This is one of the most common mistakes that people make when they are trying to lose weight. Before going into details, we need to understand the theory behind cheat days.
When you are trying to lose weight, you need to be on a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day. This is achieved by eating less, making wise food choices and exercising. Since you are aiming for fat loss and not just weight loss, you need to go on a slow but steady program.
Most people who crash diet end up losing muscle and lowering their metabolic rate. This is a double whammy. Fat burning will grind to a halt and when that happens, your weight loss will hit a plateau and this can be exasperating.
Therefore, slow and steady wins the race. However, even if you diet and exercise the correct way and do your best, when your body is on a caloric deficit for 4 to 6 days in a row, it will automatically drop your metabolic rate as it tries to “preserve” its fat stores.
In order, to overcome this problem, we have a cheat day. On this day, you will aim for a caloric surplus. Preferably in the 500 to 700 calorie range. This will refresh your leptin levels and give your metabolic rate a boost. Your body will go back into fat burning mode since the body does not believe that it is starving.
This is also where the majority of people make a mistake.
They use the cheat day to gorge themselves on all the food that they can eat. Some even manage to reach caloric surpluses of 2000 to even 5000 calories. That is not a cheat day. It is chaos.
You can cause your weight loss efforts to slow down or worse. You may actually gain weight. This will cause feelings of guilt, frustration and anger. It’s like taking one step forward and two steps back.
You need to cheat smartly. To find out your daily calorie requirement, go to http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm
Find out your number and add 500 or 600 to it. That’s it. That’s the calorie surplus you should aim for. Even if you wish to eat junk food or whatever your heart desires, eat them in the right amount but make sure you do not exceed your target calorie surplus.
This being said, generally, it would be best to avoid junk food or processed food. It’s just not good for your health. It may sound boring and a tremendous sacrifice forsaking the food you love. However, thousands of people can testify that after a few months of avoiding junk food, their body totally stopped craving for these sinful pleasures.
It’s just a matter of habit. At the end of the day, do what makes you happy. If it mentally affects you in a negative way, then go ahead and indulge yourself within control. After all, the fat loss journey should not be too painful or you’ll just end up discouraged and give up.
Remember, slow and steady… you know the rest.