If you are a fitness noob, when it comes to building muscle, getting ripped and burning excess fat, you might believe that clean eating is the only way of reaching a great physique.
It is true that eating cleanly (lean proteins, good carbohydrates and good dietary fats) is vital for fueling the body when you want to build muscle and scorch through extra fat.
It may also be just as vital to have an occasional diet cheat day to help you continue shedding fat and avoid hitting that dreaded weight loss plateau.
A diet cheat day will also go a long way towards revitalizing your workout intensity and it is a smart strategy when wanting to make progress in terms of building muscle.
Let’s take a look at why cheat meals or a diet cheat day can be so helpful for one’s physique goals.
1. A Cheat Day Stokes Your Metabolism
If you’ve been cutting weight for some time, you might notice that after a while your weight loss begins to stall. In fact, you might have increased your activity levels by doing more cardio or decreased your calorie intake.
By all measures, you should be losing weight but you don’t. Ever stopped to think about why?
Well, your body is very clever and when calorie intake is low (too low) the body goes into more of a “starvation” mode and it sends out signals to save every precious calorie that it can.
These signals are actually hormonal changes that might decrease your testosterone if you are a man. They will also begin to slow your metabolism.
You can avoid this metabolism slow down by having occasional cheat meals or a cheat day.
Think of your metabolism as being a stove with the food you eat as being fuel logs. As you diet and keep your caloric intake relatively low, your metabolic fire can start to die down.
A cheat meal, which should consist of foods higher in carbohydrates and some fat. Some examples of my favorites such as
- Fast Foods
- Ice Cream
- Creamy Italian foods
will act like “super burning” logs and kick your metabolism up several notches.
What you’ll find is that you may gain some initial weight over the first few days after having cheat meals but then a few days later (assuming you are back on your clean diet), you’ll actually get leaner and easily break through a weight loss plateau.
2. A Cheat Day Keeps You Sane
I prepped for several natural bodybuilding shows and the dieting and hard work that goes into such an endeavor can be extremely grueling, both physically and mentally.
As a natural bodybuilder, your goal is to pack on and keep as much lean muscle as possible while getting as lean as possible. This is no easy physical task.
Even though there are physical challenges, the mental ones, in my opinion, are much more formidable obstacle.
As a natural bodybuilder, diets can go 20 weeks or longer. To cut weight, we have to either cut calories or increase our activity levels (do more cardio). This is what creates a daily caloric deficit (you burn off more calories than you eat).
Do this for too long and the mental strain can be very stressful. You’ll also get lethargic and have very little energy. Irritability and even depression can become major concerns. Even constant hunger can be a problem.
It can get so bad that you’ll begin to question why you want to build muscle or shed fat in the first place. Having a cheat day diet, though, can be a godsend. It really will help you keep your sanity as you shed fat.
I look at it as an occasional reward for eating clean the other 90% of the time. By eating a cheat meal or having a cheat day, I often feel refreshed, re-energized and revitalized the next day. I’m ready to attack my workouts like a beast with a fresh and fierce intensity.
By having cheat meals, you will:
- Reduce stress
- Get re-energized (vital for tough muscle building workouts)
- Be more likely to stick to a clean eating diet with success
- Keep hormones balanced (you’ll be happier!)
3. A Cheat Day Does Wonders For Muscle Building
Anyone that has a ripped physique understands that to see the muscle definition and vascularity, you have to lower your body fat.
This typically means having several days where carbohydrate and fat intake is low with protein intake being high. While protein is the building block used for repairing and building new muscle, carbohydrates and fats are nearly as vital.
In particular, carbohydrates are especially important and often get overlooked when it comes to their role in building muscle.
Carbohydrates are important for muscle building because the body converts them into glycogen which is our main and immediate source of energy for muscles. This is especially true for those heavy and grueling weight training workouts.
Over time, the dieting process can leave muscle glycogen levels very low. Again, you feel very tired which isn’t optimal for building muscle.
Besides feeding muscle energy needs, carbs are also muscle sparing. This means that they allow your body to use more protein for their primary purpose which is building muscle versus for supplying the body’s energy needs.
To recap, carbohydrates serve two main purposes when it comes to building muscle:
- They are the direct fuel source for intense workouts
- They free up protein for muscle building rather than for energy needs
So by incorporating cheat meals and/or cheat days, you allow your muscles to replenish their glycogen levels.
Higher muscle glycogen levels equates to more intensity in the weight room which in turn equates to being able to lift heavier weights and increased muscle gains
Cheat meals -> Increased muscle glycogen levels -> Ability to lift more weight -> Increased muscle gains!
4. A Cheat Day Raises The Body’s Leptin Levels
Never heard of leptin? Don’t worry, most people never have but leptin is vital when it comes to getting a lean, ripped physique.
Basically, the role of leptin is to tell your body and brain what your nutritional status is. Those who have lots of body fat will have higher levels of leptin.
If you are shedding fat, most likely by reducing caloric intake, you leptin levels can start to decrease. If they get too low, your body begins to think that it isn’t getting enough nutrition and your hormone levels get affected negatively:
- Testosterone levels decrease in males (lower libido and strength)
- Metabolism decreases
- Thyroid hormones get out of whack
- An increased change of getting depression
- An increased risk of weight gain
- Increased hunger
- Problems sleeping
Basically, low leptin levels will result in your body doing everything it can to fight weight loss and in fact try to store fat.
In fact, with only about a week of dieting, the body’s leptin levels can drop by more than 50%. By having an occasional cheat meal or cheat day with calorie dense foods you somewhat reverse this process and give your leptin levels a jump.
You essentially “reset” your leptin back to pre-diet levels with the consistent yet occasional cheat day. As a side note, the cheat day should utilize high amounts carbohydrates to get the biggest bounce in leptin levels.
A Cheat Day Diet: Tying It All Together
If you really want to build muscle and shed fat effectively, you need to make use of an occasional diet cheat day or cheat meal at the very least.
It will do several beneficial things towards helping you pack on lean mass and get cut, whether it is for a bodybuilding show or just a day at the beach.
Utilizing cheat meals and cheat days will jump start your metabolism and raise the bodies leptin levels, both which help incinerate fat and ensure that your body is in optimal “fat burning” mode.
Eating cleanly can be stressful and can lead to mind-games, especially on diets that utilize lower carbohydrate levels.
By feasting on carbs while on a cheat day diet, you keep your sanity and it’s easier to keep your eyes on the ultimate prize: an amazing physique.
Finally, when it comes to building muscle, calories are king and there is no easier way to get the crucial calories and carbohydrates that your muscles are starving for than with the occasional cheat day.
If you’d like more help taking your muscle building and nutrition to the next level, please take a look at the No-Nonsense Muscle Building Program.
This is a 29 week program that will maximize your muscle growth and help you burn the excess fat.
With the program, you will attain the physique you’ve always dreamed of.