When trying to lose weight, it is often hard to stay on track 100% of the time. It is perfectly okay to have a cheat day every one in awhile. How many cheat days per month are acceptable for you while still being successful in your weight loss journey?
As a general rule, you do not want to exceed 4-6 cheat days per month when trying to lose weight.
Of course, losing weight does not depend on how many cheat days a month you are penciling in on your eating schedule. It is plain and simple, calories in and calories out are what really determine your weight loss.
You need to still be tracking overall calories in on these cheat days and not using them as a time to eat anything and everything you desire without being mindful of overall calorie intake.
This is why I will explain to you an alternative to cheat days that can benefit you and will allow a clearer path to success with weight loss.
Read on to learn more.
How Many Cheat Days Per Month Is Acceptable?
Cheat days are okay, and as long as you stay in a range of 4-6 cheat days per month max, you will still be able to lose weight successfully as long as you are aware of overall calorie intake on these days.
This would mean you would have on average 1 cheat meal per week or possibly even 2 maximum.
This means that you should not have more than eight cheat days per month unless you are trying to gain weight as opposed to lose it.
Most people find that four cheat days per month is about perfect for them and allows room for indulging without sacrifycing results.
This will allow you to have on average one “cheat day” per week. This in all truth just means you will be consuming more calories on these days then you do on other days.
If you feel like you need more or fewer cheat days, you can experiment and see what works best for you, and if you have some excess calorie room to manage a higher amount of cheat days.
What is so very important to remember, is that you still need to count calories on these days and be aware of how many calories you are actually consuming.
A cheat day should not consist of a calorie intake of 5,000-6,000 calories as this would likely throw you off course for the week, especially when done multiple times.
Why Should I Not Exceed 8 Cheat Days In One Month?
You should not be exceeding 8 cheat days per month because there will be a high likelyhood that you are actually putting yourself into a calorie surplus instead of a calorie deficit.
If you do not already know by now, a calorie deficit is REQUIRED to lose body fat and lose weight.
While most often focus on a weekly calorie deficit, it is actually what you do over weeks to months that matter.
You need to stay in a calorie deficit consistently over time in order to see results.
If you are having 8-10 cheat days per month and are not being extremely calorie conscious of how many calories you are consuming, you are likely not going to have the success you are after.
You need to be in a caloric deficit over time to lose weight, and if you are not consistently reaching that deficit, your results are likely to be lackluster or non-existent.
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Cheat Day Impact on Calorie Deficit
Let’s take for example someone who wishes to be in a 500 calorie per day deficit and consumes on average 2,000 calories per day. This would mean their maintenence calorie amount is somewhere near 2,500 calories per day.
This person knows they need to eat below their maintenance calorie amount for weight loss, so sticking with 2,000 calories per day is just perfect for them and will allow then to lose on average 1 lb of body fat per week or 3,500 calories overall deficit.
Now let’s say this person chose to have two cheat days per week of 4,000 calories.
If this person did this every single week, they would NOT be in a calorie deficit, and would likely see no results. In fact, they might actually gain some weight.
- Monday: 2,000 calories intake
- Tuesday: 2,000 calories intake
- Wednesday: 4,000 calorie cheat day
- Thursday: 4,000 calorie cheat day
- Friday: 2,000 calories intake
- Saturday: 2,000 calories intake
- Sunday: 2,000 calories intake
This person’s total calorie intake for the week would be around 18,000 calories total, which would unfortunately bring them ABOVE their total calories needed to maintain their weight (17,500 calories)
This is why it is very important to pay attention to how many calories you consume on cheat days, especially if you find you are doing them more often than normal.
Related Post: 15 Tips To Make a Calorie Deficit Easy
Should Calories Still Be Counted On A Cheat Day?
You should absolutely be counting calories on a cheat day, as it will be extremely easy to place yourself into a calorie surplus if you do not.
If you have cheat days where you are not tracking any calories you are consuming and eating anything and everything that you want, you are likely not going to have very much luck with weight loss.
This is because by consuming large amounts of calories on cheat days is going to counteract any of the progress you made while you were actually in a deficit, and actually out you into a surplus of calories.
If you continue to not count calories on cheat days and do this multiple times per month or week, you are likely to undo any progress made and might actually even gain weight.
Calories matter, and calories in vs. calories out will always be what determines success with fat loss.
Getting The Term “Cheat Day” Out Of Your Head
If you are struggling with your overall calorie deficit and feel that you are resulting to including cheat days in your weekly meal plan in order to feel satisfied, it may be best to just forget the term cheat day altogether.
When you focus on weekly deficits and breaking your journey up into manageable chunks, you will be more successful in your long term weight loss goals.
What this means, is that instead of worrying about having a “cheat day” here and there and worrying about if it is having a negative impact, you can completely change your calorie intake schedule. This is known as calorie cycling.
Calorie Cycling Rather Than Cheat Days
Calorie cycling simply refers to the practice of alternating between periods of consuming more or less calories than you burn instead of the same calorie amount every day.
This allows you for some diversification in your diet but will also ensure that you are burning more calories than you are eating over a period of time.
Calorie cycling has a myriad of benefits, including improved weight loss, higher chances of sticking to your calorie deficit, decreased hunger pangs, and less chances of weight loss plateau.
Most importatly, this allows you to eat more on some days and less on others. This is perfect for someone who likes to have days where they can enjoy more calories, such as on weekends for example.
This eating schedule also benefits those who like to work out. You can eat more food on your work out days and less on days where you don’t work out at all.
By doing this, you will eventually reach a state where cheat days no longer have an impact on your weight loss journey, because you are able to work your “cheat days” into your eating schedule automatically.
For example, someone who is in a calorie deficit and chooses to consume 1,800 calories per day will consume a total number of 12,600 calories in one week.
If this person chooses to participate in calorie cycling, they might have a weekly calorie intake plan that looks like this:
- Monday: Consume 1800 calories
- Tuesday: Consume 1800 calories
- Wednesday: Consume 1800 calories
- Thursday: 1,400
- Friday: Consume 2,200 calories
- Saturday: 2,200 calories
- Sunday: 1,400 calories
This way, they are still in a deficit over time, but they are allowing themselves to have some “cheat” days built in where more calories can be consumed than normal.
What is important to mention, is that they are still hitting their weekly calorie goal of 12,600 calories!
Related Post: How Many Calories Do You Absorb In One Sitting?
Cheat Days Or Cheat Meals?
Cheat meals are a far better alternative to cheat days because they allow you to eat more food for one single meal which you can then counteract with your other meals later in the day.
A cheat meal is simply a meal where you eat more calories than you normally would for a meal, but you do not go overboard and eat so many calories that you are actually in a surplus.
For example, if you chose to have a cheat meal consisting of a Big Mac and a Small Fry from McDonald’s, this would bring you in at about 800 calories.
If you have a calorie intake budget for the day of 1,800 calories, you still have 1,000 calories left for the day to play with, so you would just need to spread these 800 extra calories throughout the day.
This is a great way to have “cheat” meals without actually cheating and still reach your calorie goal for the day.
What To Do If You Went Overboard On A Cheat Day
If you went a little overboard on your cheat day and you consumed too many calories, the number one thing you should not do is restrict yourself the days following.
This will cause you to feel increased hunger and cravings, which will make it hard to stick to your calorie deficit. It will also cause you to feel a sense of shame or that you ruined everything.
The best thing to do is to continue your calorie deficit as before and not dwell on it.
You will be able to start right back up and it will be almost like that day never happened.
We all slip up now and then, and you should never punish yourself. It is important to maintain a positive relationship with food and health overall.
If you choose to do any single thing after a cheat day mishap, it should be to get some extra steps or a workout in.
Walking and strength training are a great way to burn some additional calories. If you are feeling down about your cheat day gone bad, exercising will help you to burn some additional calories.
Also, getting up and moving will also help you feel better and more motivated. Remember, exercise releases endorphins and can increase your mood.
Cheat days are perfectly fine to do, but it is important that you are still aware of the overall calories consumed on a cheat day, and it is also a good idea not to exceed 8 cheat days in a month.
If you do stumble across one day where you do not track calories because of whatever reason (a wedding, a birthday party) do not become frustrated and quit. One cheat day in itself has never halted anyone’s progress.
However, if you are having cheat days multiple times per month and have no clue how many calories you are consuming on those days, your progress is likely to suffer.
It is so vital to be calorie conscious. If you are a beginner to weight loss, I recommend tracking all calories in until you become more comfortable.
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