I want to talk a little bit about “Cheat Days”, and why it’s something that you need to be very careful with, because all of cheat days can really easily throw your fat loss results off track if you’re too reckless with them.
So I’m sure most of you are familiar with what a cheat day is.
Usually it’s done once a week where you stick closely to your diet for six days and then on one day of the week you’re
allowed to reward yourself by eating your favorite foods and by eating more of them.
Now, I’m totally in favor of the concept of flexible dieting and it absolutely is possible
to eat your favorite foods on a pretty consistent basis and still get very lean, but at the
end of the day fat loss still comes down to net energy intake versus net energy expenditure.
So in the big picture over the course of a few days and a few weeks you need to maintain
a calories deficit by burning more calories than you’re consuming.
The problem with all out cheat days where calorie intake isn’t accounted for, is that they can pretty easily
erased, or at least hugely reduce the deficit that you’ve created during the rest of the
So usually a standard deficit for fat loss would be somewhere around 500 calories
below maintenance, so if you maintain that for six days then that would be a 3,000 calorie
Now if you then go ahead and binged on the seventh day, every calorie that you
eat above your maintenance level is directly counteracting that 3,000 calorie deficit that
Now everybody has a different appetite and people do approach cheat days differently
but let’s say you ate 1,500 calories above maintenance, which is pretty easy to do on
a cheat day, most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with that, right there you’re
already cutting your total calorie deficit right in half but for most people who do go
all out on a cheat day and who do have a decent appetite, eating 4,000 or 5,000 calories really
isn’t unrealistic, that’s maybe a couple of, you know, high calorie restaurant type
meals, maybe a dessert and then whatever else you’re eating throughout the day and it
all adds up very quickly, and because you’ve been in a calorie deficit you’re going to
be craving those high calorie foods a lot more than normal because your body is hardwired
for survival, it doesn’t care about you getting lean abs, it just wants to get back
On top of that you’ve probably heard trainers or other experts telling you
that cheat days are actually beneficial and that you can just go ahead and eat whatever
you want because it’s going to spike your metabolism, and it’s going to shoot your
leptin levels through the roof which is actually going to make you lose more fat, this is just
totally untrue but when you hear that it gives you more permission to just, sort of go crazy
Anyway, for most people if you were to eat 4,000 or 5,000 calories in a day
that would basically undo a high percentage of your total calorie deficit, in which case
you either going to lose fat way slower than you could be or you’re not going to lose
any fat at all.
On top of that, most people don’t even track their calorie deficit properly throughout the week in the first place.
So a pre-high percentage of people who think that they’re eating, say 500 calories below maintenance,
they’re actually off by quite a bit and they actually might be eating at a much smaller
deficit, in which case cheat days are going to be even more dangerous.
In extreme cases some people actually end up gaining weight even though their goal is to lose weight.
So what should you do instead, so that you can enjoy your favorite food and still getting
lean? My first advice would be, like I’ve mentioned many times before, is just to forget
the idea of cheat days or cheat meals altogether and just focus on developing an overall lifestyle
where higher fat and higher sugar foods are just part of your regular diet but they’re
simply eaten in moderation.
So rather than thinking of it as starving yourself during
the week and eating nothing but clean foods, and then bingeing once a week on cheat foods
just merge the two together so that your diet is mostly based on what you’d call clean
foods, you know, high quality proteins, minimally refined carbs, fruits, veggies, healthy fats
and then once you have those basis covered allow for a round at 10 to 20% of your calorie
intake to come from whatever foods you want.
They’re not cheat foods, you’re not breaking the rules, it’s just part of how you eat because you’re a human being and part of
life is enjoying food.
So you’re getting those higher quality foods to meet your overall
health needs and your muscle building and fat burning needs, but you’re also getting
the satisfaction of eating the food that you like the most.
Just remember that calorie is absolutely do matter and those higher calorie foods have to fit into your overall calorie
intake for the week if you want to see ongoing fat loss results.
You can lay this all out based on preference, if you like being able to eat those higher calorie foods every single
day but in smaller amounts, then go with that.
Or if you get more satisfaction out of eating bigger portions but having them less often, then that’s fine too.
Just make it fit into your overall week and laid out in the way that you the most.
Aside from that the second thing you can do is rather than having what you’d call a “cheat day” once a week
instead have a re-feed days once a week, and that means that rather than just bingeing
and going all out, and not keeping track of anything you’re instead just going to eat
at your calorie maintenance levels.
A slight surplus, it’s not a big deal but it should still be around you maintenance level nonetheless.
So that will allow for probably an extra 500 calories or so and usually with the re-feed day you’d get the majority of the increased from carbohydrates.
That would about an extra 125 grams of carbs, which is a decent amount, to give you a good psychological boost, enjoyed some additional foods and possibly offset some of the typical dieting side effects that you’ll usually experience after you’ve been in a deficit for a while.
Now, if you have been using the approach of a cheat days and you’re able to exercise in moderation, and you’re losing fat just fine then I can’t argue with that obviously and you can just continue, but if you do find that you’re
going in the cycles of the calorie deprivation followed by a huge calorie over consumption and you’re not losing fat, then just get rid of the idea of cheat days, and number one; start tracking your calorie intake with more accuracy and just allow 10 to 20% of your intake throughout the week to come from your favorite foods and secondly do a re-feed
day once a week where you eat at your calorie maintenance level, because that’s going to give you a break from your diet but it won’t counteract the calorie deficit that
you worked for during the regular week.