Having cheat days are normal, and they can be a rewarding break from your regular diet. A sumptuous indulgence in your favorite treats on a cheat day can be a much-needed relief, offering a temporary escape from the rigors of a structured diet plan.
However, it’s not uncommon to feel a sense of guilt after a cheat day, particularly if you’ve consumed a significant number of calories in a single sitting. This guilt often leads to the desire to “get back on track” quickly and mitigate the potential negative effects of overindulging. One strategy that has gained popularity in recent years is fasting after a cheat day.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of fasting after a cheat day, including how intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, reduce fat storage, and recover from the occasional binge eating episode.
Fasting After A Cheat Day To Lose Weight
One of the primary reasons people opt for fasting after a cheat day is to mitigate the potential weight gain that can result from indulging in calorie-rich cheat meals. When you consume excessive calories in a single day, your body stores the excess as fat. Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, can help you create a calorie deficit, which is essential for weight loss.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, and it can take various forms. In certain fasting practices, it involves a deliberate abstention from consuming anything, including beverages like water, for a specified duration.
Fasting after a cheat day can effectively offset the caloric surplus from the indulgent meals. By abstaining from food for a specified period, you allow your body to utilize the stored energy (glycogen) and tap into fat reserves for fuel1. This process aids in weight loss by creating a calorie deficit throughout the week, helping you shed any excess pounds gained during your cheat day.
Resetting After A Cheat Day
Cheat days can lead to temporary weight gain due to the extra calories, sodium, and carbohydrates consumed. However, this weight gain is not necessarily fat gain. Much of it can be attributed to water retention and the increased glycogen storage in your muscles and liver, both of which are a result of overeating2.
Fasting after a cheat day can help you reset your body’s systems. When you fast, you naturally reduce your sodium and carbohydrate intake, which aids in shedding the excess water weight acquired during the cheat day. Additionally, fasting helps regulate blood sugar levels, making it easier to get back to your regular eating habits without feeling sluggish or constantly hungry.
Benefits Of Fasting After A Cheat Day
Let’s delve deeper into the multiple advantages of incorporating fasting into your routine following a cheat day.
1. Regaining Control
One common post-cheat day feeling is a sense of guilt and a loss of control over your eating habits. Fasting can provide the structure and discipline you need to regain control. Knowing that you have a planned fasting period can make you more conscious of your food choices throughout the day.
Fasting helps you regain a sense of balance and serves as a powerful tool for both mental and physical preparation. This preparation makes it easier to resist the temptation to continue indulging in cheat meals.
2. Reducing Fat Storage
Concerns often arise following a cheat day regarding the potential for fat storage. Excess calories consumed during indulgence are typically converted into fat and stored for future use. Fasting after a cheat day can help mitigate this fat storage by creating a temporary calorie deficit.
A 24-hour fast, often referred to as a “24-hour fast after a cheat day,” can help you burn fat and reduce the likelihood of excess calories being stored as fat. During a fast, your body switches to burning stored fat for energy, contributing to a reduction in body fat.
3. Combating Binge Eating
Cheat days can sometimes lead to binge eating episodes, characterized by a loss of control and excessive consumption of unhealthy foods. Fasting can effectively interrupt this cycle by establishing clear boundaries on your eating window. By committing to a fasting period, you can prevent overconsumption and regain control over your eating habits.
4. Improving Insulin Sensitivity
As briefly mentioned, fasting after a cheat day can enhance insulin sensitivity3. Consuming high-carb or sugary foods on a cheat day can lead to blood sugar spikes and excessive insulin release. Frequent insulin spikes can contribute to insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting and fasting after a cheat day can help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. By giving your body a break from processing a constant influx of carbohydrates, you enable it to manage glucose levels more effectively, reducing the risk of insulin resistance.
5. Promoting Mindful Eating
Fasting provides an opportunity to practice mindful eating. It makes you more aware of the foods you consume and their effects on your body. Mindful eating helps you eat less during binge or compulsive eating, making you more in tune with your body’s signals and less influenced by outside triggers that lead to overeating4. After fasting, you can make healthier food choices and improve your overall relationship with food.
6. Enhancing Digestive Function
Fasting after a cheat day can offer your digestive system a much-needed break, allowing it to reset and recover. This can lead to improved digestion, reduced bloating, and a feeling of lightness after the indulgent cheat day5.
7. Supporting Long-Term Goals
Fasting after a cheat day is not just about immediate recovery; it’s part of a long-term strategy to balance indulgence with health. This approach allows you to enjoy your favorite foods while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
8. Consistency and Progress
Consistency is key when it comes to fasting after a cheat day. This strategy should be incorporated into your long-term eating habits to maintain a healthy balance. Monitoring your progress, understanding how fasting affects your body, and consulting with healthcare professionals or nutritionists when necessary are essential components of a successful journey.
How To Recover A Cheat Day Using A Fast
Fasting can be an effective tool to recover from a cheat day. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use fasting for post-cheat day recovery:
Step 1: Choose the Right Fasting Method
Begin by selecting a fasting method that suits your preferences and lifestyle. Options include intermittent fasting, a 24-hour fast, or a simple overnight fast. Make sure to choose the one that aligns best with your routine. A more detailed background of the best fasting methods will be provided later in the article.
Step 2: Plan Your Fasting Window
Determine when you want to start and end your fasting period. You can opt for fasting on the day immediately following your cheat day, starting in the morning and ending in the evening. Alternatively, you can choose a 24-hour fast that begins during your cheat day’s evening and concludes the following evening. Make sure to set clear fasting hours for your convenience.
Step 3: Stay Hydrated
During your fast, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout fasting to help control hunger and support your body’s natural detoxification processes.
Step 4: Break Your Fast Mindfully
When you decide to end your fast, do so thoughtfully. Start with a nutritious meal that includes lean protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Avoid diving straight back into unhealthy foods, as this can undo the benefits of your fasting. Make sure to pay attention to portion sizes and control your meal composition.
Step 5: Limit Sugar and Processed Foods
After fasting, it’s vital to continue making healthy food choices. Minimize sugar, processed foods, and excessive carbohydrates in your first post-fast meal. Instead, focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods to nourish your body.
Step 6: Control Portion Sizes
Be mindful of your portion sizes, especially in the first few meals after your fast. It’s easy to overeat when you break a fast, so make sure to listen to your body’s hunger cues and avoid excessive consumption.
Step 7: Balance Macronutrients
Strive for a balanced meal that includes proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This combination can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.
Step 8: Incorporate Exercise
Engage in moderate physical activity during and after your fast to further enhance your body’s metabolism and calorie-burning processes. A brisk walk, light jog, or bodyweight exercise can be beneficial.
Step 9: Monitor Your Progress
Keep track of your food intake, fasting periods, and how you feel throughout the process. This can help you understand how fasting affects your body and how it contributes to your overall goals.
Step 10: Stay Consistent
Consistency is key when using fasting to recover from a cheat day. It’s not just about a one-time fast; it’s about incorporating these strategies into your long-term eating habits to maintain a healthy balance.
Best Fasting Methods
While fasting can be a powerful tool for recovery after a cheat day, it’s important to choose the fasting method that suits you best. Here are some of the best fasting methods to consider:
1. Intermittent Fasting (IF): As mentioned, this approach involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Popular options include the 16/8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window, and the 5:2 method, which includes two non-consecutive days of very low-calorie intake and five regular eating days.
2. 24-Hour Fast: A 24-hour fast, also known as the “Eat-Stop-Eat” method, involves fasting for a full day, typically from dinner to dinner or lunch to lunch. This is a more extended fasting period that can be effective for those looking to create a substantial calorie deficit.
4. OMAD (One Meal A Day): OMAD involves consuming all your daily calories in a single meal, often within a one-hour window. This approach simplifies fasting and eating periods, making it easier to manage.
5. Water Fasting: Water fasting is a more extreme fasting method where you consume only water for an extended period. It should be done with caution and under supervision due to its potential health risks.
Each fasting method has its unique advantages and considerations. It’s essential to choose the one that aligns with your lifestyle, preferences, and health goals.
Fasting after a cheat day is a powerful strategy for regaining control, losing weight, and maintaining a healthy balance in your diet. It’s a good idea to use fasting as a means to offset the temporary weight gain that often accompanies indulgence, ensuring that a single cheat meal doesn’t derail your progress.
Additionally, fasting can help prevent the development of unhealthy binge-eating patterns. By making mindful food choices, staying hydrated, and embracing fasting as part of your long-term approach to health, you can effectively recover from a cheat day and continue your journey toward a healthier you.
Always consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist before making significant changes to your diet or fasting regimen, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.
2 Kreitzman, S. N., Coxon, A. Y., & Szaz, K. F. (1992). Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 56(1 Suppl), 292S–293S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/56.1.292S
3 Sutton, E. F., Beyl, R., Early, K. S., Cefalu, W. T., Ravussin, E., & Peterson, C. M. (2018). Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes. Cell metabolism, 27(6), 1212–1221.e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.04.010
4 Mason, A. E., Epel, E. S., Kristeller, J., Moran, P. J., Dallman, M., Lustig, R. H., Acree, M., Bacchetti, P., Laraia, B. A., Hecht, F. M., & Daubenmier, J. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. Journal of behavioral medicine, 39(2), 201–213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9692-8