With spring break only a few weeks away, I have seen the gym with a constant influx of students, faculty, and staff in determination to get their beach body ready. However, there is one catch. I tend to see these die-hard, rock hard ab go-getters at the Hamel Recreation Center on Mondays through Saturdays. So where are they on Sunday, you may ask? Well one popular answer put forth by ”Greatist”, a website linked to by the Huffington Post, is that these exercise gurus are on the coach cheating. By cheating, I mean the often belief that since I worked out for six days straight and stuck to my nutrition regiment, I deserve to eat whatever I want for a whole day. I know I’ve sure used this excuse but in reality, is it physically and emotionally healthy for us? Unfortunately while Kelly Fitzpatrick does not suggest a total free for all with our eating habits, she does put forth some great alternatives to reward our hard work without completely ruining our diet.
One of the pro-cheating claims is that cheat days boost metabolism by upping leptin production and in turn, help the body burn more calories after overeating. Leptin is a hormone responsible for maintaining our energy balance and causing weight loss and while some scientific based evidence does support the prior statement, this technique only increases the metabolism by three to ten percent for twenty-four hours. Now, you don’t need to be a math expert to calculate exactly how many calories you would be burning because 3-10% in such a small percentage that it won’t help burn the hundreds to even thousands of extra calories you are consuming. One study found overeating on a high protein diet and high carbohydrates increased resting metabolism; the amount of calories you burn at rest. While eating foods loaded with fat like ice cream and pizza, did not have the same effect. The main takeaway from the diet end of a cheat day is this: To help the body’s metabolism stay at a stable rate and burn calories efficiently, trying a high-carb, high-protein, low-fat, and alcohol free diet will keep you on top of your diet routine.
In addition to the physical effects, there are also physiological ones that come along with cheat days. Psychologists and nutritionists often believe allowing a cheat meal or cheat day to satisfy a craving allows people to stick to otherwise restrictive diets. Diet experts such as Mark Sisson claims, “The key, according to Mark, is getting past the guilt of assigning “good” and “bad” tags to various foods. Rather than turning a minor slip-up into a major back-slide, he says cheaters should simply accept what they ate, and continue with their diet as planned.” I think this is some of the most sound advice and if you want to take a day to splurge on a specific craving rather than binge eating, then that is a-okay!
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