Whether you are practicing intermittent fasting for weight loss or health reasons, having an intermittent fasting cheat day is fine. You do need to keep some things in mind before incorporating one into your lifestyle and I am going to give you some tips to do an intermittent fasting cheat the smart way.
What Is An Intermittent Fasting Cheat Day?
When I started with intermittent fasting, I thought I was a breakfast person. Breakfast felt like one of life’s little pleasures. For this reason, I practiced the 20:4 method five days a week and took the weekends off. Those were my “cheat days.” And that’s exactly what the point of your intermittent fasting cheat da should be. It’s a way to make your new lifestyle more manageable and sustainable. We want you to be able to envision yourself doing this for the rest of your life. Intermittent fasting is not a fad diet or a quick way to lose weight. It’s a lifestyle that you will grow to love.
How Long Should Your Intermittent Fasting Cheat Day Be?
It’s totally up to you! If you fast for 20 hours a day on your regular days, you could mean breaking your fast at lunch. Or at breakfast, as I did. Just keep in mind that the less you fast and the more cheat days you have, the slower your progress will be (if your goal is weight loss). As I got used to my new lifestyle and didn’t miss breakfast anymore, my cheat days evolved too. I no longer eat breakfast, ever! I don’t even want it! My little pleasure is my coffee and that’s all I need. A cheat day for me now is simply eating lunch. Do what you need to do to not feel too stressed out and deprived. It may change over time as you get used to intermittent fasting.
How Often Should You Have Cheat Days?
I often recommend that if you are just getting started with intermittent fasting, you start with a 20-hour fast every second day (read Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Women Who Want to Lose Weight). That would mean three cheat days a week. With time, you can increase your number of fasting days as you monitor your progress (we are going to talk about that in the next section).
How to Make Sure Your Intermittent Fasting Cheat Day Doesn’t Stall Your Progress
Depending on your definition of “stalled progress”, you may find that intermittent fasting cheat days will stall your progress, in the sense that they will slow down weight loss. You can improve your results by following a few simple tips.
Don’t Stuff Yourself on Your Intermittent Fasting Cheat Day
The more cheat days you have, the more difficult you may find it will become to not succumb to cravings on your cheat days. It’s a balancing act between creating a sustainable lifestyle and maintaining the metabolic gains you obtain through intermittent fasting.
Metabolic Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
It’s helpful to understand that a metabolic switchover happens when you fast long enough. Instead of relying on glucose to provide energy for your cells, your body will start using fat stores to create ketones. When your body is using ketones for energy, your appetite, and your cravings decrease. The more cheat days you have, the less you will experience these benefits. That’s another reason I recommend you start with the Keto Diet or a modified fast before experimenting with intermittent fasting (read Top 11 Simplest Tips to Lose Body Fat Fasting).
Don’t Have Two Consecutive Cheat Days
You may wonder why I am telling you to not have two consecutive cheat days when I used to take the weekends off. Well, rules are made to be broken, my dear! Jokes aside, I didn’t do everything right! My progress was slow and it took me a year to lose 20 lbs! Of course, you can take the weekends off and have two consecutive cheat days if you want, but it’s not to your advantage. Mondays are hard when you take the weekends off, just a warning! One intermittent fasting cheat day at a time will help you maintain the metabolic benefits of fasting. What I mean by that is that you will find your fasting days easier and see more progress if you follow this tip.
Don’t Overdo Carbs on Your Intermittent Fasting Cheat Day
If you practice intermittent fasting without keto, you may feel tempted to indulge in your favorite desserts on your cheat days (I know that I often did). Just keep in mind that this will also slow down your progress. I found that intermittent fasting and keto would increase my weight loss, but I didn’t want to be keto. Not permanently anyway. If you are not keto, at the very least, avoid overconsuming carbs cheat day or no cheat day.
If you would like to experiment with intermittent fasting and the keto diet, try my 7-day meal plan, it’s so easy!
Monitor Your Progress
If you are incorporating cheat days into your intermittent fasting regimen, it’s important to keep track of your progress to see how these cheat days are impacting you. Weigh yourself, take your measurements, notice how you feel. We have been mostly talking about weight loss, but I have mentioned already that you should keep practicing intermittent fasting even after reaching your goal weight. I have noticed that if I do too many cheat days, my energy level starts going down while my cravings come back up. Monitoring how you feel is essential! It will help you determine if you are overdoing the cheat days.
Depending on your metabolism, you may do well with three cheat days a week, or you may find that anything beyond one intermittent fasting cheat day tends to stall your progress.
Pick a Longer Fasting Window
I tend to favor longer fasting days with more cheat days over shorter fasting windows done every day (with no cheating). Again, I want to emphasize that you need to find what works for YOU. I know some women prefer the 16:8 method on a consistent basis. Avoiding cheat days completely helps them stay on track. For me, I notice I feel better when I fast longer and less frequently. I think the average woman will notice that a longer fasting window will help her achieve better results, particularly when intermittent fasting without the keto diet. If you are still trying to lose weight, your longer fasting window shouldn’t serve as an excuse to have tons of cheat days or you won’t see much progress. However, a consistent longer fasting window will improve your metabolic gains and reduce your cravings substantially.
Including an intermittent fasting cheat day to your schedule may be just what you need to stay on track or it may stall your progress and make you feel discouraged. It depends on your metabolism, your personality, and your habits. As usual, it’s a matter of experimenting to find the best approach for you.