Eating One Meal A Day: A Stupidly Easy Way To Lose Weight?
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.
Remember, eating one meal a day is NOT magic
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
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.
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
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.
Have you tried the one meal per day diet? Let me know what you’re experience was in the comments.