T Nation

Why are people so anal about free days?


#1

I'm curious why some people are so anal about free days. It seems like one of those old myths that just won't die. You know like eating fat makes you fat, you can spot reduce your belly by doing situps, bodybuilders don't do steroids, etc... There are some people that seem to still believe there is some unexplainable magic behind dieting. They seem to think that even if they bust ass all week with their diet and follow it to a tee, that one bad meal on the weekend will utterly sabotage their progress and make them fall behind. Sad part is that it can't be farther from the truth.

At worse having a bad day is 6 steps forward and 1 step back, which isn't that bad of a ratio in reality. But perhaps it's not even a full step back. We all know that dieting inevitably slows down metabolism no matter what we do. And if we are strict straight through the diet with absolutely no free days it is bound to shutdown even faster. So by having a free day you may take a step back on that day, but you've boosted your metabolism and assured your body it isn't starving. Therefore your metabolism will kick back up a bit. It won't be back to full but nonetheless it will be better off than had you not done a free day.

Of course you can screw anything up so if you have 8000 calories on your free day then yes you can essentially take 6 steps back and get nowhere. But if the average dieter who is getting a 500 calorie deficit in food alone combined with the deficit created by cardio and weights then it's not hard to come to the conclusion that after 6 days you can be up to a 4000 calorie deficit. Now you take a free day on your 7th day and get about 500 calories above maintenance. And believe me that many calories will make you feel like an absolute pig after dieting all week. So by end of 1 week you're still at a 3500 calorie deficit, which is still a pound of fat. So Billy Joe who insists on eating perfect all the time is 500 calories lower than you. Big deal. Billy Joe's metabolism is also slowing down faster so in the coming weeks when you are still maintaining the same basic metabolic rate and losing weight at the same caloric level, Billy Joe is finding that he has to lower his calories more to continue to lose weight.

This is a bit oversimplified but hopefully people get the picture. There is nothing magical about dieting. Eating perfect all week then slipping up and eating some pizza and beer does not sabotage your diet. In fact it may help in the long run as it will curb cravings, boost your metabolism and make the next week of the diet easier to handle. So damnit people quit beating yourself up if you want a bad day so long as you keep it within reason. Say no more than 500 calories above maintenence. It's also a good idea to eat a high level of carbs on this day to replace glycogen stores which are no doubt getting low after a week of dieting. Do this and I guarantee that when you workout the next day you will get an awesome pump.

Perhaps in the final few weeks of a diet where you are approaching very low levels of bodyfat you may decide to ace the free day. Your metabolism has slowed down a lot either way at this point and you just want to finish off asap. Or maybe you want to do a fast diet cycle of only 4-5 weeks to lose a few pounds. With that short of a diet you probably should skip the free day as well because your metabolism won't get too bad in that short of time and if you can't handle dieting for that short of time without a break then you need to learn some self control. However those that are planning long diets such as 12 weeks or longer, you should plan for free days, at least during the first 2/3 of the diet as it will help you in more ways than it could hurt you.


#2

Wow, I needed to gasp for air after reading this one. Life happens and free days enable family people to eat pasta with their kids and not feel like they have failed at life. Have a care free day.


#3

Actually as you get leaner planned refeeds because almost essential to upregulate leptin levels.
Although I dispute that eating 500 calories a day above maintenance will make you feel like a pig. when you're dieting you can each that much and still feel hungry


#4

praise the lord!


#5

I got to 10.5 percent bodyfat eating exactly as above, down from 27 percent. I eat anything I want on saturdays. Cant seem to get below 10.5, but Im happy here for now.


#6

Ugh...huh...huh....he said anal....huh..ugh


#7

Vageta, you are right on the money, my Saiyan comrade! One way to make sure you don't botch it up is to NOT go hungry while "dieting" throughout the week. For the love of Piccilo, how can one "go hungry" while eating 6-7 meals a day? Furthermore, if one subscribes to the Genius of JMB (a Super Saiyan 4, indeed), as long as your activity level BALANCES OUT your calorie intake, there's no need to worry about your progress "stalling" or "getting fat", either. I have lost bodyfat and gained muscle eating this way while implementing the Free Day principle. I do have one twist, though. On the free days, I try to balance out the "bad" meals with MRPs (Grow!). (Not that I do it every time, but you get the picture.) All week long I don't feel so deprived because with the Grow! shakes I feel like I'm getting to have desert 3 times a day! Then, on Sundays (my free day to spend with my church family), I'll take a couple Grow! packets along with my Turbo Shaker (great product, T-men), and eat whatever "crap" I want to on that day. By Monday morning after eating all that junk on Sunday, (and, oh...the sweet Sunday afternoon nap!) I'm really ready to get back on the "diet"/better eating plan. Hope this helps!


#8

I have at times tried to go easy on my bad days, but then I just said "why?". Why go half-ass when you're already going bad anyways. On a good number of my free days I go to bed bloated and wishing I hadn't eaten so much. But you know what, it makes the rest of the week that much easier because I hate feeling like that. It's also a great carb up and my workouts on Monday are awesome because of it. Sometimes I even feel leaner on Monday mornings because my muscles are packed with glycogen.

I've been dieting 6 weeks and now I'm going to gear down to my next phase which started today(less carbs, more cardio). So this weekend I decided to have 2 bad days. You know what, I didn't notice much difference than my usual single bad day. I measured my biceps this morning and they were the biggest they've been which says that I wasn't able to get enough carbs in one my single bad days. Does this mean I'll do it everytime? Nope I'll stick to one but the second one didn't hurt me at all and in fact might have kick started my metabolism even more. Obviously I didn't lose any fat on these days, and quite possibly gained a small amount. However the amount is miniscule compared to what I've lost in these 6 weeks so far and since it keeps my metabolism going I won't have to drop my calories much in the coming weeks.

So damnit people have a guilt free day and just enjoy eating what you've been craving all week.


#9

Sunday is usually my cheat day, in which I eat everything under the sun, and end up a little sick that night. However, yesterday, I tried just having one cheat meal. BIG MISTAKE. Today, my strength was totally down from last week( Squat from 310x5, down to 310x1!!). I guess those excess calories really supercharge me for the next week. So, bring on the late night Ben and Jerry's!


#10

I agree with the idea and dont want to mess with the flow her but I would add that under 12% your body resists fat loss, and tries to store fat, to such a great degree that you need to be pretty "focused" on "sticking" to a diet if you want to keep getting leaner. There is definitely a law of diminishing returns at work as you get leaner. At low fat levels the sort of "starvation mode" you body goes into means that a cheat day is likely to be more than a 1 step back and is likely to be more than 6 steps if you binge. Having said that, at higher fat levels 1 or 2 cheat days wont matter too much. As usual in this game its a case of horses for courses.


#11

Seems like a lot of people seem to crave sweets on a low carb diet. Maybe I'm different, cause when I used to diet down I craved "real" food. I'd eat 2 pizzas, or 70-80 buffalo wings (I know, it's gross). Never really craved the ice cream or cake. Maybe I'm just wierd


#12

Vageta you tell them bro!! I will go a step further and say that for me!!!! I actually tend to loose more those first 3 days right after the cheat day and do go up right after. I actually show weight loss when i weigh myself on monday after day of on monday!! Maybe its just me but like Vag said if im tacking a free day i go all out and when i didnt take days off i would Be weak all week long and my loss would be at a crawl!!! Plus just a day of mentally free day not worring about eating schedules and
correct intakes etc!!!! Plus that extra boost provides with an extra powerfull workout !!!!


#13

I may be the only person that does this, but i find the best day to take a cheat day is on leg day...so i do. Every saturday I do sqauts till i puke and then I gord myself on whatever I can find all day long until the point of explosion...consequently my sqaut allways seems to be on the rise, and my appetite allways met.


#14

my experience...two years ago, i dieted down from 11%bf to just below 6%bf (pretty much shredded), while incorporating regular cheat days (once a week). i cheated every week for the whole twelve weeks of slowly peeling off the fat, and i can't believe that it decreased my progress at all...like some of the other guys, i think that my cheat days allowed me to lift heavier and remain fuller than if i had "stuck" to the diet 7 days a week. my2cents

jonah


#15

Hey Chestah Cheatahs! LOL! Just kidding, guys. I have to admit, I was first introduced to nutrition thru Body for Life a few years back...I didn't say optimal nutrition, just nutrition. The plan has a built-in Free Day and I would just gorge myself with junk food all day, even take goodies to bed with me, basically to the point of massive bloating and nausea. I wasn't intentionally dieting or anything, but any of the fat I did put on was ripped off within a couple days between the training and my landscaping jobby job. I was just wondering what kinds of foods and how much you guys usually overfeed on? I would seriously spend the majority of my day in the kitchen eating junk food (simple sugars and bad fats) and don't think that's the best route to go.


#16

Well much like John I tend to miss the regular junk foods, not so much the sweets. On my free day I almost always have waffles or pancakes for breakfast as they are my favorites. One of my other favorite meals is the Bacon Swiss Chicken sandwich with the super size fries at Carl's Jr. I used to get those all the time but they are a huge no-no while dieting. I notice that on free days I usually only have 3 meals but they are so big that they fill me for quite some time. I do snack in between however. I also like McFlurry's at McDonald's and occasionally grab a candy bar to crave any sweet urges I may have.

No matter how I gorge myself I tend to feel leaner on Monday, probably because my muscles are so full of glycogen. I can also lift heavier on Mon/Tues. In fact my strength has gone up every week while dieting and if I didn't take my free day I know for a fact I couldn't do it. I'm only eating about 120 grams of carbs a day while dieting so I know by the end of the week with my 4 workouts and cardio to boot that my glycogen stores are running low. Therefore a good deal of the carbs I eat on Sunday are going straight to muscles not fat stores. Also my biceps are a good half inch bigger on Monday's versus their size towards the end of the week.


There is also the new theories on Leptin that I think we are all benefiting from without even realizing it. We know our free day helps us out but maybe not the exact science behind it. Do a search on Leptin on the internet or check out the mwf newsgroup and search for articles from Lyle or Elzi to learn more about it. They actually advocate that the leaner you get the sooner you should take a free day. As in less than 10% bodyfat you might "refeed" every 3rd or 4th day. However their free day isn't buck wild so much as it is getting the right amount of carbs versus just gorging on calories in general. At any rate enjoy your free days while others skip them and suffer needlessly.


#17

Good stuff, Vageta:-) I'll look into those directions in which you pointed. I am familiar with Leptin, as we discussed it in my Physiology course, but just briefly covered it, so a more in-depth look would be beneficial. I'm not dieting by any stretch, but I love to expand the fountain of knowledge:-)