Should You Have Cheat Days For Weight Loss?
You had a cheat day or meal and that made you super worried if you will gain weight?
There is no need to worry about it. Eating one bad meal or even several days in a row bad won’t make you gain fat. Like working out for a couple days perfectly, won’t make you the best shape of your life.
How does Cheat Day help you to lose weight?
If you are not sure if you should or not have cheat days in your diet, after reading this article you will know the answer.
Make sure you read each line. Do not skip a word.
I am going to explain to you the best strategies on how and when you should use cheat day to lose weight.
I also explain when you should not use cheat days.
Ah, Sounds complicated? Actually it’s not.
Let me explain.
If you don´t know me, my name is Turo. I am an Online Weight Loss Coach and have helped hundreds of clients to lose weight and keep it off.
In this article I share my best strategies on how to use (or not) cheat days for weight loss.
As you might already guess, there is not one answer to what is right or wrong.
Cheat days for weight loss
As you probably know, weight loss, or fat loss as I like to call it is all about calorie deficit. It means that you are taking in less calories than you are consuming.
There are many ways to know your calorie maintenance level. This is the amount of calories that you will keep your current weight. If you eat less than that (calorie deficit) , you will lose fat. If you eat more than that (calorie surplus), you will gain weight.
It is simple math.
If you don´t know your calorie maintenance, HERE is a link to my calorie calculator. (You need to scroll down a bit)
Even my calorie calculator is pretty awesome, it is only the starting point. The only way to know if you are actually in a calorie deficit, is to stay consistent for at least 30 days and adjust the number based on results,energy and hunger.
How to use cheat days for weight loss
If you are on a diet and feel like you don´t want to eat only chicken and broccoli 7 days a week, cheat day or meal could be a great option for you. It allows you to have foods you actually enjoy without feeling being on a diet all the time.
Using cheat day would mean that you have your cheat meal or day once in a week. In that time you are allowed to eat foods you actually enjoy, without feeling guilty. Having a cheat meal or day don´t mean that after feeling sick of overeating, you must finish your M&M’s just because it’s your cheat day.
Instead, plan your cheat meals ahead. Make a decision before having your cheat meal about foods and amounts you are ok with eating.
Because regardless if you count your calories or not, calories count also on your cheat day.
Do you have to have a cheat day?
Straight answer is no. Your body won’t go to starvation mode if you don’t have a cheat day. Equally good option is to have your fun foods when you want to have them, divided during the week.
Losing fat is all about average calories per week.
Think of your calorie deficit calories like a weekly budget. If your calorie goal is to eat 2000 calories per day, it makes 14000 calories per week. It is up to your preferences how you want to divide that amount.
If you are a person who want to be on spot on during the week and have more freedom on weekend, you could be dividing your calories this way:
Monday to Friday 1700 kcal = 8500 and you would have 5500 kcal left for your weekend.
If you want to have your fun foods daily, you will end up with the same amount of calories by eating 7 days 2000 calories.
As you get my point, there is no better way to do it. Both ways lead to the same amount of calories by the end of the week.
How Cheat days can help you to lose weight?
If you decide to use cheat days, they often give you a well needed break from dieting. Something you “deserve” after being spot on on your diet the whole week. It helps you especially mentally to see that you are able to see progress even eating “junk food”.
When you should not use cheat days?
If you rather want to eat more every day and leave more freedom to your food choices, there is no need to have a cheat day. Like I explained above, for fat loss it doesn’t matter.
How to build your cheat day meals?
Even cheat days mean that you can eat foods you enjoy, there is no need to overeat. The best way is to plan ahead what you are willing to eat and stop eating after you ate foods you wanted.
Practical way to plan your cheat day is to start planning from protein. On your cheat day your protein source could be for example beef if you want to have hamburger. After you add bread and other things you want to have.
Also making rules for yourself, will help you to avoid overeating. You can use one plate rule. You can eat whatever you want, until it fits into one plate. After finishing plate, you must wait at least 20 minutes. If you still want more, go for it. But before eating more, you must wait 20 minutes.
This will help you to feel when you have had enough.
How one cheat day can ruin your progress when being in a calorie deficit?
In most cases it won’t ruin anything. Better you have planned cheat days in advance, more likely it won’t happen.
However if you are not tracking your cheat days, it might easily happen.
Here is why:
Let’s assume your calorie deficit calories are 2000 kcal per day. You have set your goal right for sustainable fat loss and aiming for a -500 calorie deficit when you maintain calories are 2500. 6 days a week you are spot on and eat 2000 kcal. On your Cheat Day and you are not tracking, you end up eating and having a couple drinks with a total amount of 4500 calories.
You end up eating 16500 calories per week, when your maintenance calories are 17500. You have been eating only 1000 calories less than your maintenance level. You are still in a calorie deficit, but your progress will be slower that you think it should be.
To lose one kilo fat, you should eat around 7000 calories less than you need. By doing a quick math, 1000 calories less per week, you need around 7 weeks to lose 1kg fat, instead of 2 weeks what your calculator calculated.
For many it is frustrating and a reason to give up when progress is not fast as you would like.
As you see from examples above, there is no right or wrong way to do it. You pick the way that feels more sustainable for you. Having a bad meal or day won’t ruin your progress. In the worst case your progress might be a bit slower. The only way to ruin everything is to give up and stop trying.
If you think that several messages weekly, reminding you of the importance of planning meals ahead, getting workouts done and having a friend to talk about all your questions during your journey, consider my individual Online Coaching. We create a custom designed plan for you to reach your goals and keep you on track when you feel like quitting.
Let’s do this!