In the past, there were different opinions on whether a cheat day was a beneficial practice or not. For those unfamiliar with the term, “cheat day” describes when you take a day off from your regular nutrition plan to indulge in the comfort foods of your choice. While some claim that it’s better to just stick to your plan without “cheating,” others find that cheat days make dieting easier, along with providing other benefits. New research suggests that the cheaters have been right all along! Yes, a cheat day can actually be a good thing. Find out why you shouldn’t skip your next cheat day.
Most nutrition experts don’t even advocate for super-strict diets and nutrition plans, but recommend that people use the “90/10 rule.” This rule means that you stick to a healthy nutrition plan for 90% of the time, but allow yourself 10% where you can eat foods of your choice as well. Plan your cheat days accordingly, and know that cheating has the approval of nutrition experts!
With that mind, we should make it clear that a cheat day does not mean a binge eating day. Even if you’re free to eat what you want on your day off, it’s better not to go entirely overboard. A possible way to go about this could involve allowing yourself one major cheat meal and perhaps a few of your favourite snacks throughout the day.
Everyone who has ever been on a diet, be it for losing weight, cleansing, or detoxing knows that cravings can make things quite difficult, if not outright miserable. A cheat day can help you overcome your cravings and make it easier for you to reach your fitness goals. Obviously, if you can always look forward to a treat at some point throughout the week, it can be good motivation to stick to your nutrition plan and not give into the current urge for something sweet or salty.
Hunger isn't just the result of an empty stomach. It’s a little bit more complex than that. Our hunger feelings are controlled by two hormones in the body. One of them, ghrelin, stimulates the feeling of hunger while the other one, leptin, suppresses the appetite.
On very restricted diet plans, ghrelin levels increase while the leptin levels decrease. In other words, hormonal imbalances cause us to feel hungrier.
A cheat day allows us to take in more calories to re-balance those appetite hormones. In fact, it has been found that a meal rich in carbs can increase leptin levels and suppress appetite for up to an entire day afterward.
A study also suggests that it could actually be a good idea to mix dieting and cheat meals for the best results. As an alternative to a full cheat day, you could include two cheat meals intermittently throughout the week.
There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself. This is especially true when it comes to sticking to a diet plan. A cheat day doesn’t just help with your cravings, it can regulate your hunger hormones as mentioned above. The reward of a tasty treat on your cheat day by itself can have a positive effect on your entire diet routine.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics analysed the topic of incentives and dietary behaviour. The researchers found evidence that rewards do benefit dietary behaviour.
Now we have scientific proof; cheat days can actually help us reach our weight loss and fitness goals. With that in mind, you should still view your cheat day as a reward with benefits, rather than a free ticket for going crazy on every junk food item you can find. Always plan your cheat days (and cheat meals) with your weight loss and fitness goals in mind. Stick to the 90/10 rule so you can get the best results from your dieting plan - happy cheating!