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2MAD: an improvement over OMAD?

2MAD: an improvement over OMAD?

In my last blog, I covered the pros and cons of OMAD (One Meal A Day) (1). For many people, this approach to structuring diet works wonderfully well. For others though, it can be too drastic an approach. As with many other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, the individual situation needs to be taken into account. What is suitable for a 21-year-old fitness instructor may not necessarily be for a 67-year-old pensioner with a history of heart problems. This is where 2MAD (2 Meals a Day) comes in.

What is OMAD?

OMAD stands for One Meal A Day. It very much means what it says on the tin. The idea is to take in all the food you need for the day at just a single sitting.

There are a few variations within OMAD however. These mostly relate to just how long the eating window should be. The most common is one hour, giving a 23:1 IF (Intermittent Fasting) pattern. Some try to squeeze the whole day’s worth of food into just 45 minutes. Others feel that they can have a four hour window. To me, the latter seems to be stretching the definition of OMAD just a little too far.

OMAD versus 2MAD book

What is 2MAD?

2MAD stands for 2 Meals A Day. Again, one can more or less guess the rest from this description. 2MAD still restricts the eating windows, but having a couple of chances to get the calories in is clearly a far easier proposition.

We have a huge range of possible variations within 2MAD too. Perhaps the most common way is a four to six-hour gap between the first meal and the second. Compressing that gap leads to longer periods of fasting, which is, after all, most of the point of adopting these practices in the first place.

Widening the gap between meals too far will mean, effectively at least, that no fasting whatsoever is taking place. If the fasting period is too short then few of the benefits will accrue. I have heard people who have breakfast at 9 am and dinner at 7 pm say they are on OMAD. Again, such a generous definition seems to be stretching the concept a little too far to be of much practical use.

2MAD book by Mark Sisson

Benefits of OMAD

OMAD bestows a number of benefits, some more obvious than others. These benefits will, to some extent at least, depend on exactly how someone does OMAD. This will differ from person to person and situation to situation.

OMAD Saves a lot of Time

One of the chief joys of OMAD is its sheer simplicity. You only have to prepare, cook, eat, and clean up for one meal a day. All of this can reasonably be accomplished in just over an hour. This then leaves you free for whatever it is that you want or need to focus on in your life.

For me, at least, this was one of the biggest attractions and why I was tempted to do OMAD in the first place.

Avoid the Need to Snack

If you have done your preparation properly and ensured that your meal covers all the macro and other nutrients your body need, then there should be no need to snack whatsoever. Again, this will save time, money, and bother.

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Care needs to be taken to ensure that your food intake includes enough satiating fats and proteins. The energy from these, and the feeling of satiety, can last all day. This is not the case with a high carbohydrate diet. You may be satisfied in the immediate hours following intake on a high-carb diet, but hunger and cravings will quickly set in after that.

Lowers Insulin Resistance

Because of our modern diets and lifestyle, especially the focus on high carbohydrate eating, obesity is a at pandemic proportions in the Western world. Obesity is often a clear outwards sign of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. The latter occurs because that body needs to defend itself from the high amounts of carbs, hence sugar, that we are ingesting.

OMAD, especially if it is done in combination with a low-carb diet, can help us reduce insulin resistance over time. Gradually, the pressure on the body will be reduced, insulin levels will come down, and the cells will re-sensitize themselves to this vital hormone.

Increases Levels of HGH

OMAD tends to increase levels of HGH (Human Growth Hormone). This is one of the beneficial consequences of the reduction of insulin secretion. The HGH hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. As its name implies, it spurs the growth of children and adolescents. Beyond that, it also plays a key role in regulating body composition, particularly bone and muscle growth, as well as improving sugar and fat metabolism (5). Any form of fasting will tend to increase the production of HGH. In this sense, OMAD represents one more potential string to our bows.

Assists Weight Loss

Intermittent Fasting, of which OMAD is just one form, is a highly effective tool if one desires to lose weight. Although I caution about the need to ensure sufficient calorie intake, in practice employing OMAD as your main eating style will almost inevitably lead to some degree of reduction. It’s hard to eat that much in one go.

Beyond this, though, OMAD is an almost sure-fire way to put the body into ketosis. This will mean that, over time, it is a great way to burn that excess fat that so many of us carry.

Stimulates Ketosis

Simply because on OMAD you will not be eating for something like 23 hours of the day, you are more or less certain to enter a state of ketosis. This will be the case even if the meal you have consists largely of carbs. The latter will not last for more than a few hours, especially if you are exercise or otherwise busy. Hence the body will have to resort to ketones to get through the day.

There are many benefits to being in ketosis (2). OMAD is one of the quickest ways to achieve this state. Because of ketosis, the follower of OMAD is likely to lose weight even if their calorific intake remains the same. To put it simply, ketosis burns through the body’s fat stores.

OMAD Promotes Autophagy

Autophagy is an intra-cellular house cleaning process that allows the cell to recycle debris that collects over time. Without autophagy, this debris would just build up and up. Eventually, it would render the cell very inefficient. It can even lead to apoptosis, or cellular death.

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Autophay and Fasting book

The process of autophagy , generally speaking, only commences once the body has finished processing incoming nutrients and matter from the food we eat. If we are constantly eating, as many of us do in this day and age, the body never gets a chance to start autophagy.

In terms of healthy longevity, autophagy is very much something that we should be keen to take advantage of. OMAD is a very effective approach in this regard. It leaves the body plenty of time to perform its autophagic duties.

Protects the Heart

The OMAD style of fasting helps to improve the health of your heart in a number of ways. For example, It can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Our understanding of the causes heart disease has evolved greatly over recent years. The paradigm is shifting away from a misplaced emphasis on cholesterol and towards realising that inflammation within the body plays a very significant role.

OMAD also helps to improve the health of your mitochondria. These generate energy within the cell; they can be thought of, in simplified terms at least, as cellular batteries. If these are healthy, we will have more energy available to us and our bodies will work more efficiently.

Confining your eating to just one meal a day will also help to reduce levels of triglycerides and insulin in the bloodstream. Also, weight and blood pressure will tend to be lowered. This list is by no means exhaustive, the benefits of OMAD in relation to heart health are manifold

Brain and Cognition Benefits

As I have written in previous blogs, intermittent fasting tends to increase BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and neurogenesis (3), (4). This implies that your brain and cognition, in general, can improve over time with the correct approach and lifestyle. OMAD can be a fundamental part of that lifestyle.

Cognitive Enhancement Book

BDNF aids the brain in the process of creating an environment wherein new neuronal connections are promoted. The myelin sheaths that protect the dendritic connections between neurons will also be protected by the activity of BDNF. It is also part of the process of neurogenesis, something that was thought impossible only a few years back.

Because of the increase in neuronal health, in the number of neurons themselves, and in the complexity of their interconnectivity, promotion of BDNF can improve memory and cognition. Such effects can be particularly significant for older people and counteract the threat of such diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Other Benefits of OMAD

There are, perhaps, almost too many potential benefits of OMAD to make an exhaustive list. The above lists what I consider to be the most significant. Others may put the emphasis on economic factors (it saves money), on self-discipline (OMAD is a great disciplinary practice), on diabetes control (it lowers blood sugar), or on healthier skin (sustained OMAD will tend to improve skin health). The list of benefits just goes on and on.

Benefits of 2MAD

More or less all the benefits of OMAD will be experienced on 2MAD, it just takes a little longer. In practice, though, 2MAD is probably more sustainable. Eating just one meal a day is a pretty extreme lifestyle that calls for a degree of self-discipline that many will find too challenging. 2MAD is simply that much more doable for most people.

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2MAD is more Manageable

Manageability is an important point. Such things are often neglected when people adopt these lifestyle changes. They are swept up in a wave of enthusiasm that carries them through the first week or two but soon it will have proven all too much as the novelty fades. What is needed is sustainable change, not merely a flash in the pan!

2MAD is gentler on Digestion

In simple terms, many people find it difficult to consume the relatively large meals that OMAD demands. I include myself amongst such folks. 2MAD allows a much gentler, less drastic approach. One can also consume a wider variety of food without being overly concerned about how the digestive system will react. Again, this can help make your dietary regime more sustainable in the long term.

Feeling Sufficiently Satiated

The gaps between eating windows on OMAD can be experienced as something of a grind. This perhaps applies to those who consume their meal earlier in the day. It can feel like a very long time from 10 am until bedtime that night. Avoiding the temptation to snack in such a situation can prove too difficult for many of us.

2MAD, with its four to eight-hour eating window, is much gentler in this way. My own pattern is a meal at 9 am followed by another at around 2 pm. By the time I have finished eating, it leaves around an 18 hour fasting period. Such a fasting period is relatively easy to achieve, hence 2MAD is far more likely to be sustained in the long run.

2MAD more suited to the more Mature Practitioner

Age also plays a part. If you are under 50 then OMAD, despite its challenges, is definitely more appropriate. The benefits at this stage of life will clearly outweigh the drawbacks. As one gets older though, such a drastic approach may be contra-indicated. Dr Dale Bresenden, the author of ‘The End of Alzheimer’s’ prefers to keep fasting periods for more mature subjects down to 12 or 14 hours. As ever, the regime that you choose depends very much on your personal situation, degree of fitness, level of health, work and family commitments, and so on.

The End of Alzheimer's book by Dale Bresenden

Conclusion

To conclude this discussion is somewhat challenging in itself. This is because there is no clear answer to the question posed in this blog. In reality, which is better will depend on a number of factors. Not the least of these is personality. Some people will enjoy the straightforward nature of OMAD. It is very clear and very simple. Eat all you can and then stop for the day. 2MAD is a more nuanced and gentler approach. Personally, I am more suited to such an easy-going technique, but I can fully appreciate how the directness of OMAD will appeal to some. At the end of the day, there is no one ‘right’ approach. Both these interventions have their merits and their problems. The reader will have to decide for themselves, given the evidence before them, which is the appropriate choice for their own individual situation.

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