Everyone has heard of cheat meals and cheat days. Most people have had a cheat meal or a cheat day while on any kind of diet. But can you include a cheat meal or even a cheat day in your Keto diet without breaking ketosis? Or will that occasional high-carb food splurge completely mess up your whole program? In this article we are going to talk about all the fact that you need to know before indulging in your next cheat meal or cheat day while on keto diet.
If you are new to the Keto diet and are about to start out, make sure you check out our “How to Start the Keto Diet” Article, where we explain to you everything you need to know before you get started. If you are already on Keto diet and are considering a cheat meal or a cheat day, check out our “Top 9 Health benefits of Keto Diet” Article to keep you motivated and focused on your goals!
What are Cheat Meals and Cheat Days?
The terms cheat meal and cheat day have recently gained in popularity among fitness enthusiasts around the world. People stick to a strict diet for the whole week, or month and then, for one meal or maybe even a whole day, they let themselves succumb to whatever food their heart desires. Often these cheat meals consist of burgers, pizza, ice cream, soft drinks, alcohol and all the other great tasting but unhealthy treats that are out there.
So what’s the difference between cheat meals and cheat days? Well that’s easy to explain. If you are eating healthy and following your rulebook the whole day, but then you decide to splurge on Dinner, then you are having a cheat meal. If you decide to go all out the entire day and cancel all your diet rules for a whole day and just eat whatever you heart (and stomach) desires, then you are having a cheat day.
What are the Benefits of Cheat Meals and Cheat Days?
In theory, cheat meals, or cheat days are supposed to increase the production of leptin, which boosts your bodies metabolism. A boosted metabolism is said to burn more calories after overeating and therefore leads to a better functioning diet. However, recent studies have shown that overeating and “cheating” your diet is only thought to boost your metabolism by a lame 2-8% for a maximum of 24 hours. Not very effective.
However, cheat days do have actual benefits for your body. If you have been following any strict diet for a long time, your glycogen stores in your muscles are most probably rather limited. This can decrease your workout performance and lead to more frequent feelings of fatigue. An occasional cheat meal and cheat day can replenish your glycogen storages in your muscles which in return will give you higher energy levels.
However, going completely overboard on your cheat meal or cheat day can set you back with your weight loss goal and can even kick you out of ketosis.
What are the Drawbacks of Cheat Days?
While for some people cheat days represent a welcome rest from a strict and long-lasting streak of self-discipline, which in turn helps boost commitment and motivation for the future, for others it can completely throw them off their training and diet plans.
In reality cheat days and cheat meals are similar to that one cigarette or that on beer if you have been clean for a while. They can set you up for irreparable damages and completely destroy the habits you have been working so hard for the days and weeks before that.
Cheat days will also create more intense cravings in the long run. Studies have shown that people on keto diets experience reduced appetite and hunger cravings. Of course, these benefits don’t come into play overnight, but over time, you will also start feeling this. If you however start adding cheat meals and cheat days to your diet, you will quickly loose this benefit of reduced appetite and hunger cravings because your body will go back to craving carbs more often.
The intake of an extremely high fat, high calorie and high sugar meal could take many days for your body to rebound from and put you on a path towards long-term failure because you will start having more and more cheat meals and cheat days during your diet.
Will a Cheat Meal or Cheat Day Ruin my Keto Diet?
Unfortunately, for all of you out there that are currently reading this and deciding whether to go for that desired cheat meal or cheat day, the answer to the above asked question is yes. Cheat days are of for some diets, and can even work well with some diets. But not for your keto diet.
A recent study from the University of British Columbia in Canada has found that if you are on the keto diet, you should limit your days of consuming 50+ grams of carbs or more to a maximum of three to four per year! The reason for this is quite simple. When your body gets flooded with sugars after a long low-carb diet, cell damage in your muscles and other body parts can occur. Though cells return to full function once blood sugar levels drop off, an intense cheat meal or cheat day can lead to long-lasting damage of your cells.
So instead of ruining your Keto diet cause of on cheat meal or one cheat day, focus on why you are doing a Keto diet and keep eating low-carb and high fat and protein meals. If you are unsure of how much protein you should consume while on Keto, check out our “How Much Protein to Eat on the keto Diet” article.
Before you start your keto diet (if you haven’t done so already) get the thought of cheat days out of your head! Because they are a no-go.
Instead of having a Cheat Meal or a Cheat Day, how can I treat myself while on Keto?
Turn your thoughts away from using food as a reward. Reward yourself in a different way while on keto diet. Because in the end, you wouldn`t reward yourself for not smoking with a cigarette, right?
So what are some other options for a nice treat that you can reward yourself with? Buy yourself a traditional piggy bank, and for every day you managed to stick to your keto diet rulebook, put a $5 bill into that piggy bank. Maybe even predefine a goal of what you want to do with the money you are planning to save. Maybe take that vacation you have always wanted to take, or buy a new car, or get a new watch.
Some people also turn their desire for eating unhealth foods into energy for the gym. Think about next summer, and your beach body. Instead of indulging in some unnecessary treats, put on your gym clothes and do some intervals, or a core workout, or lift some weights. It will take you mind of the unnecessary junk food that will ruin your diet.
If you really want to stick to foods for your treats, then there are also some great keto friendly recipes and sweets out there. A great alternative are zero sugar Jello cups, or keto friendly brownies made from dark chocolate. Just dark chocolate is also a great option. Its very healthy, its keto friendly, and it gives you (almost) the feeling of eating chocolate.
A very simple and basic way to treat yourself is to just hit the scale and look in the mirror and compare the results from your Keto diet to pictures you took before you started the keto diet. This strategy is great if you have been on keto for a while and seen lots of great results already. Because it will always remind you how far you have come.
The Takeaway – Can I include Cheat Days while on Keto?
No. That’s the simple answer to this question. Cheat meals and cheat days will ruin everything you have worked so hard for, and they will most likely kick you out of ketosis and can even harm you. Check out our suggested list of treats that will help you feel better while staying on keto without splurging on those high-carb foods. Be sure to check out our very interesting article on “Keto and Intermittent fasting” where you will learn how to combine these two very popular diets to boost your fat loss even more.
If you read this article after you already had a cheat meal or cheat day, don’t worry. In our previous article “Speed up your way to Ketosis” we talk about how you can jump right back into ketosis with BHB supplements. We will tell you what BHB supplements are and how they help you get back on the right track.