Can a Cheat Day Break a Plateau? The Reasons Why It Can

Plateaus are no fun and hard to avoid. It seems like you are doing everything right, the same as before, but now your progress isn’t budging forward. You may have heard about some things you can do to kickstart your process like cheat meals. So, can a cheat daybreak a plateau? 

A cheat day can break a plateau in a few different ways. For one your body can come out of starvation mode, no longer slowing down your metabolic process. Second, cheat days are a great mental break as well, to pause from all the stress of dieting and to prepare yourself to start again.

For a more in-depth explanation and a few more tips, make sure to continue reading!

How does a cheat daybreak a plateau

Does a cheat day boost metabolism

It has long been thought that cheat days can break a plateau because they will boost your body’s metabolism.

This is still a highly contested subject, but there is some strong support for this to be true. 

The basic concept is that a cheat meal will boost leptin in the body, leptin then sends signals to the brain to both decrease hunger and increase energy expenditure. 

If that holds true, then yes cheat days can boost your metabolism and help break a plateau.

How a cheat day helps you mentally

Arguably just as significant as how a cheat day can help you physically is the potential mental benefits. 

 How often do you hear people know that they need to change how they eat but despise the idea of dieting?

This is because dieting has a negative light in today’s society with views of strict eating and bland foods., even though there are plenty of healthy alternatives like even protein cereal nowadays.

 That doesn’t sound like something enjoyable and in fact, could instead increase not just your distaste for diets but your stress levels as well.

Cheat days can reduce the stress of strict eating, something many people don’t enjoy but need if they have an urgent goal. 

Not only is stress counterproductive towards weight loss and muscle gain, but it also dampens your mood.

Consider this, maybe your plateau is caused by stress eating a few hundred extra calories each day. That would clearly kill any momentum you have. 

 This is perfectly normal and very common and it could be the source of your weight gain, to begin with so why risk making it a debilitating factor here?

Maybe also, you just don’t have the energy or mood for the exercise you normally do. That can severely decrease the calories you burn.

To avoid both of those issues, a cheat day might be the solution for you.

Will a bad cheat day ruin my progress

A cheat day undoubtedly won’t put you any closer to your goal when strictly looking at calories in vs calories out.

Unless you go overboard, cheat meals won’t tip the scale if done in moderation.

 Now, what does moderation exactly mean for cheat meals?

If you have the goal of losing one pound a week that means eating 500 calories below your caloric daily maintenance. 

For the week that’s a total of 3500 calories over 7 days. 

Now let’s say you decide to have a cheat date and you go out for a burger,  the burger totals 700 calories and cuts into your 3500 weekly goals.

You still end up with a 2800 calorie deficit and a much happier mood.

 So instead of losing one pound a week, you have a pace of 0.8. 

 That might sound a little daunting to slow down your progress like that but in the long term, it might actually help you succeed by improving diet adherence.

 Diet adherence is actually one of the most important factors in a long-term healthy diet.

 At the end of the day, how long do you really think you’re gonna be doing something that you absolutely don’t enjoy through sheer effort?

 At some point, motivation does run out and you need something to look forward to.

 This is where a cheat day or cheat meal can come in handy and that’s why you should deeply consider it.

Why do I gain 5 pounds on a cheat day?

Now if you’ve ever been on a diet and have allowed yourself a cheat day before you might have come into a situation where after a cheat day you wake up and step on the scale only to notice that your weight has gone up substantially like 5 pounds or so. 

 Don’t freak out because there are a lot of factors that go into numbers on the scale more so than just body fat.

Your water weight fluctuates daily and that’s based on a number of factors such as sodium intake calories, alcohol consumption, and water intake. 

 Something like sodium can potentially have you retain up to 4 cups of water for every 400 mg of sodium consumed.

 So to give you an example let’s say you had a night out drinking you didn’t pay attention to the water you consumed,  And you had a little bit of bar food which tends to be very high in sodium.

 So when you wake up all groggy, dehydrated, and bloated it’s very easy to see how your weight can shoot up on the scale but then will most likely drop down after a couple of days of clean eating.

What should you eat on a cheat day?

(Read: meal prepping for beginners )

Alright so now you might have decided to include a cheat meal into your diet. 

So your next question could be what you should be eating on a cheat day.

There are a lot of side effects of a big binging day other than just the calorie intake. 

So when deciding what to eat on a cheat day, consider the drawbacks of each option beyond just the total calories.

Drinking alcohol might leave you feeling very fatigued and dehydrated the next day.

A meal rich in carbs and sugars could leave you feeling very bloated and mess with your weight tracking answer your waterway could shoot up.

 And of course, if you go away to overboard and consume thousands of calories you could ruin your entire week’s effort.

If you are ready to pair your diet with a workout to get all the benefits of being active, check out my free beginner’s workout plan here!