Opinions on CHEAT DAY: pro vs con

Hi everyone:

HOpe to solicit thoughts on a topic I think everyone thinks about (especially when dieting)…the cheat day.
I have a hard time with it…in that I struggle with several issues

  1. how OFTEN should I cheat (once a week, once every two weeks
  2. how MUCH should I cheat (one meal, two meals, a whole day)
  3. are there such things as BETTER cheat choices? (I know that might just defeat the whole purpose of a cheat day - to choose healthier cheat items)
    4)what are the consequences if any of cheating?

I might be mistaken, and anybody please correct me if I’m worong, but I thought I read in one of JB’s articles, that cheat days may not be such a good thing.

Thanks for offering your thoughts on this topic.

Maintenance calorie intake, not necessarily cheat meals, should become more and more frequent as your body percentage gets lower and lower, or simply when fat loss is halted.

If time is not a constraint you should experiment on yourself to see how long to halt your diet. JM wrote an article on the subject, but as we all know: self exermentation, not preset formulas lead to best results.

You’ll need to progressively add meals, days, and even weeks of maintenance calorie intake to get the ball rolling again. Be attentive to you adjustments, and find your cut off point.

Good Luck

I would imagine it is a very personal thing related to genetics/training habits/etc. My cheat days consist of Friday afternoon through Sunday AM! Despite unbelievable cheat days I retain 6% body fat but of course there are many variables - I’ve listed mine below:

  • Su evening - Friday AM: clean eating, low carbs, almost no high-glycemic carbs. 90% hypo-caloric consisting of chicken/lean beef/MRP’s and bars such as Grow! and Muscle Milk.

  • Friday afternoon through Sun AM - Anything goes which of course would be a great deal of high-glycemic carbs. About 200-300% hyper-caloric as well.

  • Training - 12-15hrs per week, intense with about 70% in the AM (early) and 30% evening.

Obviously if I adjust my training down I would have to make modifications to my massive “cheat” weekend. This diet has actually been validated by some as an effective way to keep the metabolism reved (Leptin/T3 to T4 conversion/etc) by putting your body into super-compensation mode during cheat or re-feeding days.

plate head- how many grams of carbs do you have on regular days? and what exactly does your cheat meals consist of? Because its a big diffrence if your eating pizza ice cream etc, opposed to all clean carbs.

  1. This depends on how lean you are, how severely you are dieting, the length of the overfeed, and the results you get through experimentation.

  2. This depends on how lean you are, how severely you are dieting, the frequency of the refeeds, and the results you get through experimentation.

  3. Higher GI carbs are always a winner. The approach you use is highly dependent on how your body reacts to “cheating.” If, however, you need to go with a more controlled approach, then the high GI carbs are still a staple, but fat intake should be limited.

  4. The consequences, when done properly, is greater fat loss. This has been the case for everyone that I have worked with.

I’ve talked to John about this, and while he doesn’t neccesarily agree with me, he doesn’t deny the results I am getting. He has yet to really try this approach for himself or with his clients, so I’m speaking from what I know is working for people who consult with me.


Hi, Lorne. Since you’re working though all the issues of “cheating,” I’d recommend that you do a search on the word “cheat” on T-Mag. A lot of people have written on the topic. Along with all the wonderful articles Joel’s written, John Berardi wrote a great article called Damage Control.

My “quick” thoughts on the subject? (grin)

To begin with, get your diet right and settle in. If you’re limiting your carbs, your body needs to make a metabolic shift from sugar burner to fat burner. So for the first two weeks, no cheating.

From there, I would make sure that I am making progress; i.e., losing weight. No cheat meal is worth it if it destroy’s a week’s worth of denial and effort. In fact, I would make ALL decisions about “how much” and “how often” and “what” based on how much weight I lose the following week.

Frequency, that’s going to be up to you, but once a week sounds good.

My opinion of a cheat day…call it a planned overfeeding, refeed, carb recharge or something. It just sounds less dirty.

Lorne, if you do a search on refeeds, e-mail Joel for his kick-butt article, and read these things, you’ll get a great idea of what you need to do.

You, know, while JB might be indifferent (okay, pretty much opposed) to refeeds/overfeeding, he did not always feel this way. I remember him discussing his monthly and/or weekly trips to Pizza Hut buffets and Chinese buffets, respectively. I digress. Anyway, JB’s coming out with an article on leptin, actually. This should be pretty interesting.

Ryan, my cheat days are very very high-glycemic carbs including a solid diet of shit! That’s right! The kind of shit you normally see fat pathetic diabetics gorge theirselves into comma on! Let’s see… Cookie Dough (3 rolls), pizza, chinese food, chips, childrens sugary cereals, Outback cheesy fries … and the list goes on and on and on. If I counted the carbs on the weekend I would … well, I wouldn’t be cheating. During the week I eat very low carbs with the only high-glycemic coming from SURGE after a workout (can’t live without it).

I have to disagree with Tampa-Terry on the waiting two weeks comment. The research has shown that leptin drops by 50% only after a week of dieting. Also, if you are going with a more severe approach, you will end up plateauing sooner, and will need to overfeed even before one week (more like 4 days).

And, as I said before, the frequency is dependent on a couple of factors, an important one being the length of the overfeeding sessions.


This is a tough topic, because of several reasons - length of cheat, what you eat during the cheat, bf %, style of training, energy balance, etc.

In the end, I think you have to experiment (sorry to sound like everyone else). Alessi’s article on this topic was pretty good in regards to learning about your cheat frequency. You must also read Joel and John’s thoughts on this topic.

Ok, I’ll assume that you’ll do this, so now I’ll give you my thoughts.

To everyone who replied: Thanks so much again for your thoughts and feedback. I’m still wishy washy on the subject of cheat eating to be honest. I think it’s a throwback to when I was on a BFL program that allowed me that once a week cheat day.
I used to absolutely gorge myself on those days, with anything that was garbage, all the while wondering, “how could I possibly get lean when I can ingest this amount of crap once each week?”
today, I know better, and yet, am still not very knowledgeable about the subject. There are times when I feel a definite need to cheat…I simply cannot eat one more tin of water packed tuna with a baked sweet potato, not one more egg white with oatmeal, etc. And so, I eat…and while I certaily don’t gorge myself like in the old BFL days, I have this thing of guilt, when I indulge. That’s crazy I know…but still given that it seems cheating might not be a good thing, I am left still scratching my head about this all. Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble here. Any thoughts are always welcome. Take care.