Can you eat just one meal a day?

Can you eat just one meal a day?

The one meal a day diet is a popular diet plan that claims to help people lose weight through intermittent fasting. When following this diet, a person only eats one meal a day, usually dinner, and does not consume any other calories during the day.

Although this diet plan may help people find a fast weight loss solution, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

What is the one meal a day diet?

Barley porridge with corn, broccoli, garlic, mushrooms and pepper in a healthy vegetarian and vegan meal.

The one meal a day diet requires that a person only eat during 1 hour of a 24 hour day.

The one meal a day diet is a weight loss plan that requires a person to eat only one meal per day. This is a type of intermittent fasting that involves alternating between extended periods of not eating or drinking anything with calories and periods of eating.

The one meal a day diet utilizes a type of intermittent fasting referred to as 23:1, meaning a person spends 23 hours of the day fasting, leaving just 1 hour a day to eat, drink and consume calories.

In the one meal a day diet, most people choose to not eat or drink anything with calories during the day. They break their fast when they eat dinner, then resume fasting until the following evening.

What do you eat on the one meal a day diet?

There are several variations of the one meal a day diet. Some variations suggest eating healthful, nutrient-rich foods, but most versions of the diet allow people to eat anything they want during their single meal.

Potential benefits

People who follow the one meal a day diet believe there are numerous benefits to eating this way, including rapid weight loss.

Other purported benefits include:

  • the diet is easy to follow because a person does not count calories
  • there are no “cheat days” because there are no foods considered off-limits

There have been several studies conducted on the effects of intermittent fasting. However, most of the studies have been carried out on men, so less is known about the effects of intermittent fasting on women.

Because of women’s hormonal cycles, it is likely that the effects of intermittent fasting may be different in women. Women also have different nutritional requirements than men, including more iron, which may not be fulfilled while fasting.

The studies done on intermittent fasting show the following benefits:


Stressed man rubbing the bridge of his nose at work, fatigued and tired.

Eating only one meal a day may cause weakness, exhaustion, and inability to focus.

While some research supports the benefits of intermittent fasting and the one meal a day diet, an extreme diet plan comes with several risks.

The daily risks include:

  • becoming extremely hungry
  • shakiness
  • weakness
  • irritability
  • inability to concentrate
  • fatigue

There are also serious risks for people with underlying medical conditions. People with diabetes or low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia, need to eat meals regularly throughout the day to avoid any serious side effects.

One study in published in JAMA involving 100 people found that intermittent fasting raised LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Higher levels of LDL cholesterol are linked to increased rates of heart disease and stroke.

The same study also found that the participants following an intermittent fasting diet did not experience any more weight loss than those who simply reduced the number of calories they ate each day.

Finally, people following the one meal a day diet may have an increased risk of binge eating.

Binge eating is a disordered pattern of eating where a person eats unusually large amounts of food in a short period, even after they are full. Some people that follow the one meal a day diet may even develop binge eating disorder.

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