In the end, cheaters always win. They’re oozing with motivation, stick better to a weight loss program, and achieve greater results compared to other dieters. And it’s all because they have a cheat day. Don’t think it’s for you? Think again. Here are 5 reasons why you need a cheat day every week.
1. Shocks Your Metabolic System
The problem with following strict diets for a long time is that the body slowly adapts to the situation, thus burning fewer calories in the process. And you don’t want that, right?
Prolonged, fat-busting diets, for example, could affect your body’s leptin levels. Leptin is a powerful hormone that’s responsible for telling your brain to burn off extra fats, when it’s hungry, and if it’s time to eat. The production of this hormone is directly proportional to the amount of fats—which you banned in your diet.
The relationship of leptin and prolonged, moderate energy deficit can be seen in one study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For 3 months, 12 healthy women were placed under a chronic energy-deficient diet.
Guess what happened?
Results showed that leptin level was significantly reduced, around 54%, just 1 week after undergoing such diet. And the plunge persisted after 6 weeks and 12 weeks. It also turned out that the test subjects felt hungrier during these periods of decreased circulating leptin.
2. Gives Time for Muscle Repair and Fat Loss
The benefit of resting could be clearly seen in high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a type of exercise that allows individuals to have brief periods of rest after a series of low- to high-intensity workouts. Studies reveal that this kind of workout helps induce significant total body fat loss.
However, rest is not only limited to a few seconds or minutes. It’s not also only about getting enough snooze time. Dedicating a day for pursuing pleasurable activities or connecting with friends and loved ones is important in shedding off unwanted fats and building muscles.
Another reason why fitness experts recommend a rest day, or a cheat day, is because subjecting your muscles to intense workouts for prolonged periods could predispose them to injury. During recovery, your body is able to replenish lost fluids and repair damaged tissues.
3. Provides You with a Much-Deserved Mental Break
A dieter’s reactions to a cheat meal: “Oh no, I’m wasting all my time and effort by eating [insert banned food].”
Okay, let’s inspect the damage of one guilt-free cheat meal, shall we? According to the rule of thumb, you need to add 500 calories per day for 1 week in order to gain 1 pound. Unless you exceed that limit, then there’s really no shame in having a cheat day.
Heck, your favorite stars even have a cheat day. Kelly Osbourne had a cheat day when she was trying to lose weight (successfully). Reportedly, she indulged on pizza (not too much) at least once a week.
4. Combats Your Food Cravings
As what the example I gave earlier said, if a person is in very-low-fat diet for a long time, people tend to feel hungrier, thus there’s a greater tendency to over eat (due to decreased leptin levels). But that’s the physiologic side.
The psychological side is that it’s normal for humans to crave for what they can’t have. Therefore, the stricter the diet, the stronger the cravings become. Agree?
To prove this idea, researchers of a recent study enlisted the cooperation of sixty undergraduate females and divided them into two groups: the “no deprivation” group and the “deprivation” group. The results of the study were based on how much food each group eats within 15 minutes.
Surprisingly—or not—the group who anticipated to be food deprived ate significantly more than the “no deprivation” group.
5. Keeps You Motivated
All work and no play results to a tormented dieter. Some people lose interest in the middle of a diet or workout program because they don’t have the drive to keep going. They feel they’re being punished rather than feeling good for pursuing a life-changing activity.
And that’s why you need a cheat day. It’s your reward to yourself for all the hardwork and self-control you’ve done for the past days. It’s something to look forward to when diet or exercise becomes too difficult or unrewarding.
Well, I hope the reasons I just gave you helped to convince you to have a cheat day. But don’t forget—don’t over-indulge, so you don’t miss out on the benefits of a cheat day.