Is it really possible to eat your favorite foods and still lose fat?
I believe that cheat meals and cheat days are absolutely necessary for some people and a massive mistake for others.
This article is not designed to lead you any one way because in my nine years of bodybuilding I’ve used cheat days to get under 6% body fat and just recently I did not use cheat days at all to get under 5% body fat.
Not Sure My Stats – 3 Weeks Of Dieting With Cheat Days Every 5th Day!
I have no emotional attachment to cheat days and could care less if I use them or not.
As you can see I look great in both sets of pictures and it wasn’t the cheat strategy that was the determining factor. I personally think I look better in the first picture but some people think I look better in the second picture.
Just like every training and diet technique, you can only learn so much from reading about it. At some point you just need to take action and find out for yourself and that’s what I did and have the pictures and experience to prove it.
If you have not experimented with cheat days before, they can become the focal point of a diet. Let’s dive into what I’ve discovered from being a cheater and not being a cheater!
8 Insights, From Personal Experience, On Cheating…
1. The leaner you are, the more often you can cheat.
2. Fat people (30 lbs overweight) are better off with cheat meals, not cheat days.
3. Cheat meals should not be an excuse to “force down food” and eat to the point where you become sick.
4. Skinny guys can schedule one cheat meal a day to help them grow big and muscular.
5. If you are eating clean the majority of time than your hormones will be in balance and you won’t crave or desire crappy food.
6. If you’re going to cheat, it’s better to do it in the second half of the day (from 4pm till midnight) than the first half of the day. If you start earlier and go crazy than you can set yourself back a few days. It’s very challenging to cheat on the first half of a day and than eat clean the second half. Trust me!
7. For some people, psychologically, it’s very difficult to stay disciplined after a cheat meal. After you have “starved” your sugar craving, which have started to lose their grip, are charged back to life.
8. In my opinion, you should be striving for a lifestyle that is not dependant on cheat days to keep you going. You should not feel like you’d go insane without a cheat meal or cheat day. Your goal is to find yourself not wanting them and not walk into a grocery store and see a bag of cookies and say, “Wow, I would love to eat those right now!” You should strive to a level that allows you to walk into any party, restaurant or grocery store and not want to eat the crap food. Sound impossible? It’s not. It will take months and years of good nutrition habits to reach this level, which very few attain.
Factors That Determine If A Cheat Day a.k.a. Treat Day Is Warranted!
a) Your metabolic rate. For example, a hardgainer i.e. ultra skinny guy, could afford to have at least one cheat meal every single day. In fact, when I bulked up from 214 lbs to 227 lbs, my coach had me eating one “freebie meal” every day and this could consist of anything I wanted. A few slices of pizza, a burger and fries or anything I was craving. Scheduling one freebie meal a day for a endomorph i.e. someone who has a hard time losing fat, could set you back weeks.
b) Your body fat levels. In my opinion, if you’re 30 or more pounds overweight, you don’t deserve a cheat meal, yet. You’ve been cheating for long enough and I feel you should knock off at least 15-20 pounds before you even think about a cheat meal or cheat day. Besides, the first 5 to 10 pounds you lose when you first start dieting and exercising is just water weight and glycogen.
c) How hard and how long you’ve been dieting. Sticking to a clean diet for 6 days at a time can be a huge accomplishment for certain people and in that case, a cheat day on day 7 is warranted and they should enjoy it guilt free. This is a true TREAT DAY. In my case, I consider myself a professional athlete and do not need to baby my body every 6 days. Although it’s not easy, I’ve gone weeks at a time without a cheat meal. It is possible if you’re committed to your goals. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad!
d) Your level of seriousness. Let’s be honest. The majority of people say they want to lose fat but they’ll be fat till the day they die because they are not prepared to do what it takes.
e) You have not dropped your target body fat levels at least two weeks straight. My goal was to drop 1% of my body fat every week and I was starting around 227 pounds, which means I had to drop around 2 to 2.5 pounds a week. In my entire 14 weeks prep, there was not a single time that I stalled for more than 2 weeks at a time. If I had, I would have informed my coach and he might have scheduled me a cheat day. But if I’m dropping, on schedule, every week then why in the world would I give myself a cheat day?
f) You’re in a complete daze. It’s okay to be in a daze for a few days but if you’re barely functional than it’s time to refuel. I remember telling my coach, two weeks out from my show, “I think I’m going to die…” and he responded with enthusiasm, “That’s awesome. It means you’re dialed in!” That wasn’t the response I was expecting!
g) If you are ahead of schedule than a cheat day is cool. One of my good friends, Liam Mailer, a top fitness model from the UK was visiting me a few weeks ago. He was 7 weeks out from his show and already had shredded abs and sitting around 6% body fat. He has a full 7 weeks to lose the last 1-2% of fat so if he had a cheat meal then he should be fine.
Here Are Some Benefits Of A Cheat Day:
a) Spike your metabolism. When you reduce your calories your thyroid can slow and by introducing a cheat meal you can continue your fat loss without hitting a plateau.
b) Refill your glycogen stores. Your muscles are like a ballon and as you cut your calories they begin to look deflated. Having a cheat day will re inflate your muscles with water and glycogen and make them look fuller and harder again.
c) Give you a surge of energy. To burn fat you need to train harder and harder and having extra calories will inject your workouts with some new life and intensity.
d) Rewards you with a mental edge. Every time you perfect your diet for a stretch of days you’ll become mentally tougher and believe in yourself more and more. Rewarding yourself every X number of days after sticking to your diet helps create mini wins and makes your long term goals feel less daunting and more achievable. Many of my clients admit they can follow their diets for 6 days if they know on the 7th day they can eat whatever they want.
A Few Extra Notes On Fat Loss:
1. It’s okay to be hungry. You need to make hunger your friend when you’re goal is fat loss. When I was hungry I told myself, “This is good. I’m not eating a lot and this means I’ll lose fat.” Stop freaking out if you’re hungry. Your body can survive 40 days without food so stop being a wuss when you feel a little hunger coming on. You’re not going to lose any muscle and you’re not going to die. Suck it up. stop feeling sorry for yourself and get yourself those abs you’ve always wanted.
2. If you’re going to cheat, do it right, and stick to the entire program. Cheat days are a powerful tool if you’re following the entire program that allows them. My good friend, Joel Marion, the nutrition renegade who has popularized cheat days with two award winning diets teaches how to manipulate your hormones so the cheat day is a mandatory part of the program. Now that’s a cool program! Now, Joel would tell you that if you do not follow the strict days that surround the cheat day than you’re living a dream if you think you’ll lose fat. It’s not the cheat day that makes the diet work but the entire diet, synergistically working together, that makes the diet work. Don’t forget that!
3. Cheat days are another tool in your tool box. As you saw, I have got super shredded with and without cheat days. If your fat loss diet calls for no cheat days, follow it. If your fat loss diet calls for cheat days, follow it. The bottom line is, the best diet is the one that you follow and tweak based on your bodies response from week to week.
4. You are a individual so find a diet that suits your personality. If you’re someone that is appalled by eating junk food, high fats and high carbs and high calories in the same day than a cheat style diet is not for you. I have no interest in trying to change your mind and no one else should either. However, if your someone who enjoy’s being strict for a period of time and than rewarding yourself with your favourite foods, a cheat style diet could be the winning solution for your best physique.
At the end of the day, after you look at the research and the strategy behind the diet ask yourself, “Does this diet make sense for me?” If the answer is yes, give it an honest shot for a full 3-4 months and see what happens.
Never be afraid to make your own decisions. There are certain diets that tell you to eat only once a day and even if that promised me 12 pack abs in 2 weeks I would not follow it because my personality would not function on 1 meal a day.
Don’t forget that you’re a unique individual and your personality will impact your ability to follow through on the diet and as I just said, “The best diet out there is the one that you follow!”
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