Can The Cheat Day Diet Help You Lose Weight?
The problem with most diets is that they are unsustainable.
You may last a few days, maybe a week or two. If the diet is too restrictive though, temptation for salty or sweet snacks that you are depriving yourself of will overwhelm you.
Then once you’ve caved in for something small, it can become an avalanche of snacking and binge eating. You justify it to yourself one way or another, and soon you are discarding the diet all together because it was too tough.
Some people manage to get back to the diet after cheating a little bit, but many people see it as the diet being ‘over’, and that’s how they justify overeating the fatty or sugary foods at that point.
That’s why the concept of a ‘cheat’ day is so powerful. Is it really possible to lose weight on a diet where you can eat literally whatever you want for one day a week?
What is The Cheat Day Diet?
I’ve written a bit about the cheat day diet a bit before.
Many experts in the field actually recommend a cheat day diet for some obvious reasons:
-You WILL cheat eventually
-Knowing you have one day a week will keep you in line the rest of the time
I often diet with a cheat day, usually Saturday or Sunday as it’s convenient (and let’s face it, there is greater temptation to pig out at the weekends).
I know I often come across a temptation (doughnuts or muffins at work for example), and I can just say to myself, “Mm I’d like that, I’ll make sure to have one on my cheat day.”
That way I can file it away and forget about it, knowing that craving will get sated at a later point, but not too far into the future.
What Do I Eat The Rest of the Week?
You can have a cheat day on a number of diets. I’m sure there are many diets that are too restrictive and will not allow a cheat day – but I challenge you to take up one of those types of diets full-time. There are probably reasons why they do not allow cheating, and perhaps they get you results. For me though, happiness is the most important thing and if I’m not happy on a diet, then what’s the point?
One diet I often follow is the Slow Carb diet by Tim Ferriss. You basically avoid white carbohydrates (or any carbs that can be white) like bread, pasta, rice, cereals and potatoes. Then you have a few similar meals each day consisting of protein sources and vegetables, culminating in the cheat day.
You can adapt your own diet to include a cheat day. As I always say, the only way to know how it will affect your body is to test, test, test. Every person is different and self-experimentation is how you will know if it works for you or not.
What are the Health Benefits?
There is actually another reason why the cheat day works so well, and it’s not just psychological.
It’s important that you actually eat a lot of food on cheat day, whatever food you desire. There is a health benefit to spiking your caloric intake like this.
Spiking your calories causes hormonal changes in your body, which can actually help you lose fat.
You will gain a bit of weight on cheat day, but as long as you slide straight back into your diet the day after, you should get back to your previous weight (or even less) by Monday, assuming your cheat day was Saturday.
Can you Use the Cheat Day Diet for Bodybuilding?
I’ve met many bodybuilders who recommend a cheat day to those trying to build muscle.
Typical bodybuilding diets will consist of a lot of lean protein – chicken, egg whites, protein powders and so on.
Now when you are on a diet like this, with high protein and low carbs, your insulin levels are low which helps you burn fat. However, this creates an energy deficit and your body will slow down the rate at which you burn calories.
Having a cheat day will prevent this slow-down. Spiking calories also bring your hormone levels back to normal, like I said above. Hormones such as IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factor), which is important for muscle growth, are restored to desired levels.