Is it OK to Have 1 Cheat Day a Week When Dieting?

Is it OK to Have 1 Cheat Day a Week When Dieting?

Disclaimer: is a reader-supported site. We may earn a commission if you click links on this site and make a purchase. 

Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: February 23, 2022

Have you spent any time trying to lose weight or dieting? Then, you must have come across dieting cheat days and intermittent fasting. The popular thing about intermittent fasting is that it never limits what you consume, it only limits when you eat.

On the other side, cheat days tend to be more controversial. Although some people think cheat days are an excellent method of maintaining your dedication to dieting the rest of the time, others are concerned that they will slow down progress and reduce their motivation to follow their diet.

Is it okay to have a cheat day weekly when dieting?

Can you reap any benefits? Let’s find out.

What are Cheat Days?

It would be best to start with a quick overview. Despite the negative connotation, “cheat days”, are scheduled breaks from your specific diet plan. Awarding yourself with planned breaks from your diet plan can be beneficial. It can help you follow your diet plan, create better habits, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

Whatever you plan to indulge in when it comes to your cheat day relies on your tastes and appetite. However, the primary idea is to let loose and take something that isn’t on the diet plan.

It’s worth noting that not every diet will enable “cheat days”. For instance, the Paleo diet eliminates all food groups and never allows for any breaks from your diet plan. Nonetheless, regardless of what diet plan you’re on, ensure to include meals that you can use to make a sustainable diet plan.

Benefits of a Cheat Day

a man holds a hamburger

Yes! There are benefits to a cheat day. They include:

  • Feeling Satisfied

It’s best to avoid junk food, particularly when dieting. But, rewarding yourself with one cheat day can make you feel satisfied. While a cheat day isn’t compulsory when dieting, it usually helps prevent week-long cravings. In turn, this lets you refocus in the following week.

Are you having difficulties sticking with a particular reduced-calorie diet? Consider a low-carbohydrate diet since it may enable you to eat more of your favorite foods– except for carbs.

  • Incentivizing Yourself

Research shows that giving yourself an incentive for meeting weight loss or diet goals seems to be an effective strategy when it comes to changing dietary behavior. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your reward has to be junk food. Researchers have discovered that financial incentives seem to work as well. If a cheat day is not your thing, you could instead try to reward yourself with a movie night or a new outfit.

  • Eliminating Boredom

It can be boring to eat the same foods all the time. It could also drag you down, both physically and mentally. Besides, seriously restricting certain foods can make it challenging to follow a diet long term.

Dieters gain from cheat days by changing up their eating patterns and routines and increasing certain nutrients/ variety in their diets.

  • Nourishing Your Body

Are you eating the same diet foods every day? Perhaps you’re following an extremely restrictive diet? Allowing yourself a cheat day in a week may help you acquire nutrients your body requires more of.

For instance, if you’re eating baked fish or grilled chicken breast daily, try changing it up and opting for lean red meat on the cheat day.

Alternatively, if you have been following a low-carb or low-fat weight loss diet, take more carbs or fats on your cheat day to ensure that your body doesn’t lack essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids or fiber.

How Many Cheat Days Can You Have?

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how frequent you should have cheat days. Or even if you choose between a cheat day or meal. It depends on what your goals are and how well you self-regulate, and what kind of cheat day recovery period you’re comfortable with.

Your cheat day can easily become a cheat weekend, and even a cheat week. And before you realize it, you have returned to your old eating habits. You must understand what will assist you to remain motivated.

The key is to come up with a sustainable, long-term plan. You should always consider your body composition goal, and how quickly you’d like to reach them. Consider how the extra calories from your cheat meals will affect your ultimate goal.

RELATED READING: Can Weight Watchers Personal Points Help Track Your Cheat Days?

As previously stated, everyone’s body is different. That means some dieters can have more cheat days/ meals than others and still obtain results. Nonetheless, as a general rule of thumb, you need to have fewer cheat days.

Besides, they are referred to as cheat days because they should be a special reward and not a regular part of your routine. Some dieters prefer a once-a-week cheat day, often on the weekend.

Others will do well with cheat days weekly, or once a month. They may prefer cheat days on special occasions such as birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings.

Why Does a Cheat Day Make You Gain Weight?

Having a cheat day may cause a large weight increase. However, this is weight because of water, and not fat. Based on what type of diet you were on, consuming large amounts of carbs on a cheat day could increase your weight noticeably.

In case you were aiming to lose fat, then you were most probably trying to remove carbohydrates from your diet. Low carb diets are an extremely popular weight loss method, and diets structured around low caloric and low carbohydrate intake are just basic. Research shows that a diet aiming at low carbohydrate intake constitutes around 60-130 grams of carbs daily.

Other popular diets target very low levels of carbohydrates, up to 18 grams daily. It will assist you to cut down on weight. But once you enhance your intake of carbs, you might notice a subsequent increase in water weight.

Is It Okay to Drink Once In a While?

a fit man has a beer with friends

Quite frankly, drinking alcohol isn’t a prudent idea while exercising, unless you can only have 1-2 drinks then stop. The sad reality is that this does not apply to most people.

People who are drinking alcohol often find themselves craving bad late-night foods while drunk, and greasy fast meals the following day when they’re hung-over. That means from one night of drinking they can easily be adding 1500+ unwanted calories to your specific diet, which is extremely BAD particularly if you want to cut down fat and tone!

Have you ever heard, “everything in moderation?” ..the same applies to alcohol. Although it won’t be useful, it’s not going to hamper your progress if you’re capable of drinking in moderation (1-2 drinks) and only drink 1-2 times per week maximum.

What Factors Should You Consider Before Having a Cheat Day?

In general, there are several things worth considering before adding a cheat day. For example, even if you’re utilizing intermittent fasting to curb insulin resistance or other severe metabolic complications, a cheat day might not hinder your results.

And if your cheat day is filled with eating the types of food that cause insulin resistance and obesity, you might have difficulties losing weight. You need to always pay attention to whatever your body is telling you, even on intermittent fasting cheat days.

RELATED READING: I Eliminated Alcohol for 1 Month: Here Were the My Results

Eat until you are full, but not stuffed. And if you incorporate foods you wouldn’t normally consume, consider what it is you actually want and will love eating. A cookie may sound good. However, if what you actually want is a bowl of ice cream or a brownie, you should avoid the cookie and opt for that instead.

If you fast often but incorporate cheat days into your normal routine, it’s worth noting that you might not always prefer to eat outside of your usual hours. In case your system is used to fasting and does not prompt you to eat, avoid trying to force yourself to eat. And if you can’t resist the temptation of eating just because it is a cheat day, ask yourself whether there’s a specific thing you’re craving.

For example, you could be used to skipping breakfast and aren’t hungry the actual morning of your cheat day. In such a case, avoid trying to make yourself take breakfast until you’re hungry.

However, ask yourself about the breakfast you’re craving and ensure that you enjoy that food when you become hungry again. Such a practice will ultimately help maintain your weight loss and give you that indulgent cheat day sensation.

Final Thoughts: Do Cheat Days Hinder Your Progress?

You can indulge once in a while! It won’t erase weeks and months of healthy eating and consistent workouts.

Cheat days may ultimately help you stay motivated long-term once you practice mindful eating. However, that doesn’t mean you should get carried away on your cheat days. You must always be reasonable and it will go a long way to make you develop sustainable, healthy eating habits.

You should avoid stressing about any quick weight increase after a cheat day. Just ensure that after you’ve enjoyed eating your favorite meal, you get back on your particular fitness journey and continue working towards your ultimate goals.

Although changing your body composition and cutting down weight is a long-term procedure, if you do it properly, you’ll get long-term results!