“You need to be serious about your diet. No junk food ever!”
Who doesn’t love to pig out once in a while? Most of us give up on our new fitness lifestyle because we have someone lecturing to us about how we need to be perfect 24/7 when we really want freedom. We’re not allowed to eat for pleasure anymore. We usually just give up after a few weeks.
I love to eat junk food and to have drinks with friends. I also enjoy being jacked. This is why I want to help you plan the perfect cheat day so that you can get away with pigging out.
I don’t know how, but I’ve managed to get really into fitness and improving myself. I’ve discovered that you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be better than yesterday.
We work hard to get in better shape, stay in shape, and to always eat well. The training sessions are intense and eating kale gets boring real fast. We still have cravings. Most of us aren’t planning on competing in bodybuilding contests nor are we trying to get into the UFC.
Just because you treat the world like your gym and eat cans of tuna during the week, it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself to some beer and pizza when you’re really craving them. Working out doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself 100% of the time.
Do you really want to miss out on priceless nights just because of some lame diet? I don’t! I don’t want to be sitting at home 24/7 while my buddies are out having a blast.
I love my cheat days. I love to eat like a slob. I love pizza and vodka.
There’s just one problem…
The reality is that we can’t do this every single day because we would get fat and there’s nothing sexy about that. There’s nothing fun about feeling like crap all day, every single day. This is why it’s important to take one day in the week were you just pig out and let loose.
What’s the theory behind a cheat day?
We all cheat. Why not plan for it? Why not set ourselves up for the best cheat day ever?
I did my research to ensure that I was properly eating like a slob and so that I wouldn’t feel bad about scarfing down all of that pizza.
According to Tim Ferriss in the 4-Hour Body:
“It is important to spike caloric intake once per week. This causes a host of hormonal changes that improve fat loss, from increasing cAMP and GMP to improving conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone to the more active T3.”
According to Engineering The Alpha (awesome book):
“Low leptin levels can hurt your sleep. So by going higher carb, you’ll bump up your leptin and improve your quality of sleep.”
Later on in the book…
“So to prevent fat-loss stagnation and the dreaded weight-loss plateau, we need to make sure that we consistently spike your leptin levels when it drops too low.”
Jason Maxwell of Rocking Muscle wrote on cheat days:
“When dieting for fat loss, average intake of carbohydrates and calories tend to be low. Over time, your body realizes it is taking in fewer calories than it is burning. In turn, it will try to balance calories-in versus calories-out by becoming more efficient and your metabolism drops. This is not good when fat loss is the goal. Cheat days will trick the body into thinking it is getting enough calories (if not too many) and the body will then ignite its fat burning metabolism.”
Greatist explains cheat days:
“Psychologically, it may be effective to accept that it’s only possible to stick to a diet about 80 percent of the time. The other splurges are totally natural and a-okay.”
Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness has a different take on cheat days:
“I CHOOSE to eat healthy foods almost all of the time because I like them and they help me reach my goals. It’s not done with an end date in mind. I’m not dieting until a vacation. I’m not dieting until swimsuit weather. I’m eating how I eat. And occasionally I CHOOSE to eat unhealthy foods, and I do so with a smile on my face. There’s no dieting or cheating, no starving and bingeing, no being faithful and then cheating.”
Martin Berkhan (the king of IF) writes on cheat day strategies:
“On the day of the feast, you’ll want to make sure you have a buffer saved up for the occasion. You’ll either want to reduce your meal frequency as much as you can or reduce your calorie intake in the meals leading up to the feast.
If possible, fast up until the big meal. This is easy and a bit of a no-brainer for those used to intermittent fasting. If you are used to 16-hour fasts per my usual recommendations, it should not be an issue to prolong it further, i.e. doing a 20-24 hour fast.”
All of these folks are way smarter than me so you could easily spend a few hours going through their thoughts on cheat days and the science behind this stuff.
How do you create the perfect cheat day?
What happens before the cheat day happens?
You work for it.
You have to do everything right before the cheat day. There’s no way around it. You don’t get rewarded for average. You don’t get rewarded for the work that you didn’t do.
You do your best to crush it every other day before the cheat day.
- You hold off the temptations.
- Eat relatively well.
- Push yourself in the weight room, on the mats, or wherever you train.
- Wait for that glorious day to come.
Make sure that your diet is tight during the week, that you’re fasting, and that you push it in the weight room. The reward is a large pizza and cookies.
Write down your cravings.
Try to write down a list of your favorite cheat foods when you’re eating like a champ all week. Refer back to this list throughout the week (on your cell of course).
Fries, pizza, burgers, beer, and all of that other good stuff. Load that list up.
Keep these cravings in mind. When you get your hands on them it’s like not seeing your partner for a week.
Try to pick the same day every week.
Some dieters use Saturdays to get wild. It doesn’t matter what day you choose. It all depends on your schedule.
Use holidays, birthday parties, or any other social event as a cheat day.
Imagine telling your parents that you’re missing Christmas dinner because of your diet? Imagine missing a friend’s birthday jam because your coach told you that you couldn’t have some nachos?
I don’t want you to miss out on Sunday football with the guys because of some diet. That’s lame. You also don’t want to miss out on social events because of a diet. Let’s be real here.
I feel like crap after cheating. What’s next?
The cheat day is over. The boxes of pizza remain as a souvenir of what happened the night before. Empty chip bags galore. A case of beer with bottles all over your place (including your bed).
You’re full. You’re hungover. You feel like crap.
It’s not the end of the world. You feel like crap because you ate garbage and drank a ton of booze. I hope that you created some fun stories and made it count. I hope your night is already an instant classic.
No need to freak out. You worked for this, remember?
Some experts recommend fasting the day after a cheat day. I usually do this. I do a 24-hour fast of just water. This usually makes you feel better. I’ll load up on water, carbonated water, and coffee.
Sometimes I do the 24-hour fast before the cheat day. It really depends on what the occasion is.
[You need to read my guide to intermittent fasting.]
Don’t feel bad about it. Get back on track and into the gym. Move on with your life. Hit the gym, get some work done, and do whatever it is that you do. No need to dwell on it.
Start planning your next cheat day.
Just like that time you said you were never going to drink again, you will eat crap again. Start thinking about your next cheat day.
What food will you humble next time? Maybe you never got around to poutine?
What are the key takeaways from a cheat day?
Can you actually learn something from loading up on chocolate bars?
Watch how you feel.
Make a note of how you feel. Remember how excited you were to eat that pizza? How do you feel now? Hmm. Interesting. Sometimes I make myself so sick that I skip the next cheat day. I don’t feel the best after cheating.
Try eating different food.
When I tried the vegan challenge for a week, I wanted to see what it was like to cut out meat from my diet. If you ever don’t feel your best, you should really consider changing up what you eat and when you eat.
You’re eventually going to longer without cheat days.
After a few epic cheat days, you might take a few weeks off from junk food and drinking. I’ll often take a month off to focus on training because I know what happens after you cheat.
The step-by-step guide to a cheat day.
Here are my steps for what I do on a cheat day:
You can do this anyway that you want. I imagine that you don’t wake up as late as I do. My sleep is 2 in the morning until 9am or so. Not the greatest, but it works for me.
9am-ish: Wake up, drink coffee and water, get some work done.
noon: Training. I usually do hill sprints, weights and then BJJ class.
1pm: Hit the sauna to sweat a little.
2pm: Keep on drinking carbonated water. Start preparing your snacks. See what kind of pizza you’re going to order. Buy that bag of chips.
5pm: Let the party begin. The trick is to stick to your eating window (doesn’t matter if it’s 4 hours or 8 hours).
What’s the end goal with cheat days?
I hate to say this, but eventually you won’t want to cheat as much. Momentum is powerful when it comes to getting in shape. Once you start seeing exceptional results, you won’t want to stop. This article is just a reminder that it’s okay to cheat. The first few months of intermittent fasting may be the toughest. You’re also going to struggle with any type of change to your eating habits.
This is why it’s important that you use cheat days to help you get to the next level.
Please tell me about your next or most recent cheat day! Don’t hold back on the graphic details.
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“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie” — Jim Davis