Last updated on September 16th, 2022 at 10:06 am
It’s something that many of us think about, “Should I Fast After a Cheat Day?”
You’ve literally eaten everything in sight and been on an all-out binge.
So, you probably don’t feel too great the following morning, plus you have a slight hatred for yourself too.
This is typically why you think you should fast after a cheat day.
However, is this really the best option?
Allow me to explain the ins-and-outs of your nutrition following a cheat day.
Should I Fast After a Cheat Day?
There is no reason to fast after a cheat day. In fact, it is usually more useful to incorporate a cheat day into your overall weekly calories. Therefore, a better approach would be to eat slightly fewer calories for the other 6 days a week. This means you can be guilt-free on your cheat day and still hit the perfect number of calories for the week. You can also try intuitive eating the following day. Plus, you can eat fewer carbs after cheat day, as your glycogen stores will be replenished.
1. It’s Better to Look at Weekly Calories
There’s literally so much to think about when it comes to fasting after a cheat day.
However, from a personal perspective, unless you’re actually following some type of intermittent fasting diet, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Plus, even if you are intermittent fasting, the day after cheat day probably isn’t the best.
Firstly, you’ll generally always feel quite hungry after a cheat day anyway.
So, if you do try fasting the following day you’re going to find it a lot harder than other days of the week.
For me, the best approach is to look at your overall weekly calories, as opposed to taking one-day at a time.
By this I mean that you should actually look to eat slightly less of the other six days a week.
This means that you can enjoy your cheat day completely guilt-free.
Let’s say that your daily calorie limit is 3,000 calories.
Therefore, over the period of a week you’re looking to consume 21,000 calories.
Now, if you were to knock off as little as 200 calories a day you could still consume 2,800 calories for six days a week.
This would therefore allow you to consume 4,200 calories on your cheat day, while still remaining within your weekly calorie allowance.
Personally, I would even eat a couple of low-calorie, high-protein meals during the day.
This would allow me to really splurge on one massive cheat meal without having to feel any guilt whatsoever.
This also means that even if you feel hungry the following day you go back to eating the way you normally would.
So, rather than looking at your diet and nutrition one-day at a time, you should aim to hit a certain calorie “allowance” over the entire week.
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2. Your Best Workout After Cheat Day
Another reason why I don’t think it’s a good idea to fast after a cheat day is due to your levels of activity.
We all typically want to get into the gym after a cheat day.
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The main thought is to try to undo some of the “damage” we may have caused.
With that being said, I tend to look at the day after cheat day in a slightly different light.
One of the best things about having a regular cheat day is that it gives you that mental break from having to follow a strict diet.
So, realistically you should feel good about yourself rather than worrying about the aftermath.
However, something else to consider is that your glycogen stores will be replenished.
Let’s face facts, a cheat day typically involves a fair few “bad carbs”, most of which we avoid for the rest of the week.
But, as I say, these carbs will top up your glycogen stores and kick your metabolic rate up a notch too.
The outcome is that you’re likely to have a fantastic workout the following day.
In fact, it’s not unheard-of to hit some PRs the day after cheat day.
So, realistically you should look to “go big” after cheat day.
This may involve a really heavy and intense leg session.
Then again, you may want to hit all the big, heavy, barbell compound movements.
Whatever you decide, I often think the following day is a great day for that real big workout.
However, if you’re going to go big in the gym then it makes sense to refuel straight afterwards.
So, you’ll want a good mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.
The last thing you want is to literally waste a great workout through a lack of proper recovery.
3. Intuitive Eating vs. Fasting
Something else to consider following a cheat day is intuitive eating.
To be honest, intuitive eating is more of a concept, as opposed to a one-day solution.
What you’re basically doing is rejecting the diet mentality.
So, foods are no longer labelled as “good” or “bad”.
You simply eat what you want and when you want to.
Now, this may initially sound like yet another cheat day, but it is far from that.
Your aim here is to simply eat whenever you feel hungry so that you feel fed and satisfied.
However, you should also respect your body, so once you do feel full you simply stop eating.
A lot of people view intuitive eating as an “anything goes type mentality”, and therefore they expect to put on weight.
But, I’m not talking about a complete lifestyle change here and following intuitive eating on a permanent basis.
I simply mean to eat whenever you feel like it following a cheat day.
As I’ve mentioned, you’re likely to hungry the next day, especially first thing in the morning.
So, it’s not a bad idea to fill this void before you go and hit that great workout in the gym.
Then look to refuel immediately afterwards, and then play it by ear for the rest of the day.
More often than not, you may feel quite well-fed and satisfied after a couple of meals.
Plus, you may even end up consuming far fewer calories than you would by returning to a strict diet.
I also think that this approach will have you worrying far less following a cheat day and you may even surprise yourself at your food choices.
I Tried Intuitive Eating For 7 Days
4. Try Carb-Cycling Rather Than Fasting
A final method following a cheat day is to cycle your carbs rather than fasting completely.
As I’ve alluded to above, a cheat day typically involves consuming a lot more carbs than you usually would.
I mean, the foods that we all generally love and often view as “bad” are normally very carb and sugar heavy.
I’m talking about some of the firm favourites like pizza, burgers, fries, Chinese or Indian takeaway, fried chicken, ice cream, cakes, etc.
So, in effect, you’ll probably consume more carbs on a cheat day than you normally would most other days of the week.
Therefore, rather than completely cutting out food altogether on the next day you could just be more sensible about your carb selection.
In fact, this may even involve having a very low-carb or even a no-carb day.
Personally, I wouldn’t completely cut out the carbs altogether, especially if you are doing an intense workout in the gym.
However, a lower carb day may help you to get back on track rather than fasting for the entire day.
So, as you can see, from a personal perspective I don’t believe you should fast after a cheat day.
You would be far better off working your cheat day into your overall weekly calories.
This way you can enjoy a cheat day completely guilt-free.
You’re also likely to feel quite hungry the following morning, so this will make fasting for the entire day quite a struggle.
You could also try intuitive eating by simply eating what and when you want, but only until you are full and satiated.
Finally, you can try carb-cycling by simply lowering your carb intake the day after a cheat day.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.