Using Cheat Days to Accelerate Fat Loss
Anyone who has ever tried to implement a restrictive diet in order to lose weight knows how difficult it can be to always follow the rules. It is tough sticking with a diet program that never lets you enjoy your favorite foods or allows you to participate fully in the holiday season or weekend barbecues. This is one of the reasons why we are big fans of cheat days when it comes to dieting. Cheat days are a great way to help you stick with a diet program because they allow you one day a week where you can take a break from the restrictive rules and enjoy your favorite foods. Not only is this great psychologically, but, as it turns out, cheat days are a great way to accelerate fat loss. Surprised? So was I when I first learned about this neat trick. Even though I had experienced this phenomenon before, I didn’t understand the science behind how it worked until I read the recently released 24/7 Fat Loss program.
My Cheat Day Story
When I turned 30 I was overweight and uncomfortable with my body. Recent changes in my life had gotten me out of my regular exercise routine and it was detrimental to my physique. I knew that if I didn’t do something about it I would continue to gain weight and get in even worse shape in the years to come. I immediately got back to exercising regularly and I was very strict about what I ate. About seven days into my exercise and diet plan I began to see real results which encouraged me to keep at it.
The first few weeks of my diet program I was very strict, even when I went out with friends on a Friday or Saturday night. Eventually, however, my weight loss started to slow down and I got tired of missing out on some of the fun because of my dieting. I had lost close to 6 lbs in the first week but only 2 pounds in the second week. In a moment of supposed weakness I figured I could splurge for one weekend, have a cheat day, and then get right back in to my diet plan. What was the point of missing out on all the fun if my weight loss seemed to be plateauing anyway? On the third weekend of my diet I did just that. Saturday night I went out to dinner and drinks with friends and it turned out to be a pretty late night.
The next day I slept in and decided I needed to rest instead of working out in order to recover from the night before. My stomach was also a bit on edge and I couldn’t eat anything until dinner that day. When Monday came around I was a bit hard on myself. It had been three days since I last exercised and I went completely off my diet on Saturday night. I decided I needed to really push it at the gym that day.
When I got to the gym I stepped on the scale to see how much weight I had gained from my Saturday blowout, and I was stunned. I had actually lost one pound over the weekend. I couldn’t believe. Encouraged by the surprising weigh in and energized from having taken a few days off from training I hit the gym hard and had a great workout.
I spent the rest of my week back on my diet plan and found that the weight simply continued to melt off, much faster than the week before. I didn’t understand it, but somehow, no matter what I did on Saturday as long as I adhered to my diet plan the rest of the week the weight would keep coming off. Needless to say, I never held back on a Saturday night again. Following this routine, I managed to lose 20 pounds of fat in eight weeks and got into the best shape of my life.
Why Cheat Days Work
Even though I didn’t know it, there is a scientific reason why cheat days help your body continue burning fat throughout the week. Joel Marion does a great job of explaining why in the 24/7 Fat Loss program. In this program he refers to it as “strategic overfeeding.”
You see, limiting your caloric intake is essential for weight loss, but if you are creating a significant caloric reduction for an extended period of time, say seven or more days, then your body starts to limit your fat burning potential because it wants to make sure you have enough fat storage to survive the caloric scarcity that it is currently experiencing.
When your body is going through caloric restriction, the levels of the hormone leptin drops in your body. Your body responds to low levels of leptin by slowing your metabolism, reducing fat burning hormones, and increasing fat storing hormones. None of this is good for maximizing fat loss.
This is where cheat days come in handy.
By giving yourself a cheat day to eat your favorite foods you are actually resetting your leptin levels and explaining to your body that you are not starving, you are dieting and it is safe to continue burning fat. By taking yourself off of the diet every seventh day, you will bring your leptin levels up to the maximum fat burning mode. Then your body is ready to start maximizing fat loss as you go back to your diet plan and sustain a caloric deficit for another six days.
If are interested in learning more about the 24/7 Fat Loss program, you can read our comprehensive review of the program here: 24/7 Fat Loss Program Review.
The Best Way to Use Cheat Days in Your Diet
The best way to use a cheat day in your diet is to plan the cheat day around your life instead of trying to plan your life around your cheat day. The best cheat days for me are Saturday as I often have social plans on for that day and it is much easier for me to stick with my diet plan while I am distracted by work during week days. Be sure to pick the cheat day that is most natural for your weekly routine.
Also, as you noticed from my own accidental experience with cheat days I did not eat much the day after my cheat day. Without realizing it, I was implementing a fast day after my cheat day. This is also what turns out to be recommended in the 24/7 Fat Loss program. Once you have reset your leptin levels with your cheat day, your body is primed to maximize the fat burning opportunity of an 18-24 hour fast. This will immediately offset the caloric surplus of the day before and prime your body to use fat for fuel the rest of the week.
Of course, you should not go crazy on your cheat day and consume 6,000 calories. If you do, then it will take much longer for your body to deplete those excess calories, but you should feel free to eat your favorite foods and there is no need to stick to any of the rules of the diet plan you follow the rest of the week.
If you can achieve a caloric deficit six days of the week, then using a cheat day strategically will accelerate your fat loss and ensure the fat continues to melt away. This is great news for everyone.
Now please pass me that blueberry pie!
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