Maybe I’m just a nutrition geek, but earlier this week I received a fascinating question:
“Should I have a cheat day every week?”
“Will a cheat day stop my metabolism from slowing down, and stop me from feeling deprived?”
My verdict… that cheat days are a terrible idea, and diets… a disastrous idea!
If you are feeling deprived, then chances are that the diet you are following is far too restrictive to be a long-term weight loss solution.
Restrictive diets usually cause more weight gain than weight loss, because during a restrictive diet you are more likely to pine for the foods, or even food groups, that you have cut from your life.
These feelings of deprivation can dramatically increase the likelihood of a binge.
One treat can suddenly turn into five causing feelings of failure and hopelessness.
This slump in to the world of ‘bad foods’ can carry on for hours, days or even weeks until you decide to re-start the diet.
You will most likely repeat this cycle again, and again, and again. Each diet causing more weight gain, not weight loss.
Instead of cheat days, I recommend small treats daily, a 90/10 ratio.
Try to make sure that ninety percent of the food you eat is healthy, the other ten percent not so healthy.
Maybe your vice is sugar, chocolate, or cake; my vice is dairy-free ice cream, mmmm! It is ok to eat these foods, just in moderation.
That said, if you are altering your metabolism because of carb cycling, ketosis or caloric restriction, can cheat days scientifically give a boost to your metabolism?
Let’s find out…
There aren’t a significant number of scientific studies on ‘cheat days’. However, from those that are out there, some studies do show an increase in leptin after a ‘cheat day’.
Leptin is a hormone that helps to maintain our metabolism and can aid weight loss.
However, the studies suggest that overfeeding or ‘cheating’ only increases metabolism between three and ten percent, and for no more than 24 hours. Thus making the little metabolism boost NOT worth the hundreds, or even thousands, of extra calories. (1) (2)
Remember, if you do ‘cheat’ try to think of it in a similar manner to falling down; you may have grazed a knee but commit to getting straight back up again, don’t stay on the floor and drag yourself around!
What are your thoughts?
Have cheat days ever worked for you?
How do you incorporate treats into your diet?
Let me know in the comments below!
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