Hey Angels and Alphas,
There are many people out there who commit to healthy eating so they can lose weight, and they also indulge in a cheat day in which they essentially take a break from their regimented eating.
And while some experts have claimed cheat days can indeed help you keep your diet on track (especially as a part of the 80/20 mentality where you eat nutrient-dense meals 80 percent of the time and indulge in the remaining 20,) there are other nutrition pros who believe cheat days can be even more harmful…
And this can be especially true if you’re on the keto diet.
Let’s be honest – cheat days are something purely mental. Their main idea is that you can stay motivated and stay on your strict regimen if you have those cheat days to look forward to and enjoy… but are there any actual health benefits to the practice?
And moreover, there’s actually some new research out there pointing to the fact that cheat days may have a negative effect on your heart health – especially if you’ve been on the keto diet that’s just getting more popular by the day.
Recent studies have claimed that digging into plates of your favorite chips or tossing back a beer or two on your day off may actually damage blood vessels in your body.
What’s the science behind it?
In the recent study, otherwise healthy adults were asked to consume about 75 grams of sugar in a medium beverage in order to mimic the high intakes of sugar on cheat days. Then, they did the same after following the ketogenic diet for the course of a week.
What they found is that, in the latter case, blood vessels in the body had a very difficult time dilating which put them at an increased risk of heart attacks.
The healthy volunteers, when following the ketogenic diet for even a short period of time, became relatively intolerant to glucose (aka sugar.) When their bodies started adapting to consuming higher amounts of fat, they (almost instantly) became worse at processing carbohydrates and glucose. This means that while the cells can return to their full function when the blood sugar levels in the body dropped down, the high-sugar cheat meals during cheat days can actually backfire into long-lasting damage to the body.
There were also no biomarkers of blood vessel damage that were observed before following the keto diet. Therefore, the study concluded that the ketogenic diet made the participant’s blood vessels more susceptible to this type of damage.
So how do cheat days play a role?
Basically, cheat days are there for us to enjoy the foods we crave but have restricted ourselves to not consume. But in the case of the ketogenic diet, which is all about going low on carbs, you will most likely be craving simple carbs that cause greater, more rapid spikes in blood sugar levels when compared to other, more slowly digesting forms of complex carbs.
Researchers noted that cheat days will also likely result in some temporary weight gain due to the water retention and gastrointestinal stress – this is because the body isn’t that used to processing foods that are very high in sugar and sodium when you follow a diet that’s a little bit more restrictive.
And there are other downsides to cheat days, too!
Dieters who are prone to obesity, who also exceeded their recommended calorie needs one day during the week, were documented to be less likely to engage in physical activity during their cheat days… when compared to those less prone to obesity.
By removing cheat days and forgetting the idea that certain foods are just “off-limits,” this resulted in people not being that pulled toward those foods they were once craving so badly.
Bringing it all together…
While it’s absolutely vital for everyone to find an eating style that is sustainable and productive for their health in the long term, there’s more research necessary to conclude whether or not cheat days are actually good for you.
One thing’s for sure, if you’re on a ketogenic diet, you should be wary of your cheat days and still avoid simple, fast-digesting carbohydrates as they will cause damage to your body over the long haul.
Cheat days might leave you feeling bloated, and craving other unhealthy foods, and by switching your diet up to a more balanced complex of protein, fat, and carbs will be a smart choice for those of you looking to lose weight and get fit.