitting them in a single meal so for those that like to eat a ton of food in one sitting, you’re going to love this way of eating.

But obviously, you need to get a hefty amount of protein, a good amount of carbs, and some fat.

So something like a massive steak, some roasted potatoes, a big ass salad, plus some cookies and ice cream would make for a pretty epic feast.

Recommended reading: “What Are The Best Foods To Eat?” Here’s Your Answer, Now Stop Asking Me

How many calories per day should you eat in my one meal?

I recommend multiplying your bodyweight in pounds by 10-12 to get your daily calorie intake.

Use 10 if you have 50+ pounds to lose or if you’re a woman. Everyone else can start with 12.

This is just an estimate. It’s impossible for any formula to accurately tell you your daily calorie needs.

How many hours should you wait before going to sleep after you have your big meal?

Doesn’t matter. Sleep whenever you want.

What does this do to the metabolism?

Nothing bad. Read this article on metabolism myths for more info.

How long can you eat one meal per day for?

As long as you want. This isn’t a quick fix diet.

Eating once per day is a real, long-term approach to dieting that can work for as long as you want.

Does it matter whether you eat your one meal in the morning or at night?

Nope doesn’t matter at all.

It’s a matter of personal preference. Most people do it at night.

If you eat your one meal for breakfast or lunch, you might feel sluggish and tired the rest of the day since you have so much food in your system.

Could eating one meal per day be bad for you? I keep reading other articles online that say it’s bad for you.

No it’s not.

Most people criticizing eating once per day are just woefully ignorant. Read those articles, and you’ll find it’s just people making assumptions without any real world data.

Can I eat McDonalds for my one meal?

Sure, but I wouldn’t eat fries and Big Macs every night.

Use some common sense here.

You can still eat the foods you love, but you should still be eating mostly whole, nutritious foods for maximize your health and performance.

I love to drink coffee. Can I drink coffee during the fast?

Yup, coffee is a great appetite suppressant to use while fasting.

Can I add milk and sugar to the coffee?

I would stick with zero calorie sweeteners if possible. A splash of milk is fine, but don’t go overboard.

Is eating one meal per day guaranteed to help you lose weight?

Of course not.

It will only work if you put in the work.

I know the majority of you reading this are looking for some magic fat loss hack but eating one meal per day is not that.

You still need to make sensible food choices and you still need to be consistent like any other diet.

Nothing is guaranteed in life.

I tried this diet and it doesn’t work for me? What do I do?

Impossible to say. Maybe you’re eating too many calories. Maybe you’re not tracking your calories correctly.

It’s usually one of those two problems.

Why do you recommend the main meal to be eaten at night?

Whatever you want but try to make it sensibly healthy.

That means something like grilled meat, a carb source like rice/pasta, some veggies, and maybe some ice cream at the end is great.

Obviously food choices vary from person and culture, but use some common sense.

Can you drink alcohol while doing this?

Having one drink per night is fine.

Everything in moderation.

Should you exercise before or after your meal?

Again, doesn’t matter.

It’s all up to you. Find what works best with your schedule and lifestyle.

Do you need to count calories while eating one meal per day?

I personally recommend tracking calories when starting out, only because it gives you an unprecedented level of tracking.

If you’re not losing weight, then you know exactly why and you can adjust calories accordingly.

I never want people to become obsessed with tracking calories, but it does give you a level of precision that you can’t get anywhere else.

But as you become more advanced and can recognize/estimate portion sizes more accurately, then you can back off from the calorie counting.

What if you get hungry when fasting?

Here are some tips:

  • Drink plenty of water, black coffee, and tea.
  • Chew sugarless gum.
  • Stay busy and productive. People eat more out of boredom than anything else.

How much water should you drink?

At a minimum, enough to stay hydrated.

Also, if you’re pissing green, then you prob need to drink more water (and see a doctor).

The “8 glasses per day” recommendation is pretty solid.

I will say that drinking more water can help ward off hunger pangs.

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Have you tried the one meal per day diet? Let me know what you’re experience was in the comments.

Richard
November 16, 2017

The only thing I’d add that really goes along pretty well with your whole casual philosophy here, is that 8 glasses of water a day is a beverage company myth. Drink what you need. Drink when your thirsty. You can also drink water to help appetite supression but likely won’t need it on this diet after a couple days, you get used to this life style pretty quick. As long as your drinking water when you feel thirsty, your getting enough water. We’ve got very sensative internal signals to keep us hydrated you don’t have to stress about getting enough. I love your style of presenting this. For those that can do it, it really is the sweet life and I have lost weight and at a stable, healthy amount.

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Arieyanna
November 30, 2017

So I been doing the once of day meal diet,for 5 days and I have lost 6 pounds already.. i am 344 now I was 350 and I’m 5’7 @21 years old.. So yea super fat lol.. anyways.. I’ve had a problem with diets because I’ve always felt so hungry.. like eating 5 almonds here..a half of chicken breast there..a salad for dinner.. ugh I hated it.. now with this.. i eat a regular sized dinner.. nothing crazy.. like chicken veggies and Mac and cheese with water.. I’m not feeling like I’m starving all the time..im so happy i started this.. i feel like I can do this for a long time and lose a lot of wait.. soon I will be adding exercise to this as well

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Mike
December 10, 2017

This is something i’ve practiced for years now and the main thing for avoiding binges really is to stay busy. Make sure you have a routine set up especially if you also struggle with Binge Eating Disorder. It’s also true what is mentioned on eating after workouts for this to work. As finishing a workout and not eating can have you feeling drained all day. Many thanks for this great article.

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Tarryn
December 12, 2017

This has been my lifestyle for a few years now and it just works. It is 100% true about the increased levels of energy and also better sleeping patterns. I don’t like the idea of denying myself anything, with this lifestyle, you can literally eat whatever you want. The best part is, the longer you do it, the more in tune with your body you become- you will literally be able to tell what foods your body needs. Thanks for the article, it’s nice to see positive feedback, not the usual eye rolls and feigned concern for my health 🙂

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Greg
December 18, 2017

Started the 16/8 Leangains a couple weeks ago and down 5-6 lbs. I broke it down into 25% calories @ 9:30 am, 50% calories @ 2:00 pm, and the other 25% calories @ 5:30 pm. I’m using 9 calories x body weight right now. I’ve read that some people may have to drop to 8 or even 7 calories x body weight to get to 10% or under bodyfat. What are your thoughts on that? At 45 years old the lower abs and lower back are hard as hell to lose. Also, Would you advise tracking macros or just calories?

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Bob
December 18, 2017

Fun article. I hope you amend your dissing of the hormone and insulin component though. See Dr. Fung’s work from reference. I do keto and IF 22. For me it is the only way to lose fat at age 58. Sure for some younger people with good insulin response it may not matter if they pig out on carbs each night. For me it does. I’m currently doing a five day fast. Something I couldn’t have imagined on the insulin roller coaster. Now it is easy peasy. I’m down 35 to my lowest weight in 15 years and don’t feel deprived.

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Ceci
January 3, 2018

Hi Keith – I’m on day 2…how long until my body starts getting use to not eating through out the day and only eating 1 big meal? I think I should have eaten a bigger meal last night and that’s why I’m hungry today… looking forward to seeing results though!

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    Keith
    January 3, 2018

    For some people it takes a few days, some take weeks, some never adapt completely and that’s completely normal.

    If you’re really feeling hungry have something light to hold u over, like some fruit.

    Reply
Wayne
January 4, 2018

Chewing gum also helps with getting through the day….

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bangu themba
January 10, 2018

HI.THATS A GOOD ARTICLE.I HAD TRIED DIETS OF ANY KIND BUT YOU FIND THAT NORMALLY ALL THE NICE GOOD FOOD ARE RESTRICTED.ON DAY 3 BUT THE GOING IS OK

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Wini
January 10, 2018

Hi Keith
Not sure if you are going to read the millionth comment on this article but I am going to write anyway. I (middle age woman) have tried IF, 5:2 and OMAD before and being a non breakfast person its easy for me to stretch myself till 1. Then I have to rely on sheer will power to take me through till 6 when I reach home and make dinner for the family. Eat around 7 usually rice (I try to stick to 4tbsp) a bowl of lentils OR protein and a bowl of stir fried veggies. During the day I have 2 cups of coffee with milk (its 50 calories sachet milk x2), 1 big apple with peanut butter and endless water. My question is if I should omit the peanut butter? I am not tracking calories/ macros etc etc but just sticking to fresh home made meals that I have grown up eating for dinner. And these include coconut oil, white rice, wheat flatbreads etc. I don’t want this to be like the other times I gave up because I didn’t see results. So question – will this work?
PS – I piled all the weight on after the last try and I would really appreciate a follow up article on maintenance for regular folks like me

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    Keith
    January 10, 2018

    IF you’re gaining weight, then you need to cut calories somewhere and peanut butter is typically a good place to start since it’s so calorie dense.

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Jessica
January 11, 2018

Great article!

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D.
January 14, 2018

I’ve been doing OMAD for 6 months now and I must say it’s a great life style. I practice martial arts, 3 times per week in the evenings. I have my meal after those trainings. Usually I eat during 2 to 3 hours and I don’t count calories. I eat until I am satiated. But I am careful about what I am eating: 99% whole food, mostly veggies (raw and cooked), legumes, brown rice, organic grass fed animals originated dairy, and whole wheat.
I don’t have any snack during the day; just coffee, water, and herbal tea. My energy levels are great. Better than ever. I am 41 years old, I weight 68,5kg am 1,73m tall and my body fat is around 11%. Frankly this way of life got me in the best shape of my life, so far.

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Janice
January 15, 2018

I’m a sedentary 80+ year old who has gained at least 5# yearly for the past 5 or so (am 20-25 lbs overweight). I started eating 1 meal a day late December (healthy dinner with cocktail) have great energy and seem to be cognitively more alert and notice that my belly fat is shrinking and have lost at least 8lbs. We are brainwashed by the food industry and our culture into eating way too much (as well as the wrong foods). One meal a day saves time, money and for me puts food in proper perspective. I used to eat out of habit, when sort of bored or just because it was a way to be sociable. I fully intend to continue and to become more active again.

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    Keith
    January 15, 2018

    wow amazing that you’re doing it at 80, keep it up.

    Reply

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