The Cheat Day

There’s a lot of conflicting information on the “cheat day.” Some say use it, and some recommend staying far away. To be honest, I hate using the word “cheat” in terms of diet and nutrition. It creates a negative association with food, and I’m a firm believer you should never feel guilty about your food choices!

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite (less optimal) foods from time to time. At Plates on Plates Fitness, we believe in incorporating all foods in moderation, BUT that doesn’t mean your diet should be a free for all day after day.

A cheat day is typically a day when calories are higher (specifically carbs) and you (can) incorporate some of the less optimal food choices. If you have a strong desire to cheat on your diet every weekend, your healthy habits may be too restrictive (whether it be calories, or food choices).

In my mind, there are no cheat days but there are refeed days, high carb days, and days that include “free untracked” meals. It took me years of re wiring my brain to think this way, but it’s helped to create more consistent mindful habits that will last a lifetime. 

Sometime last year, I read The Cycle Diet by Scott Abel which covers when, why, and how to use refeeds and/or cheat days to optimize fat burning to stay lean year round. I specifically remember reading this book on a high carb day…at Kerbey Lane…with a big stack of pancakes in front of me.

The take away was this: Once you reach a certain level of leanness, it IS important to incorporate higher calorie days to keep your metabolism and hormones healthy. BUT, if you’re 15-20 lbs overweight, you are not considered to be at a level of leanness that requires a higher calorie day.  If you’re still 15-20 lbs away from your goal, your body knows it has more than enough stored energy(fat) to tap into. There is nothing to compensate for and nothing is depleted. Therefore, a full spike or cheat day every week will only make you gain fat. The extra calories consumed will spill over into fat cells rather than being burned off.

My advice is to save the “cheat day” for when you have reached a level of leanness you’re happy with. This is a good thing to remember on the weekends when you may feel the urge or pressure to blow your diet with your family/friends, eat what you want when you want, or are too busy to put your health first. This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in some of your favorite foods, it just means taking a more mindful and balanced approach. There’s a difference between having 1-2 slices of pizza+a side of vegetables, than having 5 slices of pizza, beer, and ice cream. :o)

If your goal is fat loss and you find yourself hungry, THIS IS NORMAL. When eating in a caloric deficit, hunger is a normal part of the fat loss process. Your hunger level should be tolerable when eating in a relative calorie deficit. If you find yourself hungry to the point of exhaustion, and find it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks, then a calorie increase may be needed.

If calories confuse you, or your just needing guidance, shoot me an email:


Source: The Cycle Diet by Scott Able

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