The Truth About Cheat Days on Diet Plans

close up photo of a cheese burger

Cheat days on diet plans have been around for quite a while. Even the best of us have resorted to eating their fair share of “bad food” once in a while.

For most people following a diet, cheat days are a chance to indulge in their favorite foods to satisfy cravings. But are cheat meals helping or hurting your health and weight loss goals?

They may be helping! If you use them correctly. Otherwise, you may just be sending your progress running.

Keep reading to learn the best way to have cheat days on diet plans!

What Is A Cheat Day?

close up photo of person holding pizza for cheat days on a diet plan
Cheat Days on Diet – Photo by Ragga Muffin on

A cheat day is when you decide to let go of your clean eating habits. For example, if you have been eating on a diet for the last six days, a cheat day would be eating what you have been depriving yourself of.

For some people, this is a single meal or a snack. For others, this may mean a full day of eating off the diet.

What Do People think Of Cheat Days?

How much harm could a bucket of chicken or a tub of ice cream do, right? There is a disagreement between those who say those cheat days are beneficial and others who think they are a terrible idea.

Those For Cheat Days

Those arguing for cheat days on diet plans say that there is evidence of increased body metabolism after a cheat meal. This increase causes you to burn calories faster.

The science behind this is that the body secretes more leptin, which helps maintain energy balance in the body.

Another argument for cheat meals on diet plans is that they help those on low-calorie diets eat better during the diet. The planned cheat day gives them something to look forward to, decreasing the chances of sneaking food in on most days. This cheat day on a diet helps keep the binge-inducing meals at bay.

Those Against Cheat Days

Those against cheat days say that it is a slippery slope. It is best to avoid cheat meals if one does not want to overindulge and ruin all the hard work they already put in.

The Effects Of A Cheat Day

So, what does a cheat day do?

When loaded with high-sugar meals (as the cheat day meals tend to be), it responds by producing more insulin. Insulin promotes glucose uptake, so more of it can be used as energy.

If there is enough energy, insulin signals the liver to take up glucose and store it as glycogen. Metabolism seems to increase after eating, but only until energy needs are met – the rest of the calories are stored as fat.

If you have been in a deficit for some time, this may be beneficial. But early on in a diet, it isn’t helping. However, after a long deficit, cheat days on diet are key to an amazing pump in the gym!

cheat days on diet are a great way to get a pump in the gym after a long deficit
Cheat days are a great way to get an awesome pump after a long caloric deficit.

Another effect of a cheat day is that it may lead to the development of other unhealthy habits such as over-eating on the cheat day or cheat eating too frequently.

The Best Way To Cheat

Is there a good way to cheat?

It is true that sticking to a diet can be mentally exhausting and that you may need a break once in a while. Here are some things you can implement on your diet which might make you feel less guilty about your cheat days on diet:

  • You can ensure you do not go overboard by planning your cheat day. The same way you plan the diet days, cheat days should not be an exception. You can choose sweet but nutritious foods, or you can just make sure your portions are of adequate size;
  • Cheating on an exercise day is also a way to ensure you burn off the extra calories from your cravings;
  • Implementing the 80/20 rule – 80% of the food you eat is healthy and in line with your diet, and 20% are cheat meals to help satisfy cravings.
The Eating Healthy is Too Expensive Healthy Diet Guide Cover Photo

Struggling to eat healthy on a budget? Check out our guide for eating healthy and saving money! Maybe you can save up for your favorite restaurant and do your cheat meals right!

Are Cheat Days on Diet Plans Bad?

Fitness journeys should not be a dreaded experience, and cheat meals are a way to liven up the experience. As long as you do it correctly and do not over-indulge, you can enjoy the little pleasure that comes with satisfying one’s cravings.

Try not to look at a cheat day as a bad thing because a negative connotation might result in guilt. Instead, look at it as a source of motivation to keep going!

Looking for more diet advice? Check out our other articles, and if you love them, don’t forget to subscribe!

In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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