Are Cheat Days Killing Your Progress? Part II

You’re dieting, you’re restricting calories, and you’re having cheat days – you repeat this every week where you look forward to that one day where you go ‘all out’.

This is essentially food binging and potential disordered eating which may cause an unhealthy relationship with food 5 – In other words, you’re dieting wrong. In PART I, I go through how to fix a faulty diet and explain the key components of a good diet where you can still have the foods you want, but in a controlled manner.

Cheat days, can also be referred to as ‘Refeed Days’ – however, both are not exclusively mutual. One has the potential to cause food binging, where the latter has the potential to do wonders for fat loss.

Let me explain; when you reduce calories to facilitate fat loss, you will get a reduction in metabolic rate which can slow down your ability to lose body fat. It has been reported that a modest calorie reduction by 15% over a 4 day period can cause a reduction in metabolic rate 1, 2, 8. So, after 4 days of dieting, you have automatically made it more difficult for yourselves to lose body fat. On a different note, if you’re always consuming lower calories to lose body fat, you’re body is just going to fight you harder and harder. This is known as metabolic adaptation or adaptive thermogenesis where your bodies cellular and respiratory processes slow down to reduce the energy cost of maintaining cells, organs and tissues 2, 8 – to find out how to reverse this process, read THIS.

Refeed dayAs outlined in PART I, Refeed Days are associated with calorie/carbohydrate cycling programmes where you have numerous days of higher calories in an attempt to increase metabolic rate, and to provide a psychological break from dieting. In return, this aims to improve the compliance and adherence to the dieting protocol undertaken 3, 4, 7.

The problem with calorie cycling programmes is that you have higher calorie days (reefed days) on non consecutive days. It has been reported that 3, 4 that having three consecutive higher calorie days is sufficient to elevate metabolic rate to its pre-existing values. However, this does not mean you can eat whatever you want for three days – in fact, the complete opposite. The participants 3, 4 increased their calories to maintenance intake for three days, in other words the calorie intake that will favour no change in body weight. This was shown to be sufficient in increasing metabolic rate, and be a more favourable method in losing body fat over a six week period. It’s worth noting that the participants followed a calorie restricted diet for 11 days, before returning to higher calories for 3 days. Furthermore, it could be postulated that this experiment may have shown similar results if participants performed four lower calorie days, followed by three higher calorie days to maintenance intake – assuming that total weekly calorie intake is in check.


Interestingly, after the study was completed where participants returned to a normalised diet, bodyweight didn’t significantly change after calorie cycling 3, and may even decreased further 4, where weight regain was evident in the group that followed a linear calorie restriction diet 3. It’s been demonstrated numerous times that all types of diets work 7, however the period after dieting remains and issue where weight regain is a common problem with most people dieting 6. Therefore, don’t just look at the dieting period itself, look at the period post dieting – What’s the point of losing 10kg if you’re going to put it all back on? Interestingly this was demonstrated by 98% of 100 obese individuals who regained all their weight after 2 years of successfully losing it 6, 9.

Therefore, within your dieting method, it is important to be mindful of your personal preferences that will make your dieting phase enjoyable and sustainable as this will prevent the likeliness of relapsing and regaining the weight you’ve already lost!

This is where I can help you!

If you’d like help with your diet plan that is specific to you that accounts for your goals, lifestyle, personal preferences and values, I’d be happy to help you achieve this.

All you need to do clients is take the first step by completing the consultation form on my website to receive your FREE 15 minute consultation either in person, on Skype, or on the phone. So, make sure you download the form, because the spots are on a first come, first served basis – and coaching spaces are limited.

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