What is Intermittent Fasting | What is a cheat day | Will a cheat day affect my progress | How often should you do a cheat day | Cheat day tips | cheat day foods
Dying for an Intermittent fasting cheat day?
So, you have been Intermittent Fasting for a while. There may have been some high and low points, but ultimately you consistently ate a healthy diet while practicing Intermittent Fasting. Congrats!
Whether it’s been a week, month, or maybe even a year of sticking to your eating plan, you’ve decided it’s time for a cheat day. The good news here is that you can STILL practice intermittent fasting while on a cheat day. Since Intermittent Fasting is a schedule for when you eat, what you eat will not change your fasting and eating windows.
It’s time to have some fun and go all out for a cheat day. We’re talking mouth-watering burgers, decadent milkshakes, and ooey gooey greasy pizza (and maybe some other foods that won’t immediately clog your arteries!).
Wondering how to enjoy your cheat day and maybe get some ideas for cheat day foods? Well, you have come to the right place. We will go over the basics of Intermittent Fasting, some tips to truly enjoy your cheat day, as well as some oh so delicious and indulgent cheat day food ideas. Let’s dig in!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
First, let’s talk about what Intermittent Fasting is and what it isn’t. Intermittent Fasting is a designated time frame where you are not consuming any calories, also called your fasting window. During the remainder of the day or outside of the designated hours, you are consuming all of your calories which is also called your eating window.
The idea is that you are eating during a much smaller window of time during the day and fasting for the majority of the day. Eating during a specific time frame often leads to greater awareness of what you are eating and can limit those late-night eating binges.
There are many types of Intermittent Fasting including 16/8, 18/6, and 14/10 . The different types of Intermittent Fasting allow for the flexibility to pick the hours that fit with your schedule or lifestyle. For example, the most popular type of Intermittent Fasting is 16/8 where you are fasting for 16 hours of the day and eating during an 8-hour window.
Many people who start Intermittent Fasting may find it difficult to fast for 16 hours straight, so the 14/10 option may work better. There are also types of Intermittent Fasting where you fast on certain days of the week by eating an extremely small amount of calories (about 20-25% of energy needs) and eat whatever you like the rest of the week. This is called alternate day fasting or 5/2 Intermittent Fasting.
From health professionals to celebrities, you have likely heard someone talk about all the health benefits from Intermittent Fasting. Most people who try Intermittent Fasting are looking to lose weight or improve certain health markers such as insulin resistance or cholesterol.
Intermittent Fasting can also be used to jump start a weight loss journey or help if you have plateaued in your weight loss. Even though there are no specific food requirements while Intermittent Fasting, a balanced diet with healthy, unprocessed foods is encouraged. With popular diets such as Paleo, Keto, or Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting may speed up the benefits and provide faster weight loss while following these diets.
Whether you are following a specific diet on Intermittent Fasting or just trying Intermittent Fasting alone, it can be hard to know what to eat. If you are looking for a specific meal plan tailored to your needs, check out our 21-Day Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan.
What is a cheat day?
The term cheat day is used to describe a time frame where you “cheat” on a diet or eating pattern you have been following. This could mean an increase in overall calories, eating foods that are higher in fat/carbohydrates, or just having a day where you don’t think about what you are eating. A cheat day doesn’t have to be an entire day.
You could choose to have a cheat meal instead of cheating all day. The key is that it is temporary and not something you normally do. Some may find a cheat meal makes it easier to get back to their normal eating pattern but it’s really whatever works best for you.
Will a cheat day affect my progress?
The short answer is no, for most diets an occasional cheat day will not affect your progress. With Intermittent Fasting, as long as you are keeping your fasting and eating windows consistent, a cheat day should not affect your overall progress.
When following a restrictive diet, it can be good both mentally and physically to have a cheat day every once in a while. One study even showed that short-term carbohydrate overfeeding can boost metabolism and increase overall energy expenditure. A planned cheat day of your favorite high calorie foods can even promote more adherence to your diet by curbing cravings during the rest of the week or month.
One diet that is the exception to this is the ketogenic diet. A study found that hyperglycemia induced blood vessel damage in healthy men who followed a strict keto diet. This means that after achieving ketosis on a ketogenic diet, eating a carbohydrate-heavy meal could potentially cause blood vessel damage. However, just because you follow a keto diet doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on a cheat day. A keto cheat day may look differently than a cheat day on other diets.
How often should you do a cheat day?
While there are no set guidelines on how often you should do a cheat day, something to keep in mind is that the more cheat days you have, the harder it may be to get back on your normal diet. A popular guideline is the 80/20 rule.
For 80% of your meals, follow your diet or normal eating plan and roughly 20% of your meals can include foods that are considered cheat meals. A good rule of thumb is to accept cheat days and plan them as part of your normal routine. This can prevent binge eating and promote success in following your diet.
4 Tips to Enjoy Your Cheat Day
Drop the guilt
You have worked hard at sticking with your diet for a significant amount of time. This is not the time to feel guilty about eating “bad” or unhealthy foods. Think of it as something you have earned. It’s only one day so don’t let the guilt ruin a cheat day for you.
Have a plan
Know when your cheat day will start and when it will end. This will make it easier to go back to your regular diet plan and allow you to fully enjoy your cheat day when it happens. You may even want to plan which foods to eat on your cheat day. It’s supposed to be fun and sometimes a little planning can go a long way.
Make it special
Feeling stressed at work? Probably not a good time for a cheat day. To get the most out of your cheat day, you will want to choose a day where you can relax and enjoy yourself. Think of it as a mini vacation.
Enjoy with family or friends
If you have a family member’s birthday coming up or maybe one of your friends is in town for the weekend, it might be a good time to plan a cheat day. It can be more fun to enjoy your cheat day with others, especially if it is a special occasion. Not having to worry about following a diet makes celebrations or holidays that much more fun.
Foods to Try During Your Cheat Day
Just because it’s your cheat day, doesn’t mean you have to ignore all healthy food principles. There are many ways to enjoy an indulgent meal and ensure that it’s balanced with carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Additionally there are simple swaps you can use to make a dish healthier without sacrificing flavor. Below, you will find several cheat day food choices along with some ideas to make them healthier.
Whether you go to your favorite ice cream shop or make one at home, be sure to include all the extras. Yes, even whipped cream and a cherry on top (if you’re into that). A slightly healthier alternative to a milkshake could be a smoothie.
You can really put anything into a smoothie and a fun way to do this is recreate your favorite milkshake with smoothie ingredients. There are many recipes that create a milkshake-like smoothie experience. One of my favorite smoothies that tastes almost like a milkshake includes:
- 1 banana
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 cup vanilla whole milk yogurt
- ½ cup milk (or chocolate milk for extra chocolate-y flavor)
- Drizzle of chocolate syrup
A classic cheat day splurge, you really can’t go wrong with pizza. From ham and pineapple to classic pepperoni, the options are endless to include on your cheat day. If you want a slightly healthier pizza option, try loading your pizza with extra veggies like peppers, mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli. Ordering thin crust can also make this cheat meal not quite as carb-heavy while still enjoying the pizza flavor.
If you are craving chocolate fudge-like flavor on your cheat day, brownies are an excellent choice. If you are looking for a slightly healthier version, I recommend these avocado brownies which replace nearly all of the butter with healthy fat from avocados and are gluten free.
Spaghetti with meatballs? Fettuccine alfredo? There are so many options you can make with pasta that make it a great choice for a cheat day meal. Throw in some protein (like chicken) and add a few vegetables for a more complete meal. You can also substitute regular noodles for whole wheat noodles to add more fiber.
Oftentimes, people forget that specialty coffee drinks like lattes and mochas have a lot of extra sugar and calories. This makes coffee drinks a perfect choice on a cheat day.
A cheat day is the perfect time to skip the black coffee and indulge in coffee with all the extras. Pumpkin spice latte? Caramel macchiato? Go to your closest Starbucks or coffee shop and grab one on your cheat day. But, if you’re looking to moderate your calories, you can always ask for your favorite coffee drink with half the sugar or opt for 2% milk instead of cream.
It’s important to remember to have fun on your Intermittent Fasting cheat day!
Enjoy the foods that you love and indulge those cravings. Remember to have a plan to return to your normal eating plan after you have enjoyed your cheat day. With a little planning, you can successfully have a fun cheat day that doesn’t affect the progress you have made.
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