Want the quick answer? Yes, you should have a cheat day. Is there a right and wrong way to do it? Of course, but that’s what we’re here for!
At Performance Inspired Nutrition, our goal isn’t to educate you solely on supplements and products. Rather, we want to share what we have learned through research and experience so that you can be fit and healthy in all areas of your life! So if you want to know why you should have a cheat day and learn how to do it properly, keep scrolling to see what we’ve found out from the experts.
How a cheat day can help your diet
Contrary to popular belief, indulging in a cheat day every now and then can be beneficial, if not necessary, to the overall success of your diet. This is because strict diets can often cause too much deprivation, which leads to cravings for the foods and drinks that you tell yourself you can’t have. Unless you have a very strong willpower, these cravings ultimately cause you to stray from your healthy eating plan.
Cheat days also have many physiological benefits. Dr. Oz explains that having regular cheat days, separated by at least five days, can stimulate the thyroid gland and rev your metabolism.
Additionally, bodybuilding.com states that, “If you have been dieting pretty hardcore, it’s likely that you have low muscle glycogen levels. Along with this often comes a sluggish feeling during your workouts and less than optimal strength.”
We’ve all experienced that feeling: starting a new diet that goes great for the first few weeks, but gradually becomes more and more challenging to keep up. Which is why Rachel Beller, M.S., R.D., author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win, tells Women’s Health, “When you may be losing steam, introducing a cheat day can help make dieting more sustainable.”
Rethink the word “cheat”
The word “cheat” obviously has a negative connotation in many areas of life, not just with your diet. Thus, thinking of your cheat day as a bad thing increases the likelihood of you losing track of your diet. Instead, try thinking of your cheat day as your time to consciously indulge in foods that you love and take a break from your diet, just like you take a break from your fitness routine on rest days.
Alexandra Caspero, R.D., owner of weight-management and sports-nutrition service DelishKnowledge.com, tells Fitness Magazine, “There is so much power in enjoying your meal without guilt. Ironically, the more guilt we feel about eating decadent food, the more likely we are to overeat.” Our advice? Have your cake and eat it, too, but make sure you enjoy it!
Cheat day vs cheat meal
Keep in mind that a cheat day shouldn’t turn into a binge eating day. If you think that you might not be able to control your temptations when you dedicate a whole day for cheating, try limiting your splurges to just one cheat meal.
Fitness Magazine suggests, “Eating foods that make you feel the best for most of your meals and then splurging on one is a great way to control your cravings without feeling like you missed out.”
More specifically, bodybuilding.com explains that most nutrition experts recommend the 90/10 rule when it comes to cheat meals. “The 90/10 rule means that 90% of the time you should eat according to your specific goal-based nutrition plan, and 10% of time you can indulge in something that is not on the diet.” By crafting your cheat meals based on this principle you won’t hinder your diet and fitness goals.
Have a go-to cheat meal
To have a successful cheat day that keeps you on track with your diet and fitness goals, try to stick to the same types of cheat meals. Tori Holthaus, R.D.N., founder of Yes! Nutrition in Ohio, shares with Fitness Magazine, “Research shows consistency in your diet helps support a healthy gut microbiome, so having a go-to cheat meal can actually help ease the turmoil it causes your GI tract.”
Planning smart food choices for your go-to cheat meal can promote gut health and help with cravings. Examples of healthier cheat meals could be a whole wheat slice of pizza topped with grilled chicken or veggies for lunch, or having a piece of dark chocolate for dessert instead of that brownie a la mode.
To sum it up: Yes, you should have a cheat day!
Our inspiration to create Performance Inspired Nutrition started with the need for natural, high performance products that we could trust were clean in their formulations. While we always provide the best products to support a healthy active lifestyle, we also understand that everyone needs a cheat day every now and then.
What’s your favorite cheat day meal? Share with us in the comments below!