Do you want to enjoy the occasional cheat day while intermittent fasting? If so, you’re not alone. Many people on an intermittent fasting (IF) routine wonder if it’s okay to have cheat days. The short answer is yes, but there are some important things to consider before indulging in a cheat day while intermittent fasting.
This article explores the pros and cons of having cheat days while fasting and offers tips to ensure you’re still getting the most out of your diet.
What is a cheat day?
Cheat days can be integral to your diet’s success. A cheat day is an intentional deviation from a specific diet plan. It allows you to let loose and enjoy something you may have been avoiding for a while. When done correctly, a cheat day can help you stay motivated and stick to your diet.
When it comes to intermittent fasting, a cheat day can be a bit tricky. IF involves limiting your calorie intake to certain times of the day, such as during an eight-hour window. As such, it can be difficult to fit in a cheat day without sabotaging your progress. However, cheat days can still benefit folks following an IF diet if done smartly.
So, how do cheat days and intermittent fasting work together?
There are two main ways to incorporate cheat days into your fasting routine. Firstly, you could consume food outside of your eating window. On the other hand, you can stop fasting altogether and have a day where you eat whatever and whenever. It really depends on what you need and what you feel will help you continue with this regimen.
Notably, once you break your fast, you may lose the benefits of fasting until you get back into your routine. This is why it’s important to be smart about how you program your cheat days while intermittent fasting. We’ll discuss that in a moment, let’s first take a look at the benefits of doing cheat days.
5 Amazing Benefits of Having Cheat Days on Your Diet
If you’re following a strict diet to reach your weight loss goals, you may be wondering if it’s okay to have cheat days. The answer is yes! Incorporating diet cheat days into your routine can be beneficial in many ways. Here are five amazing benefits of having cheat days on your diet:
1. Boosts Metabolism
Cheat days can positively affect your metabolism as it gives your body a much-needed break from the caloric deficit associated with dieting. Your metabolism will kickstart as soon as you enter a calorie surplus on a cheat day, allowing you to burn more calories than when you are in a calorie deficit. It is because your body needs surplus energy to effectively process the extra calories consumed during cheat days.
Cheat days are an opportunity for your body to create and store energy reserves from foods that are usually restricted in your IF diet plan. It helps your metabolism become more efficient in burning fat and calories.
2. Prevents Binge Eating
Cheat days are an important part of any healthy diet. When done correctly, they can provide a much-needed break from the rigidity of dieting and help prevent binge eating.
Cheat days give you something to look forward to. Knowing that you will have a day to indulge in your favorite foods can be a huge motivation for sticking to your diet for the rest of the week. This will help you resist the temptation to give in to your cravings.
They also make you mindful of what you’re eating. On your cheat day, you can really focus on enjoying the taste, texture, and flavor of food rather than worrying about how many calories it contains. This can help you recognize when you are full, so you don’t end up overeating and having to deal with feelings of guilt or regret afterward.
3. Improves Mood and Reduces Stress
One of the main benefits of cheat days during a diet is that they can help improve mood and reduce stress. When dieting, people often feel deprived and restricted, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and even depression. Having cheat days can help ease these negative emotions and give you something to look forward to.
Cheat days provide a much-needed break from restrictive dieting, allowing you to indulge in your favorite foods without guilt or shame. This can be especially beneficial for those with disordered eating habits or body image issues, as it allows them to enjoy their food without anxiety. Cheat days can also help with emotional eating, as they can prevent cravings and provide an outlet to satisfy them without feeling guilty later.
Additionally, cheat days can improve mood by providing a sense of control and balance. This can be especially helpful for people who may have feelings of deprivation when following strict diets. Choosing when to indulge in certain treats allows for a sense of autonomy, which can lead to improved mood and stress relief.
Overall, cheat days can provide numerous mental health benefits when done in moderation. Not only do cheat days allow for indulgence and pleasure, but they can also help reduce stress and improve mood. If you are considering adding cheat days into your routine, talk to a healthcare professional first to ensure it’s the right decision.
4. Increases Willpower and Self-Control
While dieting, staying motivated, and pushing through tough times can be difficult. This is where cheat days come in. By allowing yourself to indulge in whatever food you’ve been craving throughout the week, you’re rewarding yourself, which helps boost your morale. This reward not only helps you stay motivated and keeps you on track with your diet, but it also increases your willpower and self-control.
By rewarding yourself after periods of healthy eating, you’re reinforcing the fact that you can make it through difficult situations while still staying true to your goals. You’re teaching yourself that it’s okay to take a break once in a while and that it doesn’t mean you’re failing. This can be especially helpful for those who struggle with binge eating as it gives them an outlet to satisfy their cravings without overdoing it.
5. Resets Hormones
Cheat days can be a great way to reset your hormones when you’re on a diet. When you start dieting, your body’s natural response is to go into a state of shock and try to compensate for the sudden decrease in calories. This often leads to feelings of deprivation and food cravings and eventually causes your metabolism to slow down, making it harder for you to lose weight.
A cheat day gives your body a break from the strict dieting routine and allows it to reset its hormones, namely leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone responsible for telling your brain that you’re full and should stop eating. Ghrelin is responsible for stimulating hunger and craving for certain foods. By allowing yourself a cheat day once in a while, you can help regulate these hormones, which can help make it easier for you to stick with your diet.
In addition, a cheat day can give you an emotional boost, help stave off diet boredom, and may even help you build self-discipline by teaching yourself how to enjoy treats in moderation. Not only will this help you stay motivated and committed to your diet, but it can also lead to improved health and mental and emotional well-being.
How to incorporate cheat days into an intermittent fasting regimen?
When it comes to intermittent fasting, many people wonder if they can incorporate cheat days into their regimens. After all, it’s only natural to crave indulgences or to want to reward yourselves for your hard work and dedication. The good news is that, with the right approach, cheat days are possible within an intermittent fasting program.
Cheat days look a little different if you’re fasting. You could, for example, have your meal outside your eating window or have a day where you skip fasting altogether.
For example, if you follow the 16:8 method, your eating window will typically fall between 12 pm and 8 pm. Having a meal outside that eating widow will count as cheating. If you wake up hungry in the morning and decide to have food around 10 am, you are having a cheat meal.
However, if you eat your first meal early in the morning, you could move the last meal of your day to the early evening so that you still eat your final meal within an eight-hour time span. On the other hand, you might decide to indulge in a small breakfast, but hold back during your lunches and suppers in your eating window. This way, your breakfast is outside your feeding window, but your total daily calorie intake remains reasonable.
For those looking to lose weight, consuming meals outside your eating window can prove risky because you’ll not get the most from ketosis. However, if you shift your eating window, as per the above example, then you are still continuing your fast.
Tips for incorporating a cheat day into your fasting regimen
Before you plan a cheat day into your routine, it’s important to understand the potential risks. If you indulge too often or don’t practice portion control, your cheat day could easily become an unhealthy habit. Plus, eating too much food in one day can lead to digestive issues, fatigue, and other unwanted symptoms.
So, how can you safely enjoy a cheat day while following an intermittent fasting program? Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Focus on whole foods
Whole foods will give you more energy, keep your body feeling satiated for longer and promote better digestion. For example, eggs are a great cheat meal option because they offer healthy protein as well as many nutrients and essential vitamins (like vitamin D). As another option, try yogurt topped with berries or nuts as well as avocado toast on whole-wheat bread with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter (or use ghee).
2. Make sure not to overeat during cheat meals
Don’t have more than 500-600 calories over what you usually eat while intermittent fasting; this number might be higher if you’re really hungry after not eating anything for 16 hours. And remember not to go over 100 grams of carbs on cheat days. Carbohydrates can make it harder for you to get back into your fasting routine due to glucose fluctuations. When your blood sugar fluctuates, which occurs when you consume meals high in carbs, your cravings also fluctuate.
3. Always plan ahead
Plan ahead when having a cheat meal at restaurants so you’ll be able to order wisely without feeling tempted by something else on the menu. Try ordering a salad with grilled chicken or fish, skipping the croutons or dressing (since those items are generally loaded with fat), and adding veggies like tomatoes, olives, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers — which can provide even more benefits like antioxidants and omega 3. Or ask for avocado spread instead of mayo — avocados are nutrient-rich and satisfying.
4. Stay hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated on cheat days. Drink plenty of water before and after each meal so you won’t feel bloated from drinking fewer fluids throughout the day.
5. Eat your cheat day meal slowly, mindfully, and with gratitude
When you take the time to enjoy your food, you’re less likely to overeat. Be mindful of what you put on your plate. Add a large salad or vegetable side dish to your entree to limit calorie intake and feel more full.
6. Skip the alcohol
Skip the alcohol on cheat days as it can cause dehydration, reduce muscle mass and impede weight loss goals. Alcohol not only slows but also suppresses your metabolism. Check out our video on the effects of alcohol on your body.
How often should I have a cheat day?
You can have a cheat day whenever you want or how often you want. However, more than one cheat day per week could affect your overall results. Your body may also struggle to benefit from IF if you cheat too often.
Can I eat anything I like on my cheat day?
When it comes to intermittent fasting, it’s important to remember that a cheat day does not mean you should eat whatever you want. The idea behind a cheat day is to allow yourself an occasional break from your fast or diet plan, which means that indulging in unhealthy foods can actually work against your goals. It’s best to limit your cheat days to small treats or guilty pleasures like ice cream or a chocolate bar, rather than binging on junk food.
For instance, if you’re following a low-carb diet, having a cheat day doesn’t mean you should load up on bread and pasta. It’s better to stick to one cheat food that won’t derail your progress, such as a small serving of a high-fat treat like a slice of cheesecake. If you’re on a strict fasting program, you can also treat yourself to a special meal on your cheat day, but again, be mindful of the portion sizes and ingredients.
Check out Best Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan Tips for Weight Loss to get the best tips on meal planning.
Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular method for promoting health and weight loss, but one question that frequently arises is whether it’s okay to have a cheat day while IF. The answer depends on several factors, including how strictly you adhere to your fasting schedule, what type of foods you indulge in during your cheat day, and how much you allow yourself to eat.
Ultimately, you can incorporate cheat days into your IF diet, but you should ensure that your cheat day does not interfere with your fasting routine or cause any disruption to your health.