Thursday, December 14, 2006

Forget about Cheat Days

Back in July and August, I spent a fair amount of my time up in Northern Ontario Cottage country.

The cottage is a great place to hide out and get some reading and writing done, but sometimes it can be a horrible place to try and 'eat clean'. It's very easy to rationalize a couple bad days at the cottage as "cheat days".

For some reason, body building magazines and fitness "gurus" love to promote the idea of cheat days.

It is more than common for a dieting bodybuilder to spend 6 days out of a week eating as little as 1200 Calories per day, and then on the seventh day eat close to 10,000 Calories!

People rationalize being a complete glutton for one day with excuses like "reloading" and "refueling".

These types of excuses are based on what I like to call fitness magazine science.

Fitness magazine science is all of the theories that appear in fitness magazines that have no scientific backing. Take for instance the idea that you can't store the excess calories from cheat days. This is rationalized by stating that your metabolism increases because of the massive amount of foods that you just consumed, and therefore you burn off all the extra energy.

A perfect example of a theory with no scientific backing.

But here is the real deal, and its plain and simple math. If your target calorie intake is a 500 Calorie deficit, and you lower your intake from 2,500 calories to 2,000 calories, then you have created a 3,000 Calorie deficit over six days.

Now on the seventh day, if you gorge yourself and eat yourself into the 6,000 Calorie range (which is hard, but definitely not impossible to do), you have just undone almost all the dieting you did during the week. There is no magic that makes those calories disappear.

Your body is amazing at storing energy. Sure, you lose a little to heat production and some ramped up metabolic processes, but at the end of the day the practice of cheat days is destructive. Like I said in my previous post on metabolism, the effect that food has on your metabolism is actually very small.

The idea that your body can't store all of these calories, or that somehow these extra calories don't turn into fat is a myth and a lie that will never die. It’s OK to reward yourself with ice cream every now and then, but full out cheat days with the soul purpose of gorging yourself should be avoided, plain and simple.


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Zach said...

I think that some people confuse cheat DAYS with cheat MEALS. There's a big difference there because a single cheat meal shouldn't bust your calorie deficit too much.

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Zach,

I couldn't agree more.

Like I said in my post, the occasional ice-cream, burger or nice big meal while you're out on the town is fine.

Trying to see how much you can eat in one day is a completely different matter.