HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT CHEAT DAY
By PW Nutritionist Aleena Khusro
You’ve been on your A game with healthy eating all week, but the weekend’s right around the corner… takeaway Fridays or a night out followed by a greasy kebab and chips? COUNT US IN!
In recent years, fitness gurus have coined and popularised the term ‘cheat day’ or ‘refeed day,’ but are there any nutritional benefits backing cheat days or cheat meals, or is it really ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’?
Can cheat days help you lose weight?
Calorie deficits tend to cause a significant drop in your metabolic rate. Leptin - a hormone that controls our hunger and satiety signal - is released when we eat enough food and instructs our body to continue burning fat efficiently. However, leptin levels drop when in a calorie deficit, which is exactly why a lot of us experience weight loss plateaus or have stubborn fat sticking around. Cheat days or refeed days help to spike leptin production and speed up your metabolism.
Eating a lower calorie diet may also cause a slight drop in production of your thyroid hormone T3, which decreases your metabolic rate. Having a cheat meal once a week and a cheat day once every two weeks can help to fire up T3 production and boost your metabolism.
Now we’re not psychologists, but we do know that if there’s a big brunch planned with the girls on the weekend, we’re more determined to stick to a routine throughout the week. This can be traced to research showing that without rewards, it can become mundane to stick to a healthy lifestyle day in and day out.
Top tips on incorporating a cheat day into your routine
There are many contrasting opinions on cheat days and whether we should incorporate them into our lifestyle. At PW we believe that you can dedicate a few meals on a single day of the week to eating freely, however, there are a few pointers we’d recommend you follow in order to have the ‘perfect’ cheat day, ensuring you don’t lose momentum and it doesn’t turn into a cheat week (or even a cheat month)!
1) Plan your cheat day in advance
Pencil in any plans you might have with your friends to go out for a meal or drinks and plan your cheat day around it. This will give you a chance to keep up your social circle without major FOMO (fear of missing out)! If you're planning to go out for a big meal or takeaway at the weekend, bank some calories up through the week!
2) Moderation is always key
A cheat day does NOT mean a go ahead for you to order the entire McDonalds menu. Try sticking to no more than two cheat meals in a day! Choose a cheat meal that will leave you satisfied and stops you reaching for all the added unnecessary extras that add up!
3) Note down your cravings
If you crave something during the week, make note. This way you know exactly which cravings to satisfy! If you’re craving a pizza, you can plan out a fun Pizza Sunday with family or friends. The PW Pizza Mix is also the ideal healthier alternative without packing in the calories! The excitement of the build up will make that taste of the cheat meal all the more sweeter!
4) Aim to eat less processed or high saturated fat foods, even on cheat days
Processed and high saturated fat foods are linked to colorectal cancer and heart disease. These should be kept to a minimum in your diet; so switch out that side of bacon for baked beans or some avocado!
5) Try to get a workout in on your cheat day
This will minimise fat gains as your glycogen stores empty when they get used up for your workout, preventing that pesky fat build up. Alongside this, remember to drink 1.5 – 2L of water as our brains can often mistake dehydration for hunger!
If you’re planning on having quite a carb filled day, we suggest taking PW Carb Blocker Capsules throughout the day*. By blocking the enzymes needed to digest certain carbohydrates, they block around 50-65% of carbohydrates eaten! However, remember that not all carbs are the enemy and we don’t recommend taking carb blockers after every meal. Refined or simple carbs, such as sweets, biscuits and crisps, do not provide any nutritional benefits and should be limited in our diets. Complex carbs on the other hand, are important for keeping our energy levels sustained throughout the day, play a role in creating serotonin or the ‘happy hormone’ in the brain, and are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, vegetables and fruit are all complex carbs which should not be banished or blocked from your regular diet!
Get back on track right after and don’t lose sight of your long-term weight loss goals! Let yourself indulge but don’t let this turn into an all-day cheat fest of ordering Deliveroo every hour. We’d advise avoiding a complete blowout of 3000 calories in a day as this can massively throw you off your healthy eating routine and make you feel extremely sick the next day (trust us, we speak from experience). Stick to consuming 500-1000 extra calories to your normal diet.
Finally, don’t get consumed by guilt on cheat days. No foods in moderation are ‘bad’ for you unless they are packed with high levels of saturated fats and trans fats.
A day of going slightly off track won’t completely derail your fitness efforts and you are more likely to stay consistent when you don’t feel too restricted!
*Do not exceed more than a total of 6 capsules in a day