What happens on a cheat day when you give your body way more energy than it can use in a day? To really kick it up a notch, let's assume a 10.000 calorie cheat day for this thought experiment. And let's say you exercised well that day and did a lot of sport and burned 3000 calories including the basal metabolic rate. Then we still have a surplus of 7000 calories. Roughly speaking, this corresponds to about one kilogram of body fat. Conversely, this means that you would have to burn 7000 calories to lose one kilogram of body fat. A calorie is not always a calorie, depending on the usability of the food, but for this thought experiment we will start from this point of view.
TEF: your body burns about 10% when it digests food
Then there is the so-called TEF (Thermic Effect of Food). This describes the additional calorie consumption of the body through the metabolism of food. On average, this accounts for around 10% of the total number of calories ingested. It is therefore also advisable to eat foods that the body needs a lot of energy to metabolize, i.e. unprocessed foods (vegetables, nuts, proteins, etc.) during a diet.
Back to our example
In our thought experiment, 10% equals another 1000 calories that aren't being used -- that's still 6000 calories too many. And you will notice this in the form of restlessness, sweating and fidgeting, because your body is trying to get rid of some of the excess energy. So let's assume that because of your restlessness you also move a lot that day - this falls under the so-called NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). So all other activity that burns calories without you planning it specifically as a workout or training, for example, just park your car further away from the supermarket and take a few more unplanned steps there.
A week diet broken by a day?
If you burn another 1500 calories more on the cheat day with your NEAT, there are still a good 4500 calories left. That still corresponds to half a kilogram of body fat and can easily ruin a whole diet week for me.
Now one or the other may say: "Yes, I never eat 10.000 calories on a cheat day" - yes, that may be the case, but not everyone consumes 3000 calories. Much less food is then enough to achieve the same surplus.
So the cheat day - yes or no?
For me, the unused calorie surplus isn't the only reason why I personally don't think much of a cheat day. More important for me is the torture of one's own psyche. I don't want to have to give myself permission to eat junk that one day. I can fully and consciously decide what I want to eat and what not, anytime, not just one day of the week. I want to find a diet that I'm happy with and don't feel like I'm constantly overindulging in unhealthy food.
Where does your craving for fat and sugar come from?
There are actually only two reasons why you feel like eating extremely fatty and sugary foods: either you are dissatisfied with your current situation, stressed or under pressure and are looking for compensation through food, or your body is missing important micronutrients. This in turn creates a neurotransmitter imbalance, which imbalances your hormones and metabolic processes. An imbalance is never good because, like all other living beings, we are still an organism that naturally tries to reproduce and in order to do so requires all the necessary nutrients. If we are missing something from the latter, then we get emergency signals that tell us we have to see to it that we can get the missing energy in as soon as possible. And which foods are rich in energy? – well, of course, fat, sugar… chocolate, pizza. Yes Yes Yes…
The problem with this is that our body unfortunately doesn't think quite so long-term, but rather lives in the moment. He doesn't know that the bakery counters will still be full tomorrow. Your body wants the energy as soon as possible. That's why we often crave chips and chocolate with quickly available sugars and fats more than a dry rice cake, in which the starch molecules have to be broken down before the body can use them as carbohydrates.
Torture for your own psyche
If we allow ourselves to eat whatever we feel like eating for a day that we may have banned during the week, it rarely stays within reason. We literally escalate because we say to each other, "You can only do it today, come on, I'll take advantage of that," because clean eating will be back tomorrow anyway. As a result, we tend to shovel food in, even though we are actually already full. Not infrequently I have experienced that eating disorders develop from this way of thinking because the relationship to a healthy amount is simply lost. After the escalation, we get angry with ourselves. We are angry and disappointed in ourselves and we try to be even harder on ourselves, to forbid ourselves even more and, bang, the desire starts all over again. a cycle.
A "cheat" on your own body?
So it starts with the name "Cheat" Day. Personally, I don't want to cheat on my own body and subject it to this overconsumption because I value treating myself the best I can. And that includes a healthy diet. I also don't want to overindulge my body in sugar and fat for just one day, because that would only give me very short-term pleasure and energy, but not long-term performance.
Then why do you make recipes called Chocolate Protein Oatmeal that look like a sugar-laden half baked brownie?
Quite simply because even the background knowledge of how these sugar cravings arise cannot lead us to consider nutrition as something completely functional. We are still human and nutrition ALWAYS has to do with enjoyment, taste and often also culture and social gatherings. For most people, healthy nutrition is not a question of knowledge. We usually know pretty well what is good for us and what is not. But that doesn't make it any easier for us to walk past the cake counter at the bakery, as if we hadn't seen the glazed cinnamon rolls and Streuseltaler glistening there.
Be worth it to yourself, from the content to the arrangement
For me personally, carelessly patched up dry lumps of rice with broccoli and chicken just doesn't work. And I can only imagine a breakfast of cement-like and untopped oatmeal for a short time or in extreme hunger phases. However, physical success can usually only be achieved with patience and a routine diet over a longer period of time. The demands on the quality of my food paired with the desire for a slim and well-trained body meant that I was keen to experiment and developed creations that offer a good alternative. I don't think I can cook food anymore that isn't halfway healthy and looks appealing and that's because I'm worthy of taking the time. We only have this one body in life and we can decide for ourselves how we care for it and how much time we spend on our health.
And what if it gets to you?
If I really have a great craving for (often a specific) "unhealthy" food over a longer period of time and I'm sure that this craving is not the result of stress and compensatory behavior, I naturally allow myself to pursue it. As long as this is limited to individual meals and kept in healthy proportions. I'm trying not to think of this as a "cheat" but to enjoy it consciously and in moderation, thinking that I could have it anytime but make a conscious choice to make an exception. Maybe my body is actually missing something that I get from this food and don't (yet) understand myself.
Incidentally, it is interesting that the cravings for sugar and carbs decrease after a certain period of abstinence from sugar. You will then notice how you have less and less desire for sweets and are already satisfied with a banana or a sweet porridge. So you can wean your body off the sugar again and positively reprogram your intestinal bacteria. Anytime and again and again. Because we are adaptable and learn quickly.