Best Foods for Cheat Day
There’s been a few questions that have come up about what people eat on cheat days. Though most people go wild, and clear out their closest fast food chains, other people hit some unusual stuff, like delicacies from overseas, or handmade truffle chocolates. I sometimes get the evil eye from Kat when I spoon out a bowlful of natural yogurt and fill it with trail mix, banana, and berries – it doesn’t exactly look like a ‘cheat meal’, but it’s packed with carbs, loads of sugar and hits the spot for me. So that begs the question: are there ‘best foods’ for cheat day, or is everything fair game and equal? Read on to discover things aren’t all on the level.
Cheat day is great for two reasons: 1/ It’s a mental break from the same foods, over and over again. 2/ It’s a physical break from about the same number of calories, and a relatively low carbohydrate diet. So we’ll look at the best cheat day foods for each.
1/ Best foods for a mental break
The simple answer for this section is that whatever you have been craving is the right thing to eat. Don’t worry about the food you’re eating – don’t limit it, don’t try to manage the food. Do the ‘damage control’ exercises, take PAGG, perhaps have a weights workout, and enjoy the day as your reward.
2/ Best foods for a break from low-carbs, and low-ish calories
This section is a little more complex than the first, and that’s because the slow carb diet is a variation of a cyclical ketogenic diet, which means you have a period of lower carbohydrate intake, during which your body becomes adapted to burning fat for energy, instead of glucose. Then, regularly, you have a day where you switch the kinds of food you are taking in, and ‘break’ that ketosis period. This switches things in the body, as it adapts back to glucose from carbohydrates, and you have other changes in the body, such as changes in water retention.
For this section, the best foods are those that are high in carbohydrates. These don’t necessarily need to be sugar however, and that’s an important thing to note. Anything like cereal, bread, pasta, pizza base, etc is high in carbohydrates compared to the beans and vegetables eaten during the week. For that reason, sweets aren’t necessarily the best option, as they are generally pure sugar, with no much other nutrition. If you head for starchy meals with protein and fat, like giant bread rolls with meats, and sauces (thanks to Justin for the correction on the GI of bread – it’s higher than Coke!), like cheese and bacon potatoes with salad on the side, you digest this relatively slowly, compared to a bag full of candies. Likewise, if you hit a pizza, the fat will slow down digestion, as will the other toppings.
So, think in terms of carbohydrates for cheat meals, and ones that offer loads of flavor. Carbohydrates are the main nutrient you’re replenishing, having not had a lot of them during the week. Some fat will likely come along for the ride, and if you’re wondering about protein… keeping it about the same as the other days is a good idea (about 1g per lb of lean body mass). But, that’s not to say you need to labor over these details, just that some people like to have them, to keep in mind. The bottom line is that most everybody’s cheat day is working, and very few people ‘engineer’ their cheat day so specifically.
The second part of this break is to spike calories, and generally speaking, a meal that is higher carbohydrate, and moderate in fat is likely to answer this need comprehensively. If you’re concerned that you’re not spiking your calories high enough, try taking a meal diary online for a cheat day, and see if your total is over 3000 or 3500 calories.. you’re doing well if it is. If it’s 5000, then you have nothing to worry about, as Tim topped out at 6000 calories in his cheat day binge.
Last but not least, foods that speed up your digestive system are good to include, especially if you heading north of 4000 calories. If it goes through you faster, you won’t absorb as much of it. Tim uses various forms of caffeine and spices to achieve this.
The key to cheat day food and meals
Put simply, there is a difference between eating all you want, and force feeding yourself endless amounts of food that make you feel sick. There’s a happy balance in there, that you need to find. Don’t feel compelled to stuff yourself full for the whole day, but don’t prevent yourself from eating for any reason. After a few goes, you should find a pretty good balance – eating ‘as much as you want’ is a very, very fun way to pass a weekend day.
What are your favorite cheat day foods? Do you have special ones that you dream about all week? Or some great tips for people who might be looking for some variety? Leave a comment below!
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