There I was: sitting at the table, staring at my empty plate. Like the plate, I was inanimate, unable to move. It makes a lotof sense, though. I just downed a full pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, a half dozen sour cream-glazed donuts, and a piece of unsatisfying, store-bought cheesecake.
Before eating this meal, I thought of it as epic. After? Evil. Looking back on this meal (and many more like it), I realize how foolish I was. Back then, cheat days were a way to eat every single thing I knew I couldn’t have while dieting. The foods I ate would bring me back to my childhood. The only difference is that everything I ate in my childhood would be somehow eaten in a single cheat day (sometimes a single meal). As you can probably imagine, I was a fat child. Now, I’m a fat kid in a fit body.
When dieting for fat loss, average intake of carbohydrates and calories tend to be low. Over time, your body realizes it is taking in fewer calories than it is burning. In turn, it will try to balance calories-in versus calories-out by becoming more efficient and your metabolism drops. This is not good when fat loss is the goal. Cheat days will trick the body into thinking it is getting enough calories (if not too many) and the body will then ignite its fat burning metabolism.
Mentally, cheating is a great way to incorporate foods you would not normally eat. Nothing is ever off limits; there are just better times to eat certain foods.
The Cheat Day Approach
Philosophies vary for cheat days from an all-out binge to a scientific approach to building more muscle, and reducing all the negative effects such as fat storage and feeling like absolute garbage.
On cheat days, fast in the morning and drink lots of water and green tea, and prepare for the day to come (i.e., buy some pastries from the Farmer’s Market). Near the end of the fast, work out.
The purpose of the workout is to deplete muscular glycogen and activate the glucose transporters in the muscle (GLUT4 and GLUT12). When activated and in the presence of glucose, GLUT4 and GLUT12 will move glucose from the blood into the muscle.
Cheat Day Muscle Building Workout
|1: Front Squat or Deadlift||Work up to heavy set of 5, then back off with 70% of weight used and lift for as many reps as possible||5, AMAP||2-3 min|
|2A: Weighted Chin-up||3||8-12||45 sec|
|2B: Dumbbell Reverse Lunges||3||8-12||45 sec|
|2C: Weighted Push-ups||3||8-12||45 sec|
|3: Goblet Squat||1||20+||n/a|
- Before: 5 g of BCAAs, 200mg Caffeine
- During: 5-10 g of BCAAs
- After: 5-15 g of BCAAs, 200mg Caffeine
The purpose of the amino acids is to slightly increase growth hormone and provide the body with ample amino acids in its system to help initiate protein synthesis. On the other hand, the caffeine is used to decrease insulin sensitivity.
Now, this may seem strange, as most experts recommend that you want your body to be as sensitive to insulin as possible. Yet, when the body is sensitive to insulin, this includes the liver, muscle, and fat. If we decrease sensitivity to insulin by ingesting caffeine, and combine this with activating GLUT4 and GLUT12, then the probability of blood glucose being stored as muscle instead of fat is greatly increased.
Now that we’ve covered the workout and supplementation, let’s get into the good stuff: eating.
Time to Eat
Since it’s a cheat day, the only foods we recommend to avoid are ones that are processed. In other words, stay away from McDonald’s and any other packaged treats you will find at the grocery store. To be clear, we’re not saying avoid hamburgers, doughnuts, and cookies, just don’t have them in their processed forms. This means you will want your cheat foods to be homemade, and should buy them from bakeries, restaurants, and the grandmothers at Farmer’s Markets.
The Secret to Not Feeling Terrible
In order to prevent yourself from feeling terrible from all the cheat foods that you eat, you need to compromise and eat raw, fermented sauerkraut before each meal. This will provide your body with probiotics that will aid in digestion of all the terrible things (and by “terrible,” I mean “delicious”) that are about to hit your stomach. If we ever had a number one tip, this would be it. It’s that good.
Building More Muscle
To make sure the food will continue to go towards building muscle instead of stored fat, it is a good idea to be “pulsing” your body with 5g of BCAAs every 2 hours. This will keep growth hormone higher and give momentum to protein synthesis. If the cheat foods you select do not contain protein, you may want to consider adding in a couple scoops of whey isolate into the mix, but that is your choice.
An Example Cheat Day
- 8:00am – Wakeup, drink a bunch of water.
- 10:00am – Go to Farmer’s Market, buy a pie, tarts, and cookies (all homemade).
- 1:00pm – Workout, follow peri-workout supplementation.
- 2:00pm – Eat a few forkfuls of sauerkraut. Go to restaurant and order pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries.
- 3:00pm – Eat full pecan pie.
- 4:00pm – Drink 5g of BCAAs in water.
- 4:30pm – Eat a few forkfuls of sauerkraut, then 6 peanut butter chocolate cookies crushed up in homemade vanilla ice cream with maple syrup poured over top. Drink 40g of whey isolate in water on side.
- 6:00pm – Drink 5g of BCAAs in water.
- 8:00pm – Drink 5g of BCAAs in water. Eat a few forkfuls of sauerkraut then make bacon and egg sandwiches out of a pound of bacon, homemade bread, free-range eggs, and local cheeses. Have a nice dessert consisting of a few tarts, more ice cream, and an apple turnover.
- 10:00pm – Drink 5g of BCAAs in water. Eat a few forkfuls of sauerkraut then eat another tart.
- 12:00am – Go to bed satisfied.
As you can see, there are few foods off-limits and you are totally allowed to stuff your face. As long as you fast, workout, and take the recommended supplements-you will ignite your metabolism, build more muscle, and store minimal (if any) fat on your cheat day.
Visit Breaking Muscle for more cheat day tricks!