Here’s some good news from the diet front: You CAN have a cheat day. Paul Arciero is a professor of health and exercise science at Skidmore College. And he put the diet cheat day to the test.
He had volunteers stick to a diet for 12 weeks. And one day a week, they could eat whatever they wanted. Burgers, fries, pizza, burritos. And it worked. On average, the volunteers lost 11 pounds and reduced their calorie intake by nearly 30% overall – even with the cheat day added in. And about halfway through the study, most people didn’t even want a FULL cheat day. They reduced it to a cheat MEAL, because that satisfied their cravings.
So why does having an all-you-can-eat cheat day help with weight loss? Because it tells your body, “I’m not starving. You don’t need to horde every calorie.” Professor Arciero is still testing his theory – doing more long-term studies, but here’s what he knows so far: Strict all-or-nothing diets are linked to overeating, anxiety, and rebound weight gain. That’s according to research from Brown University. People on a more flexible plan have more success.
Also, when you’re cutting back on fat and carbohydrates it makes your hunger hormones go up – and your satiety hormones go down. So eating some fat and carbs once a week can help re-set those hormones.
So what’s the best day to cheat? Any day, Monday through Thursday. But NOT a weekend day. Because that can turn into an entire cheat weekend. And if you’re only having a cheat meal – make it dinner. That way a cheat meal doesn’t turn into an entire cheat day.
Lastly, have your cheat day or meal the day before your toughest workout. The extra calories will fuel your workout, making it more productive.