It’s time to lose weight, so get the pots and pans out. Get your food scale out, and your favorite calorie-tracking software downloaded. You’re going to take it even more seriously this summer than you did last year… when your efforts lasted an incredible two weeks… but not this time! You do everything correctly, from eating healthier home meals with a variety of veggies to reducing your carb consumption to about 10%. But then, after only one week, those wicked desires strike, and you stare hopelessly up at the ceiling, thinking to yourself,
“I could really go for some pizza and ice cream right now!” so why not indulge?
Cheat days are straightforward. A day once a month, once a week, twice a week, or anytime you want to indulge in all of your favorite junk food and indulge your gluttonous impulses. You have a short taste of your favorite cuisine before returning to your interminable agony cycle known as a diet. That sounds promising. That’s correct. Cutting is a term used to describe someone who is dieting. During a cut, the body undergoes hormonal changes that cause the energy allocation state to transition to catabolism. That means your body will begin to break down stored energy, primarily in the form of fat, but it will also wither away some muscle mass, especially if you aren’t resistance exercising.
Even if you are, your body will have a tough time building muscle since you are not delivering adequate nutrients. The problem is that the longer you stay in a cutting or dieting period, the more powerful these impacts on your body become. You may reset the effects of catabolism by adding a cheat meal, or as some prefer to call it, a “re-feed day,” and so the hormonal consequences aren’t as effective. And while it’s simple to reduce the quantity of carbs you eat on a diet or a cut, your net glycogen levels are depleted as well.
Glycogen is necessary for the body to obtain rapid energy. Because let’s face it, most of your cheat foods are carb-heavy, you’ll be able to refill your glycogen levels when you have your cheat day. So there you have it: cheat days are beneficial! But keep in mind that losing weight is essentially a numbers game. You will lose the game if you consume too many calories altogether.
You may argue that a calorie isn’t a calorie and that various macronutrients digest differently, resulting in varied weight consequences, but in general, this is the easiest approach to measure it. If you consume fewer carbohydrates and salt, you may shed some water weight, but not true weight like fat. For example, if you consume 2000 calories per day, you will not gain weight. This is referred to as your energy balance. To maintain your weight over the course of a week, you’ll need to consume 14,000 calories. When you go on a diet, you reduce your daily calorie intake to 1500. That’s a total of 10,500 calories every week. That’s fantastic, but that’s prior to the cheat day.
Let’s assume you go a little wild on Sunday and eat 3,000 calories worth of junk food. We’re now looking at a calorie intake of 12,000 for the week. You won’t drop as much weight, but you’ll still be under 14,000 calories. But, let’s be honest, 3,000 calories isn’t much. That’s most likely simply your breakfast. With lunch consisting of a burger and fries and supper consisting of pizza and ice cream, you’ll be lucky if you stay under 5,000 calories. And if you did, your weekly calorie total would rise to 14,000 calories. All of the hard work from the previous six days was entirely undone by a joyful and hungry Sunday. The moral of the story is to enjoy your cheat day, but not to go completely insane.
So, while cheat days offer certain physiological benefits, they are not essential and may even be entirely disregarded if you stick to a consistent calorie deficit and consume foods high in protein and fats, which will keep you full and happy. Thank you to all of the Keto Dieters out there. You’ll be alright if you keep just below your energy balance, around 250 calories fewer or so, and indulge in the occasional indulgence without overindulging.