Cheat days. Are they worth it, you may be wondering?
Well, for starters, just in case you’re not familiar with what a cheat day is, it’s basically when you take one day out of the week and eat foods you typically wouldn’t eat the 6 other days of the week. Although “cheat food” preferences will vary from person to person, typical “cheat foods” include pizza, burgers, fries, and ice cream.
Now, seeing as I constantly speak about the importance of nutrition and it’s ultimately the most important factor when it comes to achieving your dream physique, does taking one day each week to eat pizza, burgers, fries, and ice cream actually help you to lose weight?
Well, yes and no.
Let me explain….
You see, after multiple days in a row of restricting your calories, your body starts to sense it’s in starvation mode and will cling to fat reserves for dear life. Your body’s main goal is survival, not to have you looking like a fitness model. When you take one day and eat a surplus of calories, this signals to your brain that you’re not actually starving and your body will continue to burn fat at the rate it was before.
That being said, however, pizza, ice cream, and burgers have absolutely ZERO “magical fat burning” properties, AT ALL! These foods DO NOT burn fat. The increase in calories you had on this day is what raised your metabolism and caused your body to burn fat again.
Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, if I were to eat a surplus of calories on my cheat day wouldn’t I technically gain weight?”
Yes, you will gain weight on THAT DAY.
(A conversation your fat cells have NEVER had before!)
You either gain weight, maintain your weight, or lose some weight EVERY single day. Now, mind you, the amount gained or lost is generally very minimal and when it comes to your physique, what you do the majority of the time is what will you give you your results.
For example, let’s say you lost, on average, 0.35 lbs per day. This means from Mon-Sat you lost a total of 2.1 lbs. If you were to gain 0.6 lbs on Sunday from eating a lot of treats, you should still be down 1.5 lbs for the week. If you were to do that consistently for 12 weeks, you would be down 18 lbs. This could mean a world of difference for some guys. It could mean a new level of confidence, more looks from the ladies, clothes fitting better, etc., etc. I’ve already raved about the benefits of getting in shape and healthy.
So, technically pizza, ice cream, burgers, and fries on their own don’t technically cause you to lose weight, but when you get to eat foods you enjoy from time to time it makes it easier for you to eat healthy foods the other 6 days of the week, which is where the majority of your results will come from.
I mean, let’s get real here, you need some flexibility with your eating plan or else it’s unlikely you’ll have any longevity with it. Even the healthiest of people and those with the most discipline still like to enjoy a treat from time to time. If your plan is too strict, you likely won’t be able to keep it up for any period of time and you’ll get right back to where you were in no time.
In fact, several years ago I can still remember speaking to this guy at the gym. We were talking about cutting down a bit for the summer and the conversation quickly switched to nutrition. This guy had an impressive plan and rather than taking a cheat day on the weekend, he was simply just going to up his calories with the healthy foods he was eating throughout the week to ramp up his metabolism a spike again.
Anyways, long story short, this guy was just as big if not bigger 10 weeks later. Although his plan sounded great, it was too difficult for him to sustain.
Consistently losing or maintaining weight loss is much better than some plan that’s so strict that no one can follow. If you’re averaging 6 out of 7 days of solid eating each week, that means that you’re bang on with things over 85% of the time. I don’t know about you but averaging over 85% on anything is pretty damn impressive. You would most certainly be doing alright for yourself if you had those kind of grades in college. Plus, it’s not as if the one day a week when you have a few treats is a total “waste.” You still has daily macro requirements on this day and even though the quality of the food may not be the best, your body will still use what it can.
So, as I think you can see, I greatly advocate cheat days. However, I do have some tips for them that I think you should consider following:
- You don’t need to totally binge. Although you should most certainly enjoy some treats on this day, you don’t have to eat to the point where the button pops off your pants, or you end up puking.
- Another option is to have 3 cheat meals spaced throughout the week. This may work well for some but for others it may cause them to get off track and turn a cheat meal into a cheat day. You can also have a weekly cheat meal as opposed to a full cheat day. I personally prefer a cheat day as I think it’s refreshing to not have to cook that day if I don’t want to and I find it more satisfying. This leads me to the next point….
- Whether you decide to have cheats meals or do a cheat day, you should be satisfied at the end of either. Having a nibble of pizza or a small order of fries is not going to be satisfying for most guys, and if you’re not satisfied, you’re more likely to have a few “nibbles” throughout the week and potentially get WAY off track with things.
- There’s no need to feel guilty about this day.” This is partially why I don’t like the term “cheat day” so much. I will continue to refer to it as such to avoid any confusion but it’s not like you’re doing anything “illegal.” Like I said, if you’re getting your nutrition right over 85% of the time, you will have amazing results!
- Although totally up to you, I recommend having your cheat day on the weekend. The weekend is when you are more likely to be in social settings. Maybe you like going out for supper with the girlfriend, your parents, perhaps you go to brunch on Sundays after church, or perhaps you like going out for drinks with the boys? The reality here is that no one really likes “Bobybuilder Ken” who regularly skips out on social functions because there’s going to be too many processed carbs or he fears there won’t be a microwave around so he can reheat his chicken and brown rice.
- Be open to switching up the day of your cheat day from time to time, if need be. Perhaps it’s your friend’s wedding on Saturday but you usually have your cheat day on Sunday? Switch it up for this week.
- Don’t keep “cheat foods” in your house to begin with. If you don’t keep them at your place you’re less likely to “cheat.” Yes, of course, if you’re really “hellbent” on cheating, you will, but there’s far less temptations this way.
- It’s often a good idea to have workout before your first cheat meal. It’s less likely to get stored as fat this way.
- DO NOT weigh yourself the following day. You’ll likely want to cry if you do. If you really overdo and have a ton of carbs, you may weigh upwards of 10 lbs more. This is mainly water weight, however, and will go away within a few days.
So, to answer the original question about cheat days and are they worth it? ABSOLUTELY! I HIGHLY recommend them. In fact, I think cheat days are essential to help you make your fitness goals a long term solution.
Let me know in the comments section what your favorite “cheat foods” are.