3 Reasons to Add a Cheat Day to Your Week
November 4th, 2016 by Lauren Tharp
While it’s not cool to cheat when you’re in a relationship, it is cool to cheat when you’re on a diet.
Basically, you eat as nutritiously as possible six days out of the week and then, on the seventh, you eat whatever you want (either for the full day, or just one meal, depending on your preferences). And this “cheat” day has a lot of benefits.
1. You’ll Feel More Human
Not that healthy foods can’t taste good (a lot of them are delicious!), but eating the same nutritious foods day after day can weigh on you. You start to feel like you’re a robot and you’re just eating “food” as a way to fuel your circuitry.
Eating something you love just feels great. There’s nothing quite like chowing down on something yummy to get you feeling like a real human being again.
And this is partly scientific. Cheat meals are often fatty and filled with calories, which do all sorts of interesting things to your body (which we’ll get into below), but one of the main things they do is they raise your libido and dopamine – which, in turn, increases your motivation. So, basically, by allowing yourself a “cheat” day, you’ll end up staying more motivated to stick to your normal diet during the rest of the week.
2. Cheat Days Balance Your (Muscle-Building) Hormones
According to personal trainer, Jeremey DuVall:
“One of the primary benefits of cheat days is their effect on leptin levels in the body. Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells that is key to maintaining energy balance in the body. When leptin levels reach a certain threshold, it signals to the brain that you have sufficient energy stored, allowing you to push away from the table when you’ve had enough. However, when leptin levels drop, hunger signals go through the roof, often resulting in overeating. The trickiest part? Caloric restriction has been shown to cause a drop in leptin levels, and so decreasing caloric intake for prolonged periods of time can lead to a greater potential for uncontrolled binging down the road. According to some research, upticks in eating, specifically with carbohydrates, could help to stave off decreasing leptin levels and prevent mindless noshing.”
To put that in simple terms: If you keep eating nothing but healthy foods, you’ll eventually end up eating more because your body will “think” that you’re still hungry. But, if you allow yourself a cheat day once in a while, your body will realize that you still know how to eat (lol) and it will realize that the diet you’re on during the week is something you’re doing on purpose. Therefore, it’ll start to cool it with the “I’m so hungry!” signals to your brain, which will keep you from eating too many snacks. Make sense?
3. The More You Work Out, The More Cheat Days You Can Have!
When you diet, you decrease your muscle glycogen, and this often slows down your metabolism. Basically, your body thinks it’s starving, so it begins to go into “low energy” mode.
In the end, this means that you’ll be burning far less calories with your daily activities than you would be if you weren’t dieting. Which makes weight loss even harder! Kinda sucks, right?
The way you get around this is by adding in a cheat day!
By having a day where you shock your system with a high influx of calories, your body will get a kick start to its metabolism – bringing it back up to normal levels, even during the days when you’re dieting. Thus, increasing weight loss and muscle gain!
And, the more fit you get, the more often you’ll be able to cheat (yay!). According to personal trainer and exercise scientist, Shannon Clark:
“Generally, the leaner you get, the more cheat days or meals will be needed to get this ‘high gear’ effect.”
So get out there and have yourself a cheeseburger! Just remember to eat well the rest of the week.