After eight weeks into a strict diet and exercise program, I found myself immersed in a drama – I couldn’t lose any more weight! I complained to my husband who always tries to make me break my diets, insisting on offering me cookies, french fries, alcohol, and all types of temptations that I refused to have. He was adamant on telling me that my body needed to take one day off the diet to help boost my metabolism and, of course, as a woman I never listened to him. Then, I started doing something really stupid: I was doing cardio like a maniac twice a day, morning and evening with exactly the same result – no weight loss at all.
I started losing both my faith in diets and my patience, always questioning myself “what am I doing wrong?” I went over and over my diet program and my exercise plan without finding any answer until one day my trainer and friend, Larry, asked me “why are you so stressed? You look down.” I expressed my concerns about my issues with the weight loss. He looked at me and laughed and I was insulted at first, so he told me “stop with your Colombian temper and listen to me! Not always starting a weight loss program is so exciting, but the good news, my friend, is that you can still enjoy the stuff that you love the most at least one day a week.” My face made a big question mark, what? “Welcome to the cheat day”, he said.
Basically, when you diet pretty hard combined with intense workouts, your body uses all the energy that comes from the food you take in. If you continually give it less calories, carbohydrates, and fat than is required to recuperate the energy levels, your body will start slowing the process of burning fat in order to survive.
That’s right, your body will start to PRESERVE your fat instead of burn it off! Having a cheat day restores your body’s energy levels & kicks it out of starvation mode and back to burning fat, which is what we want right?
Physiologically cheating offers many benefits; if you have been dieting very strictly it’s likely that you’d have low muscle glycogen levels. Along with this often comes a sluggish feeling during your workout and less than optimal strength. By the way, glycogen is a polysaccharide of glucose (Gic) which functions as the secondary short term energy storage in animal cells. It is made primarily by the liver and the muscles, but can also be made by the brain and the stomach.
The lack of Gic can produce fatigue faster than normal, so you won’t be able to perform like you previously did.
The lesson is: the excess of calories and carbohydrates taken in on your cheat day will serve to replenish some of those storages which will help give you more energy and train harder at your next workouts. Along with the decrease of muscle glycogen that goes with dieting there is also a slowing of the metabolism effect because the body senses starvation and tries to lower the amount of energy it needs to continue to function on a daily basis. This means that you would be burning fewer calories just sitting there than if you have not been dieting, which makes weight loss even harder.
So, lesson of the day – you don’t always have to listen to your husband or to strangers, but you might want to consider their observations..
In these days I have to say that I improved my lifestyle. Since I lost all my weight, I learned that having a day off from the diet and the workouts is very beneficial to my body. That’s why every Saturday my family and I eat whatever we like. I don’t call it a diet anymore, but eating healthy as much as I can for six days, and Saturday is my happy day. Now, when my friends come to me with the same concern I just teach them this easy trick: not always cheating is a bad thing. But, if you are stubborn you may want to consider having “cheat meals” through the week instead of a full day off.
Don’t be extreme, don’t be stubborn and next time your significant other or your friend tells you something regarding your diet, just say “yes, honey. I’ll try.” Since I learned this I want to give you a tip: I use my cheat to socialize with my friends and have fun without guilt.