How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Cheat Day?

a man having a cheat day

Many people have cheat days as part of their diet program, where they eat foods that are normally forbidden, such as donuts or pizza. It’s the one day per week that they can treat themselves and indulge in those foods they usually try to avoid.

While cheat days can seem like the ultimate reward, there’s no denying that it’s tempting to go overboard and give in to the cravings that you’ve had bottled up all week long.

But just how long does it take to recover from a cheat day? And should you even bother? Let’s find out together!

What is a cheat day?

A cheat day is a day where someone with a particular eating pattern intentionally eats foods they typically avoid. For example, someone following a vegetarian diet might decide to eat meat for one day. Someone who follows an all-protein diet might indulge in carbs and starches for one day. However, eating behaviors vary from person to person, so cheating on a healthy eating plan can mean different things to different people.

As such, it’s important to ask yourself what your cheat days look like so you can properly determine how long it takes for you to recover from cheating.

Another great read: 5 Healthy Foods You Should Include in Your Diet

The problem with cheat days

Cheat days are designed to help dieters eliminate any feelings of guilt about eating unhealthy food. But, like many indulgences, cheat days can lead to binging on unhealthy foods and cause you to throw your weight-loss efforts out of whack. So, is it worth it?

The truth is – no, and I’ll tell you why.

Cheat days is a concept that derived from flexible or balanced eating. Both of these dieting patterns suggest that you should consume healthy foods and have unhealthy foods or your favourite snacks here and there throughout the week. The purpose of this is to satisfy your cravings and sweet tooth to avoid binge eating. Traditionally, you are supposed to include one or two snacks of your choice per week. This is done strategically because these foods are then included within your calorie intake and you are still well on the way to achieving your goals.

Whereas cheat days have been taken out of concept where people consume large amounts of sugar and saturated fats for one whole day. Some overindulge and binge eat on things that they normally wouldn’t. This leads to a really big problem of overconsumption of calories – just one day can ruin a whole weeks worth of dieting. Here’s how that happens:

How Long Does It Take To Get Back On Track After A Cheat Day?

Although there’s no clear-cut answer to how long it takes to recover from a cheat day, some evidence suggests that your body needs at least three days to process high-fat meals. If you opt for a cheat day every once in a while and stick to nutrient-rich meals throughout your week, you should be fine as long as you avoid taking part in extreme overindulgences—like eating 10 slices of pizza or six burgers at one sitting. If you try to get away with eating large amounts of unhealthy food once a week without exercising, however, it could take anywhere from two weeks to three months before your weight loss kicks back into gear.

Another great read: What is the Difference Between a Healthy Diet and a FAD Diet?

How to attempt cheat days so that they don’t ruin your efforts

Cheat days are one of the biggest reasons why people struggle to lose weight. They take that as some kind of magical day that does not affect their health nor calories – but the rules still apply. The more calories you consume, the more weight you can gain. And vice versa, the fewer calories you consume, the more weight you can lose. Since cheat days affect this equation, it’s important to follow some kind of guidelines and rules so that you can enjoy the cheat days without them affecting your diet efforts.

Fasting before or after cheat day

One thing that many people don’t acknowledge after cheat days is that weight loss occurs due to average calorie intake over 3-7 days. Since cheat days can significantly increase your average calorie intake over the 7 day period, you can bring it back down by fasting either before the cheat day or after.

Consume appropriate calories

When you’re dieting, you’re likely aware of how much food you should consume a day in terms of calories and macronutrients right? Well, whether your know your maintenance calories or your caloric deficit, you should limit your cheat days to those calories and avoid going over them.

This means that you’ll still be able to indulge in foods that you love, but you won’t need to worry about breaking your dieting efforts as such.

PS. You’re going to want to track your calories on your cheat days in order for this to work. Use an app like MyFitnessPal.

Another great read: 5 Ways that Walking Supports Weight Loss

Manipulate your calories throughout the week

If you know that you are heading out with friends on Friday or Saturday, you can simply reduce your caloric intake a few days before the designated cheat day. This will mean that you’ll have more calories to consume on that day.

Again, it’s important to track everything. If you are wanting to consume 2,500 calories on your cheat day, but your daily caloric allowance is 1,500, then you’ll need to reduce your calories by 1,000 over a number of days before and after the cheat day.

For example:

1,300 Monday, 1,300, Tuesday, 1,300 Wednesday, 1,300 Thursday, 2,500 Friday, 1,300 Saturday, 1,300 Sunday

Average calories: 10,300/7 = 1,471 calories


Sometimes it’s just impossible to avoid cheat days. Luckily, though, there are ways to help your body get back on track in a timely manner. If you’ve found yourself indulging in an extra-big helping of holiday cookies or decided you can’t resist ordering dessert after dinner at your favorite restaurant, don’t worry: You aren’t doomed for several months of mental torture and physical discomfort. There are a few steps you can take to help recover more quickly from those pesky cheat days.

If you are ready to learn how to lose weight and keep it off forever, be sure to check out the Nutrition2change weight management and nutrition course.

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