Cheat Day Cheat Sheet

Guest post: Jason Jacobs from Finding My Fitness

Jason Jacobs of Finding My Fitness

How many of you started 4HB with "the cheat day" being one of the top reasons?

How many of you swore off "the cheat day" after your first one? :)

I'll be honest, after my first two cheat days, I said "never again!" I had decided that I wouldn't subject myself that that kind of torture ever again. I believe I said that for several weekends...

Eventually I had a "reasonable" cheat day. After all, your body can only handle that kind of gluttony for so long.

Cheat days *are* important

A few weeks ago, I wrote what ended up being an article series on cheat days. I started out by saying there was absolutely no reason to go hog-wild on a cheat day, but then I did some extra research over the weekend. After the third post, I had discovered that cheat days were indeed important and played an large role in our fat loss.

Cheat days can be scary for the 4HB newcomer. How can a diet work if you get to stuff your face until you can't anymore? It doesn't make logical sense. Then again, if you've been at this 4HB thing for any length of time you've seen plenty of things that don't make sense give you results you would have never expected.

So why are they important? Two main reasons:

  1. After a week of deprivation and self-discipline, you want to crack. By allowing yourself a cheat day, you're less likely to cheat more often. Doing it all at once satisfies your cravings AND makes it harder for your body to convert it to bodyfat and instead sends it out...a different way. (That last one's my theory, I haven't proven it yet)
  2. Your body gets used to the lower caloric intake you have as a result of the restricted diet (fancy word: adaptive thermogenesis). It learns to very efficiently burn the fuel you give it, kind of like the way a car idles lower the warmer it gets in the winter. To rev your metabolic engine back up, you "refeed" it. You actually burn more when you keep it guessing this way.

My last cheat day

Sometimes a case study is necessary to really send a point home. Here's my best example from personal experience.

I was abnormally good a few weeks ago. I mean, I stuck like glue to the plan all week, and by Saturday I was going insane. I had already purchased half a blueberry pie and had made plans to get some donuts on Sunday morning. My wife and I saw a Hardees commercial, and in that moment I decided I was going to get a biscuit sandwich too.

It was all she could do to keep me from cheating on Saturday, but when Sunday came...oh boy.

Before 9am I had eaten three donuts; half of an enormous cinnamon bun; and a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and accompanying hash rounds. At lunch I had fried chicken, pork barbecue, potato and pasta salads, and a mini cheesecake. At dinner I had meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and a slice of cake for my niece's birthday. After logging my food out of curiosity, I couldn't believe the totals: 4620 calories, 437 g carbs, 265g fat, and 163g protein.

Just for comparison, my normal day is more along the lines of 1800-1900 calories, 80g carbs, 90g fat, and 100g protein.

More shocking to me was that I only gained 2 lbs by Monday morning! Even more shocking: I dropped it again in 2 days.

Cheat day cheat sheet

There is a method to the madness.

In the book The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferris tells us exactly what his cheat days look like, and he also gives some very specific tips to controlling the damage:

Eat the right kind of breakfast first

Be sure to get a minimum of 20g protein, some legumes, and some vegetables. This will help digestion and it will help hold things together. The increased carbohydrate, fat, and oil consumption you will likely experience on your cheat day could disrupt an otherwise-well-functioning internal plumbing system.

I can't find a specific time frame that you're allowed to cheat after this meal, but I'd wait at least 30 minutes to an hour. Then go nuts.

Three simple exercises

There are three exercises you can to do help direct the extra calories to your muscles: squats, wall presses, and chest flies. I try to get about 30-40 of each in just before eating and then 90 minutes after.

Drink extra water

Much of the weight gain will be water weight. Drinking more than enough water will help your body get rid of it quicker.

Grapefruit juice and coffee

Tim says that grapefruit juice before meals helps keep the insulin spike lower, and lower insulin levels seems to be the key to fat loss. Caffeine, as I understand, helps increase metabolism.

If you normally take PAGG, specifically do it that day

Some people have asked about not taking PAGG on their cheat day. I guess in a sense they want to just "turn off" 4HB for a day. That's a bad idea. If you take PAGG, you should definitely take it on your cheat day. I would daresay that cheat day is the most important day to take it!

Limit it to one waking day

My biggest problem at first was that my cheat "days" often started on Friday night and ended Sunday evening. You don't want to give your body extra crap to work on for more than a day. Stick to one day between the time you wake up and the time you go to bed to maximize results. If you cheat for more than a day, don't expect the weight to come off in 3 days.

Stock up this week and enjoy your weekend!

Now that you've got your cheat day mental arsenal, it's time to go shopping. Think of what you want to eat and buy it! Do yourself a favor and wait until your cheat day if you can (minimize temptation!).

I'd love to hear how your cheat day went and also how quickly your body recovered from it!

About Jason Jacobs

Jason is fat, but that's started to change.  After 15 years of yo-yo dieting, he's finally ready to get rid of the gut once and for all. He's finding his fitness little by little every day, and has been following the protocols in 4 Hour Body since December.  The weight has been coming off, but the most surprising for him is the sense of well being he has now.  He wants to help others who are starting their fitness journeys to keep going, and he finds motivation from others on the path as well.

Editor's note: Jason also participated in our 5 Questions series, you can read his answers here.

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  • Wow, I feel terrible I never saw this comment earlier. Maybe it’s a good thing, because my answer has changed from what it would have been in June. :)

    Tim never talked about a fast day after cheat day in 4HB, however I’ve come across some material on fasting as well. Personally, I almost always do a full fast day the day after.

    What made me decide to do it was following Tim’s Christmas Countdown stuff in the Kindle app he made. I think it definitely helps knock the weight off quicker, plus you get the benefit of burning extra bodyfat. The truth is you usually don’t feel like eating after cheat day anyway. ;)

    says Jason on February 14, 2012
  • In all the stuff I’ve read no one ever mentions a fast day directly following the cheat day. I’ve done some research on the unterwebs and a lot of bodybuilders recommend that you fast after your cheat day? What are your thoughts on this?

    says Da on June 12, 2011

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