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Maintaining a strict diet over an extended period of time is a struggle, which is why cheat days are recommended occasionally. Here are a few ways in which you could benefit from them.
#1. After cutting calories for some time, your metabolism will naturally slow down to conserve fat stores. When this happens, it can become even more difficult for you to lose weight, not to mention the fact that you might wind up shedding muscle instead of fat. An occasional cheat day will help jump start your metabolism to help your body continue burning fat rather than muscle.
#2. Low-fat diets can cause thyroid hormones to decline, particularly the T3 hormone that is responsible for regulating numerous processes in the body. Cheating every now and then will help bring thyroid hormones levels back to normal so that certain bodily processes are not affected.
#3. Cheating by enjoying a high-carb meal will allow you to replenish glycogen stores that may have been depleted while dieting. As such, you may find that you have greater energy for working out after one of your cheat days. Enjoying high carbs along with some protein will also help spur protein synthesis to help you build muscle.
#4. Cheat days give you a mental reprieve from dieting, allowing you to continue counting calories long term. Just be careful not to splurge too much or you will counteract your efforts. Most dieticians recommend increasing your caloric intake by 500-800 calories during a cheat day to ensure you do not overdo it.
#5. Low calorie diets cause the production of leptin, a hormone associated with weight loss and energy, to dwindle in the body. Temporarily increasing your caloric intake will increase leptin production by as much as 30% over the next 24 hours, thereby boosting your weight loss efforts and providing you with greater energy.
#6. Allowing yourself to cheat on holidays or planning cheat days around special events such as weddings and get-togethers will make it possible for you to enjoy these things without feeling guilty. As such, you won’t have to suffer socially just because you are dieting.
#7. A study showed that overeating while on a high protein diet can increase your resting metabolism, or the rate at which you burn calories while at rest.
#8. Some proponents of cheat days claim that they are going to happen anyway, so why not enjoy them? Fitness author Mark Sisson is one of them, and subscribes to an 80/20 concept that states you will likely adhere to a strict diet only 80 percent of the time, with the remaining 20 percent being “built-in cheating.”
When used correctly, cheat days can benefit your weight loss efforts in a number of ways. For best results, avoid binge eating and limit your alcohol consumption to only an occasional glass of red wine. As long as you plan carefully, you can benefit from a cheat day, meal, or snack without feeling guilty about it.