Anyone who’s ever committed to a strict diet knows cheat days are often a must. It’s a challenge to only eat fruits, vegetables and proteins while you try to lose weight or build muscle. But when you spend the weekend with wings and beer, you can actually set your goals back a bit.
How often should you have a cheat day? There’s some contention around whether cheat days are smart ideas. It really depends on the person, so let’s check out the positives and negatives.
What Is a Cheat Day?
Generally, cheat days refer to days when you stray from a “clean” diet to eat “junk” like fast food, frozen meals and processed snacks. Usually, people stick to their diets Monday through Friday. Then, they set aside a day like Saturday or Sunday to indulge in their favorite dishes.
What’s the point? These cheat days tend to be incentives or rewards for people to stay committed to their diets. It’s a nice way to end the week before you start back on your meal plan over the next six days. However, you may encounter a few setbacks when you do so.
Points to Consider About Cheat Days
There’s nothing like a double cheeseburger with bacon after you’ve eaten chicken and broccoli every day for a week straight. But won’t the sudden fat and carbohydrate intake mess with your progress? Well, yes and no. It’s all about moderation.
If you indulge in three cheat days, which could be Friday through Sunday, you may not think twice while you’re in the moment. However, your gut would reflect a different situation. It turns out several cheat days can lead to similar adverse health outcomes you’d experience on a junk-heavy diet.
Plus, you can gain weight relatively quickly over short time periods. That’s especially true for individuals who may be more prone to obesity due to family history or other reasons. If you think about how some people come back from vacation a pound or two heavier, you can see how cheat days might be a risk.
It’s also wise to consider your own habits since no one knows you better than yourself. Many people are prone to binges — and a few extra pounds can quickly turn into five or 10. Then, you may be back to square one with your fitness goals.
Keep in mind that cheat days have their advantages. Actually, you can directly benefit from planned indulgences, as they urge you to stick with your meal plan in the long run. However, you do need to remain consistent with your calorie count on cheat days to see that result.
Additionally, you may discover cheat days keep you strong mentally. It’s often a challenge to eat a strict diet, especially in the beginning weeks. While you shouldn’t rely on food for comfort, you can help the experience be more enjoyable with a few cheat days.
How to Do Cheat Days the Right Way
Here’s a look at how often you should have a cheat day.
For the most part, your best bet will be to do cheat days in a smaller capacity. This way, you can still enjoy your favorite meals and snacks without the fullness you feel after you crush a large pizza. It’s smart to indulge according to your necessary calorie count, too.
If you’re an active 30-year-old man who wants to lose weight, you’ll need to eat at a deficit amounting to around 2,400 calories a day on average. Put about 15% of your daily calories, which would be 360 calories, toward small snacks a few times a week. That’ll be a more successful approach to help you find a balance.
There’s still some merit in “traditional” cheat days, though. If you’re someone who likes to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting, you might fare better by setting aside one day to eat whatever you want — within reason, of course. This way, you won’t turn every day into a cheat day.
Remember that cheat days aren’t bad decisions, either. There are negative connotations surrounding the word “cheat,” so you might feel guilty after you bite into that brownie. There’s only a problem when you slowly replace your original diet with junk food.
Therefore, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t indulge yourself at all. Instead, view the cheat days as times when you can treat yourself. It’s a reward for all the hard work you’ve achieved so far.
Stay on Track With These Cheat Day Tips
Questions like “how often should you have a cheat day?” often pop into your head when you start a rigorous eating regimen. It can be tricky to build up the willpower to reach whatever goals you’ve set. However, you still need to leave room to treat yourself — and that’s where a cheat day in moderation can be beneficial.