Would you love to be able to enjoy all your favourite foods and lose weight in the process?
Sounds good doesn’t it? And yes it is possible and it is sustainable. As with anything almost too good to be true there are guidelines to take into account. And as I’m sure you will be well aware if you spend any amount of time surfing the net or scoping the latest mags there are countless arguments for and against the CHEAT DAY.
How to decide which path to take?
Well, as often as I am a black and white type of girl – with this principal I’m going to hang out round middle ground. The emotional benefits of a cheat day are rather obvious and that for me is reason enough to include one once a week, however lets cover the hormonal side of things first.
To lose weight you need to be in calorie deficit.
Sounds simple enough. However there is more to consider. When you decrease your calorie intake it mess’s with an important fat-burning hormone called leptin. It only takes roughly a week of moderate dieting for leptin levels to drop off significantly.
Low leptin = stalled fat burning.
The answer is to strategically introduce a day of overfeeding (cheating!) and leptin rapidly reaches it’s baseline again.
Not only does the cherished cheat day reset your emotional focus because you know you can count on it each week – it also resets your metabolism and that has to be a good thing.
What needs to be considered to make the cheat day work for you?
=> Are you in calorie deficit the rest of the week? If you’ve got an attachment to something rich, dark and tall (I mean sweet!) and you spend time together at 3.30-i-tis o’clock each day then you’ll likely not be seeing the fat loss you’re seeking and you do not need a cheat day (as every day is already a cheat day)
=> Are you willing to knuckle down with a FAST DAY after your cheat? Stay with me – remember I’m the middle ground girl so I’m not going to recommend going without food for 24-36 hours (although this is increasingly popular) and effective.
I am declaring the day after cheating to be a carb free zone:
So yes that means a ‘no go zone’ for alcohol, bread, rice, pasta, fruit, potato – all the usual suspects and even oats and sweet potato ok?
Here’s the reason why: the day following a cheat day your body is super primed for fast fat loss. Leptin is back to baseline and it’s time to maximize with a mega calorie deficit.
=> Are you up for the challenge of increased physical activity on your carb free day to really maximise the fat blasting? Your body is ready to burn fat fast so throw an intense training session at it and enjoy the results.
Ok, there are the basics, time to fine tune…
=> Regarding ‘calorie deficit’ this needs to be calculated individually for you. First step is to get your ‘maintenance’ level of calories calculated based on your lean body mass and deficit will be around 500 calories below
=> A calorie is not a calorie. For many of my clients I calculate the individual grams of Protein, Carbs and Fat they require on a daily basis (separate goals for training and non-training days). From here a carb of course is not a carb, a fat is not a fat and even a protein is not a protein!
Let’s take a peak at carbs so you’ll see what I mean. 100 grams of carbs via oats, sweet potato, berries and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli) is going to be stored and utilized in a whole different way by your body than 100 grams of carbs via your favourite sugar-fix or even cereal.
For more on the pitfalls of processed foods see my post How You Can Eliminate Emotional Eating
If the thought of measuring every little thing has your eyes glazing over – fear not! – I have you covered in this post How to Dump Measuring to Naturally Lose Weight.
You can see though there are sound guidelines, as with everything surrounding your fat loss strategy there can be no clear cut one-size fits all formula when we all start with such unique building blocks. You can however certainly make a great start by implementing the above guidelines to cheating without consequences.