Cheat days and binging are often confused with each other in certain aspects. Binge eating is usually meant for times of overeating. Cheat meals are supposed to be more so breaks from your typical diet where you consume foods you don’t normally eat such as “”junk food”. So if you shouldnt overeat on cheat days, how much should you eat? How many calories on a cheat day is a good amount?
The amount of calories on cheat days should not interfere with your overall health goal. This means cheat days should not have a big negative impact on your weekly calorie target nor should the food intake be so high that you are at risk of developing binge eating habits.
That is the basic cookie cutter guideline to follow, but to learn more about eating on cheat days, and a basic rule of thumb, keep reading!
How many calories on a cheat is a good amount?
So exactly how much should you be eating on a cheat day?
Well it depends, it varies from person to person depending on your overall goal. Like previously mentioned you don;t want a cheat day to interfere with your weekly calorie goal.
For example if you want to lose weight at a pace of 1 pound per week, you need to be in a total deficit of 3500 calories weekly.
If the bowl of ice cream and pizza you have at a party notches you 1500 calories over your daily goal,you are left with only a deficit of 2000 for the week, close to half of what you hoped for.
As a very general rule of thumb try to keep your cheat day within 20% of your daily target.
For a 1500 calorie target this is a range of 1200 – 1800.
For a 2500 calorie target this is a range of 2000 – 3000.
The reason I suggest this percentage is to allow yourself enough leeway to feel like you are having a break from your diet in a controlled manner that discourages binge eating.
Binge eating is the disorder where you feel like you lack control of what you consume and have a very large amount of food in one sitting.
For the sake of not just your physical health but also mental health, it’s best to avoid developing such a problem.
Try the zig zag calorie diet
If you like having some days where you eat more, consider trying the zig zag calorie diet. I have a full article on that here, but here is a quick breakdown.
The Zig Zag calorie diet is essentially having some days where you eat low and others where you eat higher. The important part is that your weekly AVERAGE hits your target.
For example if you want to eat 2000 calories per day, you can consume 1800 on one day and 2200 to have a total average of 2000.
So if you want to have a cheat day, consider instead trying to zig zag. It definitely adds an element of variability to keep your eating style from getting stale.
Can one cheat day make you gain weight
You might have some fears about having cheat days because you might think one off day will make you gain weight. Unless you go absurdly crazy, the most that will happen might be some noticeable water retention.
We retain water for a number of reasons such as:
- higher sodium
- not enough water
- high carbs
- drinking alcohol
A cheat day where you don’t particularly pay attention to what you eat can combine all of those potential factors.
But can water weight really cause you to go up that much on the scale?
Yes, yes it can.
Carbs alone will cause you to retain 3 grams of water for every 1 gram consumed.
If one meal or day causes you to retain a lot of water, there are a few things you can do to get back on track.
One, eat at your normal levels.
Two lower your consumption of sodium and alcohol.
And three, drink more water. Keeping yourself hydrated is a surefire way to drop any extra stored water.
How long does cheat day weight last
The weight you gain from a cheat day will most likely be water weight, so it should last anywhere between 1 – 3 days once clean eating is reintroduced.
In the meantime don’t pay attention as much to the scale the day after a cheat meal.
How do you recover from a cheat day
Now that you have had a cheat day, how do you recover from it to get back into the swing of things?
Basically, you need to just accept a bad day for what it was and keep moving as normal. Don’t try to overcompensate by starving yourself the next day or doing something else drastic which could ruin your long term progress.
If you try to adjust too much, you can end up in an unintended back and forth alternating between too high and too low.
Then finally just try to avoid feeling regret. If you want to have progress that lasts instead of disappearing one you go back to your normal eating habits.
One very effective way to do this is by planning cheat days into your week, that way not only will you know how many calories on a cheat day is fine, but you won’t feel like the break was a spontaneous mistake.
If you have a special event to go to, date night or just want to go out and enjoy yourself, planning for that event sves you plenty of mental anguish.
Now that you understand how many calories on a cheat day is acceptable, try adding some more activity to gain even more benefits!
If you are ready to kick your fitness efforts up one more notch, pair your diet with a good exercise plan!
Check out my free “Foundations” workout plan, which you can get for free here.
It is a plan perfect for helping beginners get started as well as helping experienced lifters improve body control and range of motion.