According to a recent study, indulging in a diet cheat day could actually help boost your metabolism and lose weight. Sounds too good to be true, but it is—and mastering the science is a piece of cake that you can eat, too.
In order to better understand how this phenomenon works—and how to execute it successfully—Good News Network enlisted the help of chemist and author Michael Spitzer to help us break it down.
What Is a Cheat Day, Exactly?
A cheat day is essentially a day where you allow yourself to enjoy french fries on the side and rich walnut brownies for dessert.
Sounds like diet carb-icide, but actually, periodically altering calorie consumption prevents the metabolism from slowing down too much while dieting.
“When we reduce our calories continuously for a long stretch of time, our body naturally begins to slow down our metabolism,” Spitzer explains.
“For weight control, this is an undesirable condition. We want to keep our metabolism at a healthy level for weight management.”
By introducing these foods back into the body, it becomes “surprised” by the temporary short term boost in total calories for the day and prevents the metabolism from downshifting.
How Often Should I Cheat?
The consensus is that once every 7 or 14 days is ideal.
We’ve also been told that two cheat meals per week rather than cheat days is a good alternative.
How Crazy Can I Get With This Cheat Day?
You can definitely enjoy your favorite foods like pizza, oatmeal cookies, a slice of cake, a bagel, or a bowl of ice cream. However, a cheat day is not a license to wipe out the inventory of the nearest All-You-Can-Eat buffet.
Cheating may mean eating a cream cheese bagel for breakfast where normally you may skip any bread product, having a baked potato at lunch where normally you would have steamed broccoli, and having a Dairy Queen Blizzard for a treat after dinner.
“Having 2-3 slices of pizza and a 2-scoop ice cream cone is fine on cheat day,” Spitzer says. “But eating a full extra large deep pan pizza and a full gallon of ice cream by yourself would NOT be acceptable.”
Is There Anything I Should Still Avoid?
There are no real restrictions within common sense and reason.
“The Cheat Day is a way to enjoy your favorite foods and treats that would otherwise sabotage a clean eating weight loss plan,” Spitzer says. “But it should not be a day where you try to cram in 7-14 days’ worth of pies, french fries, and sugary sodas, until you’re ready to explode.”
Remember: Diet, Alone, Is Not Enough for True Fitness
Some people rely solely on diet as a means to control body weight, but, says Spitzer, when a person severely cuts calories to lose weight in the absence of any kind of muscle toning exercise, they face a potential problem with muscle atrophy and a slowing metabolism.
If you’re serious about your health, it’s important to incorporate cardiovascular and weigh training exercises into your weekly regimen.
Michael Spitzer is the author of Fitness at 40, 50, 60 and Beyond. For more information check out his website.
(Photos: CC Susanne Nilsson, Son of Groucho, Shira Gal)
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