The Dirty Truth About Cheat Days
Ah, yes. The good old 'cheat day' – otherwise known as a day that feels like Christmas morning when you've been through the rigorous week of full-fledged dieting and passing up on your favorite sweets like a whole sleeve of Oreos or many other forbidden snacks that can wreak havoc on your physique.
It's a day that, based on the internet's definition, essentially tells you to go out and binge on whatever food and drinks you want at an ungodly amount without feeling the guilt or remorse afterward because you can treat it as a reward for a week of healthy/flexible dieting.
Seems self-explanatory, right?
Now, you might find yourself saying, “but I read that it’s only beneficial to have a cheat meal, not a cheat day”.
Like most diet terminology, there are bound to be insurmountable misconceptions and definitions that vary based on where they’re planted on the internet. While we’re on that point – it should be noted that there’s a significant difference between cheat days and cheat meals which we will define in this article.
First, let’s jump into properly defining what cheat days and cheat meals are and why/how they can be beneficial for your body as you continue your diet journey.
What is a Cheat Day/Meal?
A cheat can be classified as a break from your daily diet while also acting as a mental relief when restricting yourself to specific foods and depriving yourself of the indulgent goodies you’ve grown accustomed to knowing and loving.
It’s also a way to kickstart your metabolism after you’ve been restricted on your caloric intake and daily macronutrient profile for the past week. So, shoveling down a greasy burger can have a noticeable impact on the positive side for your body when you’ve been face deep in ground turkey and rice for days on end.
Not to mention, you’re rewarding yourself for all the hard work both physically and mentally you put in during the prior 6 days and allowing yourself to gain some enjoyment back because as the saying goes, dieting sucks.
No, seriously – dieting does really suck.
When you put in the effort that goes into dieting hard, you most certainly deserve a hearty meal that puts a smile on your face and the love in your tastebuds.
A rule of thumb is displayed exactly in the title; day/meal. Typically, most people think of it as being a cheat day, therefore making it applicable to eat whatever you want for a whole day versus one meal only.
This is where the misconceptions start to take place. So, what is it? Cheat day or meal and which one is better for you?
Cheat Day or Cheat Meal – What is Better?
Beneficially speaking, one cheat meal can be more productive rather than an entire day of eating whatever you want. The common strategy of having a free-for-all diet mentality for an entire day can be more counterproductive than you think but I digress. The question of, “which is better?” ultimately comes down to where you’re at in your diet and how your body best responds.
Is it beneficial to have a full-blown cheat day on the first week of your diet? Probably not. You must assess where you are with your goals and ultimately make that decision yourself. If you find yourself not being able to lose weight but you’re also having multiple cheat meals; then you should probably rethink your strategy on this moving forward.
To define this answer more also depends on your body because not everyone is the same. Some individuals may have more success and benefit more from having an all-out day of eating whatever they want whereas someone else may experience the negative effects of doing a 24-hour binge.
However, the negative aspects of going on a full day of diet cleansing are both mentally and physically related. Here are a few downsides that may occur when utilizing a cheat day rather than a cheat meal.
You run the risk of stomach and digestive issues
Feeding your body copious amounts of greasy, trans-fat filled, and sugar-loaded foods can have a blatant impact on your stomach when your body is not adjusted to eating those types of foods on a regular basis. This can make you feel sicker and more bloated or just downright terrible if you’re downing a pizza for one meal and then fried chicken for the next. 24 hours of eating whatever you want may not necessarily be the best thing to do health-wise.
You can potentially derail your entire diet
Giving in to your cravings for a whole day can pose a serious risk of letting you get off track on your diet. While it may have been fun to eat all of the great food for a whole day, you may find yourself craving more of the same bad foods during the week. After all, we are human – we make mistakes. One slip-up and caving into those desires can set you back further and lead to a spiral of more and more slip-ups.
Guilty pleasures turn into a guilty conscious
You might find yourself feeling incredible after your first cheat meal but as that one meal turns into a whole day; you can run into issues of feeling guilty or upset at yourself for over-indulging in foods you normally don’t eat. This can lead to a downward trend in mental health, especially if you suffer from body dysmorphia.
While you run the same potential negative risks -- whether that be for a day or meal; it’s important to note that you would be far better off treating yourself to that one big meal and you reduce the risk of turning one cheat into another, and then another…
Again, this is all dependent on your body. Your metabolism plays a huge role and don’t get frustrated because someone else may be able to go on an all-out binge-filled food festival for an entire day without seeing any repercussions from it. If you’re one of those people that can benefit from it with major progression still and can mentally handle it – then by all means, go for it!
Does a Cheat Day/Meal Help?
Absolutely, a cheat can be highly beneficial for your body and mental health as explained earlier. This is life, it is certainly okay to enjoy a delicious pizza every now and then. Dieting can take a serious toll on your mental health and a cheat meal/day is most definitely beneficial for your body and mind – just don’t go overboard and let it turn into a cheat week or cheat month.
Cheats can be used as a major benefit when plateauing or stalling on your weight loss journey as it helps your body produce a higher metabolic rate; in-turn – speeding up weight loss or improving muscle growth/strength after being in a caloric deficit for long periods of time.
One cheat day/meal every week or every other week will not hinder your progress but rather improve it when dieting down.
I can’t begin to describe how much a burger and fries from Five Guys really puts me in a better mood after a week of dieting. Just don’t check your bank account until a few days after making a purchase from there, otherwise, your frown will most definitely flip upside-down.
When Should One Have a Cheat Meal?
Listen to your body, look at your body, and point out what goals you have. This is crucial when planning to have a cheat day/meal. If you’re not happy with the way you’re progressing, then it’s most likely going to do more harm than good by having a cheat.
Should you have set goals and are primarily set on achieving said goals in a certain amount of time, take those into account. Don’t risk what you have set by taking on off-diet foods when you really shouldn’t be doing so.
If you’re having a tough time losing weight still but your diet has been going to plan; shoot for a cheat meal to help improve your metabolism so that you can get back on track. The same also goes for plateauing with lean muscle growth, throw in a big meal post-workout if you’ve been struggling to make any progress in the gym but you’ve been nailing your diet down – don’t be afraid to add one in!
A major must-use when having a cheat meal to fully benefit from the macronutrient intake is including a Glucose Disposal Agent supplement to take full advantage of your high-carb meal(s) as the nutrient partitioning process will shuttle nutrients into the bloodstream instead of storing it as fat; making it effective for muscle growth and energy expenditure.
NuEthix Formulations has the ultimate foundation with GDA-Max+ that you can take alongside your cheat meal(s) and every high-carb meal during your daily diet.
The Bottom Line
The trending popularity for cheat days/meals has exponentially popped off as the world has started to prioritize health and dieting. Understanding what a cheat day and meal are put diet at the forefront, otherwise, every day would be treated as a cheat day.
It’s important to have a structured diet in place first and adhere to the said diet, otherwise, any progress would be completely shunned or completely offset.
The term, ‘cheat’ should also be not so loosely thrown around as it has a more negative sounding impact rather than positive. Replacing it with something such as ‘free meal’ sheds a much more positive light on this dieting aspect.
Understanding where you are at, your goals and your body’s reaction are vital elements when focusing on free meals and cheat days. Just don’t go crazy and risk major slip-ups when allowing yourself these meals and you will be just fine and on a better path for progression both mentally and physically.