You cannot outwork a bad diet. That’s the reality you have to understand if you want to have better physique.
And yet we’re only human. Even nutrition experts agree eating clean (translation: hardly any junk food and measured nutritious meals) all the time can get old fast. Hence cheat day, where you go visit the nearest food restaurant, eating more food often advocated to break the monotony, allowing us all to live a little.
Even famous fit people subscribe to this principle. Take Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, for example. He’s known to have epic cheat days where he really goes all-out to treat himself.
While The Rock goes beast mode on his cheat meals as much as he does at the gym, he also eats sensibly most of the time. If he can do it, so can we right? Then it’s perfectly normal to have epic cheat days like he does.
And that’s where most guys—us included—get it wrong.
“It’s a common misconception that during cheat day, you can eat whatever and as much as you want because of the feeling that you deserve it after submitting yourself to a strict meal plan,” says Martin Alido, P.N., a Precision Nutrition-certified coach and senior trainer at 360 Fitness Club in Makati.
How then do we strike a balance between eating sensibly and experiencing indulgent culinary joys? Simply follow these three simple rules.
Rule #1: Don’t equate cheat day to a whole day of binging in the nearest restaurant
Depriving yourself of your favorite foods is not just a physical but also a mental struggle. If you’ve been good during weekdays but go into beast mode at every meal on weekends, you could be negating whatever gains you’re making.
“[Massive cheat days] can become a habit and you might think it’s okay as long as you burn them through your workouts until you realize you’re not seeing progress anymore,” warns Alido.
Instead of thinking of your cheat day as 24-hour hall pass for feasting on the nearest food restaurant, think of it as temporary license that allows you to give in to one meal. “Thinking ‘cheat meal’ rather than day is good because it will trick your mind to not feel guilty nor deprived,” says Alido. Also, he adds temporary deviation from your disciplined meal plan will help boost your metabolism because you’re feeding it more fuel than usual—which helps keep your body in calorie burning mode—and that’s a good thing.
Rule #2: Move more during cheat days.
According to the book National Academy of Sports Medicine Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, exercise only accounts for roughly 20 percent of the body’s total calorie (energy) expenditure. Seventy percent comes from the different body processes like respiration and blood circulation. While 10 percent is accounted for by the digestion of food.
When you overeat for all meals during your cheat day, the body ends up storing whatever’s not burned as fat. Aside from squeezing in a workout, squeeze in more non-exercise movement on that particular day to increase the calorie burn of your body. Go for a short brisk walk before you eat your cheat meal and try not to sit down for long periods after. It will help you to torch the temporary indulgence further so it won’t affect your gains.
Rule #3: Pick the right cheat meal
When you’ve been good all week, it’s easy to just pick everything in sight on the nearest restaurant. Most people who are staying in shape opt for low carb meals and on the day you can cheat your diet, pick the opposite. “Choose a high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein meal,” suggests Alido. “Carbohydrates have leptins that help you to burn fat and feel satisfied while protein has the greatest influence on satiety and will make you feel less hungry in the long run.”
A sample meal Alido gives is steak and potato fries. You could have regular fries if you wish with a burger or rice with your favorite saucy ulam. Just remember to keep it to a meal. In the words of The Rock, to achieve your goal you must…