Why You Should Have A Cheat Day | sheerluxe.com

Why You Should Have A Cheat Day

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Eat a balanced diet six days a week and on the seventh eat absolutely anything. What’s not to love about that? Apparently, a lot. The concept of a ‘cheat day’, or choosing to take a day off from a strict eating plan, stirs up big debate in the health world. While some experts claim it can boost metabolism, others say it wreaks havoc on our relationship with food. We went to the root of the issue – can cheat days ever be part of a balanced diet? Read on to find out more...

First things first – how do you define a cheat day?

For some, choosing to indulge is a once-a-week, blow-out meal,  for others, it can last an entire day, making it easy to splurge on some 5,000 calories in a 12-hour window. And for those who follow a strict diet throughout the week, a cheat meal, or day, is an excuse to indulge on foods that is otherwise off limits like sugar, caffeine, dairy and refined carbohydrates.    

Is it true a cheat day can boost metabolism?

Some health experts believe so. Why? When we follow a calorie-restricted diet (less than 1,500 calories), our brains react by releasing lower levels of leptin, a hormone that influences hunger and body fat levels. This drop in leptin often causes hunger signals, which your body reacts to by storing fat. Research has shown intermittently consuming a greater number of calories can cause leptin levels to rise, leading to a boosted metabolism post cheat day.

However, other studies have revealed over-eating only ups ones metabolism by around 10% and for no more than 24 hours. Studies have also shown leptin only responds well to high-protein, high-carb and low-fat foods, so forget the likes of pizza, ice cream and wine if you want to cheat like a pro.

Okay. Are there any other reasons why you should consider a cheat day?

Both psychologists and nutritionists agree that a cheat meal or day can satisfy cravings, enabling us to stick to a healthy eating plan in the long run. Founder of Twenty Two Training Dalton Wong is also an advocate of cheat meals, saying they can be beneficial when paired with a low-calorie diet. How? He believes a rush of carbs or sugar can have a positive effect on both mind and body, helping to boost our glycogen stores (the body’s energy storage system), which in turn will supercharge workouts for the following few days.

On a Similar Note

Got you. Can a cheat day help you stay on track then?

Not necessarily. Despite the hormone-boosting effects of indulging in higher-calorie foods, the trouble with cheat days starts with the wording. Separating foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories (i.e. ones we can only have on a ‘cheat day’) merely encourages us to associate eating with guilt and shame, which will do our relationship with food no favours in the long run. Plus, as humans, we are naturally wired to a ‘feast and famine’ cycle, explaining why many of us will eat beyond our satiety on a cheat day, which could be detrimental to weight loss if that’s your goal.

So do cheat days hinder weight loss?

Unsurprisingly, it’s all about striking a balance. When adding a cheat day to a healthy eating plan, ask yourself a few questions – can you handle the occasional treat? How about an indulgent meal? What about an entire day of gluttony? Or will this trigger an entire week of unhealthy eating? The truth is everyone is different – from our relationships with food to our metabolism, our definitions of rewards are all different. Dig deep and ask yourself if cheat days are worth it and whether they’ll help you stay on track towards your goals. 

How can we find balance?

Instead of scheduling in a weekly cheat day, consider the 80/20 approach. While nothing new, incorporating smaller treats into your diet throughout the week – such as a few squares of dark chocolate after dinner a couple of times per week or the odd glass of wine – is a more measured approach. Research shows (and experts agree) that sprinkling reasonably-sized treats into your daily diet encourages you to find pleasure in your daily regime – and that pleasure will help ensure you don’t feel the need to cheat or go overboard.

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