T Nation

Accommodating Cheat Day Calories

So here’s the dilemma I’ve encountered in setting up the next phase of my fat loss diet:

I’ve been calculating target calorie intake by taking my maintenance calories and subtracting the maximum number of calories it is possible to burn in one day using the formula:

Obviously there’s a margin of error, but I’ve found this formula to work pretty well.

At any rate, say for argument’s sake that you calculate your metabolic rate at 3000 and your target intake at 2000 calories per day (a deficit of 1000 per day). Now say you do one cheat meat per week, consisting of 6000 calories (3000 over maintenance).

Would you simply accept the fact that your net calorie reduction over a week is now just -3000 (+3000 on cheat day, -6000 on diet days), or would you further reduce your diet intake throughout the week to accommodate that additional 3000 you ate on your cheat day?

For example, would you take that additional 3000 calorie surplus, divide it throughout the remaining 6 days of the week, and eat 500 less calories per diet day (ie 1500 calories per day)?

I realize that, by definition, if 31 calories per pound per day is the most you can burn–and if that were strictly true–then going below that amount will result in muscle loss (and/or a decrease in metabolism).

So, how to handle this situation? Forget the cheat day and plow through? I tried that, personally, and my fat loss stalled. I did a huge cheat day of 5800 calories plus, and the next day I was noticeably much leaner; even more so the following day. So I feel I do need the cheat meal, but I don’t know how to properly accommodate it.

Opinions? Experiences?

I wouldn’t worry about the calculation. If anything look at the entire period (week) as a whole and determine the number of calorie deficit that way.

I will say this. IMO 1/3 less calories than maintenance is too drastic. The bigger the deficit, the more calories you’ll need in the cheat to manage leptin and all that good stuff… Unless you’ve stalled at a ~10-15% deficit, then I would stay with that.

In regards to manageing leptin, I would consider the following:

What’s your BF %?

If you’re above the high teens (like 18%) or more, I would suggest low carbing it and doing a 15% less than maintenance cut. Recalculate maintenance weekly (excel helps for this if you plug everything into a spreadsheet, then all you’d have to do is change your lean mass and or BF %).

If you’re in from about 11-18% BF give or take a few points, I would do a carb cycle with only one high carb day per week and two moderate. The remaining 4 days would be low. (the number of high carb days can be manipulated of course, more if you are closer to the low end of the range)

IMO if single digit, the shit hits the fan. Carbs are okay, but the majority of your calorie deficit will need to be about the same, but you’ll need to increase your calorie deficit from exercise, like more NEPA, steady state, and heavy lifting and springing, but you will burn out fast by doing this, so be careful.

and I might add that if you fall into the high body fat % (above 18%) then a weekend carb up would be a great idea (once every 5-10 days)

**edit if and only if you’re following a strict very low carb (<30grams per day) ketogenic diet.

If you’re serious about fat loss you shouldn’t be considering a “cheat day.” A cheat meal here and there is fine. Keep your goals in mind and lock the pantry, get on the treadmill, and drop the fat.

If you’re interested in refeeds, check out the carb cycling thread. Also the Get Shredded diet has a high calorie day every 2 weeks…so infrequent is key. Cheaters diet also comes to mind, but I don’t think the calories on the cheat day are as significant as the dieting level calories.

^Indeed. Get Shredded Diet - http://www.tmuscle.com/article/diet_and_nutrition/the_get_shredded_diet

I tried to post some links to the article the “Leptin Manifesto” as well, but they didn’t go through. You can just Google site search that term. It has some good info. Good luck!

[quote]BulletproofTiger wrote:
I wouldn’t worry about the calculation. If anything look at the entire period (week) as a whole and determine the number of calorie deficit that way.

I will say this. IMO 1/3 less calories than maintenance is too drastic. The bigger the deficit, the more calories you’ll need in the cheat to manage leptin and all that good stuff… Unless you’ve stalled at a ~10-15% deficit, then I would stay with that.

In regards to manageing leptin, I would consider the following:

What’s your BF %?

If you’re above the high teens (like 18%) or more, I would suggest low carbing it and doing a 15% less than maintenance cut. Recalculate maintenance weekly (excel helps for this if you plug everything into a spreadsheet, then all you’d have to do is change your lean mass and or BF %).

If you’re in from about 11-18% BF give or take a few points, I would do a carb cycle with only one high carb day per week and two moderate. The remaining 4 days would be low. (the number of high carb days can be manipulated of course, more if you are closer to the low end of the range)

IMO if single digit, the shit hits the fan. Carbs are okay, but the majority of your calorie deficit will need to be about the same, but you’ll need to increase your calorie deficit from exercise, like more NEPA, steady state, and heavy lifting and springing, but you will burn out fast by doing this, so be careful.[/quote]

Thanks for the response, BulletproofTiger. I should have mentioned this stuff in my first post, I suppose.

Right now I’m down to about 223.5 from 240 just five weeks ago. I estimate my bodyfat percentage at somewhere between 17% and 20% (based on a lean body mass between 180 and 185).

The main purposes of this diet were 1) to drop fat as fast as humanly possible, and 2) to determine the limits of my own body’s ability to cut calories and drop fat with the aid of a prohormone (theoretically to retain muscle at such a low calorie intake, and to possibly increase the max rate of calories burned per pound of fat).

I accomplished this by taking some Fitday calorie data from my last cut over the summer. I took a two month period mid-diet, added up all the calories consumed, determined the amount of fat lost, and from there, came up with a relatively accurate maintenance intake (or at least, maintenance intake during a pretty severe diet phase).

What I did then is what I described above. Basically determining bodyfat in pounds, calculating the max number of calories I could burn per day, and actually going lower than that. I justified this by concurrently finishing off my stash of MAG-10 Legacy Edition. This lasted me the full five weeks.

I extrapolate from your post that you would recommend treating the diet and cheat days together as a whole (for the week), but keeping the diet days above the absolute minimum calorie intake, and including one high carb day and two medium carb days. Is that correct?

[quote]phatkins187 wrote:
If you’re serious about fat loss you shouldn’t be considering a “cheat day.” A cheat meal here and there is fine. Keep your goals in mind and lock the pantry, get on the treadmill, and drop the fat.

If you’re interested in refeeds, check out the carb cycling thread. Also the Get Shredded diet has a high calorie day every 2 weeks…so infrequent is key. Cheaters diet also comes to mind, but I don’t think the calories on the cheat day are as significant as the dieting level calories.[/quote]

That was actually my plan at first: no cheat days or meals whatsoever for five weeks except for Christmas day. I followed that strictly with no problem whatsoever: no discipline breakdowns or weak moments at all. I did the Christmas Day dinner, and that was it.

However, after losing 5 pounds the first week, 5 pounds the second week, then 1.5 pounds the third and 1.5 pounds the fourth, I started getting a little concerned that I had hit a “plateau.” I realize that 1.5lbs a week is huge, but I was eating enough of a deficit to produce greater losses than that. Out of fear I was losing muscle or slowing my metabolism, I made a conscious decision to have a cheat day that I could have easily done without mentally.

Like I said earlier, I put away 5800 calories with super high carb intake that day, and (without weighing myself) I dropped fat in ridiculous fashion over the next two days at least. Going from flabby gross love handles to visible abs in two days, I lost as much fat the week that I cheated as I did in the two previous weeks combined (before you ask, I’m one of the lucky few who can have visible abs at relatively high bodyfat levels).

So, basically, that was my motivation for asking the original question. How best to factor in the cheat day calorie-wise. I know what JB says in the Get Shredded Diet (it was a partial motivation for my original plan, and I’ve patterned my transition diet off the Get Unshredded Diet).

[quote]BulletproofTiger wrote:
I tried to post some links to the article the “Leptin Manifesto” as well, but they didn’t go through. You can just Google site search that term. It has some good info. Good luck![/quote]

Thanks, dude. I forgot to mention that the Leptin Manifesto was an inspiration for my trying the cheat day as well. It’s funny how Testosterone vets think alike. It was this quote from Joel Marion that caused me to switch from the cheat meal idea to the cheat day (in response to whether high peri-workout carbs and calories are enough to stave off drops in metabolism):

[quote]ChrisPowers wrote:

[quote]BulletproofTiger wrote:
…What’s your BF %?

If you’re above the high teens (like 18%) or more, I would suggest low carbing it and doing a 15% less than maintenance cut. Recalculate maintenance weekly (excel helps for this if you plug everything into a spreadsheet, then all you’d have to do is change your lean mass and or BF %).

If you’re in from about 11-18% BF give or take a few points, I would do a carb cycle with only one high carb day per week and two moderate. The remaining 4 days would be low. (the number of high carb days can be manipulated of course, more if you are closer to the low end of the range)

IMO if single digit, the shit hits the fan. Carbs are okay, but the majority of your calorie deficit will need to be about the same, but you’ll need to increase your calorie deficit from exercise, like more NEPA, steady state, and heavy lifting and springing [sic], but you will burn out fast by doing this, so be careful.[/quote]

Thanks for the response, BulletproofTiger. I should have mentioned this stuff in my first post, I suppose.

Right now I’m down to about 223.5 from 240 just five weeks ago.[/quote]Great work.

[quote]I estimate my bodyfat percentage at somewhere between 17% and 20% (based on a lean body mass between 180 and 185)…

What I did then is what I described above. Basically determining bodyfat in pounds, calculating the max number of calories I could burn per day, and actually going lower than that. I justified this by concurrently finishing off my stash of MAG-10 Legacy Edition. This lasted me the full five weeks.

I extrapolate from your post that you would recommend treating the diet and cheat days together as a whole (for the week), but keeping the diet days above the absolute minimum calorie intake, and including one high carb day and two medium carb days. Is that correct?[/quote]
Correct. At your current BF % I would have up to 3 days per week with carbs and 4 days ketogenic (<30 gr). I’d place the majority of the carbs on your 2 medium carb days before the workout and some in the morning if you handle carbs well (don’t get too sluggish… also choose wisely things that digest well for you, i.e. I have a hard time with corn, beans and bell peppers, but they may be just fine for you). As for the high carb day, I’d place it not consecutive to a medium carb day (bracketed by two low carb days). As far as how many grams to take, I’d start relatively low, like 80-100 pre-workout and 80-100 in the morning, and the rest of your meals being P+F. Consider receptormax, or cinnamon + 4-hydroxyisoleucone prior to these meals. You may consider this a medium carb day (as it’s only max of 230 grams of carbs), but this is since you are on the high end of the spectrum that I listed for even considering carb cycling. Once you get lower you can add another couple of carb meals to the high carb day. For now, I would wait until the second week’s high day to really have what I would consider a cheat day as you describe it, and I would bump the cals a lot mostly from carbs.

Also consider MCTs/coconut oil post workout. I do fried chicken breast + broccoli in about 20 grams of coconut oil. If you haven’t already, read up on Dr. Lowery/Shugart’s recetn article: http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/seven_things_you_need_to_know_about_fats Bill Roberts has also posted about the use of MCTs post workout here: [quote]I didn’t mean to suggest that increase in calories caused the increase in ;ost-exercise muscle protein synthesis: actually I don’t consider the latter a reliable indicator of anything and never worry about it.

With regard to the personal coconut oil usage, it is just me thinking in terms of: I don’t want more carbs at that time, and protein-only would be rather short of ongoing energy consumption, while adding the coconut oil would provide fatty acids quickly available for energy, which cannot hurt in terms of longer term results and might help.[/quote] http://tnation.tmuscle.com/free_online_forum/diet_performance_nutrition_supplements/post_workout_fat

One more thing, on the high carb day, I would recommend placing it on day that you can hit the gym more than once (I like 3 times). I would make it a day with a lot of intense stuff like a leg day with HIIT and or sprinting in a separate session, but this is optional.

Here’s another avenue (or two) to think about:

  1. Don’t Kill the Messenger. This article has some good theories on cAMP: http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article//dont_kill_the_messenger;jsessionid=C0CF2A465869F0E43884F92D7D3F761E.hydra

  2. from the “brotha from anotha motha” website
    Series on the physiology of fat loss

Stuff on AMPK:

  1. This article by Mike Roberts just came to my attention, and while I have read it, I obviously have not had time to test it out, so as of now don’t quote me on anything with respect to it’s application to fat loss

the links got removed, I’ll PM you.

[quote]BulletproofTiger wrote:

[quote]ChrisPowers wrote:
I extrapolate from your post that you would recommend treating the diet and cheat days together as a whole (for the week), but keeping the diet days above the absolute minimum calorie intake, and including one high carb day and two medium carb days. Is that correct?[/quote]
Correct. At your current BF % I would have up to 3 days per week with carbs and 4 days ketogenic (<30 gr). I’d place the majority of the carbs on your 2 medium carb days before the workout and some in the morning if you handle carbs well (don’t get too sluggish… also choose wisely things that digest well for you, i.e. I have a hard time with corn, beans and bell peppers, but they may be just fine for you). As for the high carb day, I’d place it not consecutive to a medium carb day (bracketed by two low carb days). As far as how many grams to take, I’d start relatively low, like 80-100 pre-workout and 80-100 in the morning, and the rest of your meals being P+F. Consider receptormax, or cinnamon + 4-hydroxyisoleucone prior to these meals. You may consider this a medium carb day (as it’s only max of 230 grams of carbs), but this is since you are on the high end of the spectrum that I listed for even considering carb cycling.[/quote]
Nah, not at all. 230 grams in a day is astronomical for me. At my absolute most, I’ll eat three carb+protein meals on training days (breakfast, pre-workout, post-workout), and two on cardio or off days (breakfast and “second breakfast”). I was planning on gradually increasing carbs by literally adding a meal a week for twelve straight weeks (I already do Surge Recovery pre-workout and Surge Workout Fuel during, considering that one meal). With three days of weights, and three cardio/off days, that works out to a gradual move from three carb meals per week to fifteen.

I was hoping the long period of low carbs would help resensitize my muscle tissue to insulin, and the gradual addition of carbs might help fix me permanently, to the point that I can have an occasional super high carb off day and not worry about gaining pounds of fat from it. Almost bulletproofing myself from carbs just so I can be normal for once!

This is a pretty good idea. I might consider doing the “cheat” days once every two weeks for now and see what that yields. Or better yet, go by the scale/mirror and just wait until I perceive a stall to truly “carb up.”

[quote]Also consider MCTs/coconut oil post workout. I do fried chicken breast + broccoli in about 20 grams of coconut oil. If you haven’t already, read up on Dr. Lowery/Shugart’s recetn article: http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/seven_things_you_need_to_know_about_fats

Bill Roberts has also posted about the use of MCTs post workout here:

Very interesting. I’ll definitely have to give this some thought. Or at least consider pulling this out of my hat next time I do a super low carb fat loss plan. For right now, I’ve been doing straight Grow Whey protein shakes as my first meal post workout (natural flavor plus Superfood, which somehow doesn’t taste all that bad).

I’ve been reluctant to train too hard while dieting this low for fear of injury and what not. I’ve already managed to pull a muscle on both sides of my neck at different times all within this five week window. I’d consider deep tissue massage if I wasn’t such an unemployed failure…

Thanks again for the loads of suggestions, dude. I really appreciate you taking the time.


NP Man. Take it all in stride. As for neck injuries, I’ve noticed that neck bridges like the attached pic (except on a mat or med ball - held for 2 sets of up to one minute) before my workout help a lot. I started always using them. They strangely also seem to help with hamstring tightness…

You can also try some of the neck stretches from this link: http://www.akban.org/fitness/himum.php

I came across a study once that showed that subocipital (one of the neck muscles) stretch helped with short hamstring syndrome. See “Immediate Effects of the Suboccipital Muscle Inhibition Technique in Subjects With Short Hamstring Syndrome” @ http://www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754(09)00094-3/abstract Now I don’t want to misapply the results of the study because I honestly don’t know what the technique is that they’re talking about, but the stretch I found helps me get in deadlift position much more easily, and I can safely lift a lot more weight after doing this, but be forewarned that I’ve also read that it can somehow increase danger of deadlifting. For me it helped though.