I’m not 100% sure why this is, but some people just seem to loathe the idea of a cheat meal, let alone a cheat day. There is another school of thought though – that ‘cheating’ not only doesn’t harm you, but can aid both physical and mental health.
The first thing you need to do is get passed the name ‘cheat day’. The term has acquired a poor reputation, and there’s often a lot of confusing in its meaning. It doesn’t mean a day where you can eat whatever you crave, or at least it shouldn’t mean that.
The best way to think of it is like a cheat meal. Some people may decide to treat is as an all out binge, but then you completely lose all the benefits cheating can offer. You need to choose the day that you’re going to deviate from your nutritional plan – often people choose the weekend because they find themselves out and about.
Then on this day, you can incorporate something that you’ve denied yourself during the week – an aspect of your nutrition that you’ve previously cut out. This can form the main part of a meal, such as a pizza, or can be a snack or dessert that you’ve struggled to keep away from.
So why do we need a cheat day then? Well there are a number of benefits to cheating (again, be careful with the word ‘cheating’ – it makes it sound a lot worse than it really is).
Firstly it reduces the chance of an uncontrollable binge. You know throughout the week that if you’re tempted to abandon your plan, you have that treat to look forward to. Without that you might just succumb to the temptation and binge.
There are health benefits to having a cheat day too. A nutritional program that is designed to burn fat is based on establishing a calorie deficit – where you burn more than you consume. Our bodies react to this and can burn fewer calories, or even use proteins to provide us with the energy we need.
Your cheat day provides this energy, which is why cheat days are sometimes referred to as ‘carb nights’, where you eat a lot of carbs one night, and severely reduce them for the rest of the week. As a result your body doesn’t need to adjust and you’re maximising all the effort you put in at the gym.
Essentially you are playing a trick on your own body.
Nutritional programs designed to burn a lot of fat have also been linked to declining levels of thyroid hormones which directly affect our ability to burn fat. So really you’re over doing it, and your body is trying to conserve all the fat and energy that it can.
You will always find people that disagree at both ends of the scale. Some will not use a cheat day and have incredible results, and others may have a cheat weekend and show results. We are all unique and, while our bodies react in similar ways, it changes for all of us.
The important thing to remember is that one cheat meal doesn’t undo all the hard work you put in. You will know what works best for you, just don’t be afraid to incorporate a cheat day into your routine.