Whether you are practicing intermittent fasting for weight loss or health reasons, having an intermittent fasting cheat day is fine. It’s not just fine; it is beneficial if you keep some things in mind. I will give you tips for incorporating an intermittent fasting cheat into your protocol the smart way.
What Is An Intermittent Fasting Cheat Day?
When I started 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 “intermittent fasting cheat days.” And that’s exactly what the point of your intermittent fasting cheat day 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. Remember 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 not to feel too stressed out and deprived. It may change over time as you get used to intermittent fasting. Another thing to remember is the more cheat days, the harder it may become to stick to your intermittent fasting schedule.
How Often Should You Have Cheat Days?
I often recommend that if you are starting 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 fasting days as you monitor your progress to figure out your cheat day with intermittent fasting (we will 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 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. A cheat day during intermittent fasting isn’t a big deal if you notice that you still feel great on your fasting days as you maintain your metabolic benefits.
Metabolic Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Understanding that a metabolic switchover happens when you fast long enough is helpful. Instead of relying on glucose to provide energy for your cells, your body will start using fat stores to create ketones. When your body uses ketones for energy, your appetite and cravings decrease. Intermittent fasting boosts your metabolism and burns fat. 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 Too Many Consecutive Cheat Days
Fewer intermittent fasting cheat days help ensure that you maintain the metabolic benefits of fasting. I mean 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 be tempted to indulge in your favorite desserts on cheat days (I know 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 on keto. Not permanently, anyway. If you are not keto, at the very least, avoid overconsuming carbs, cheat day, or no cheat day.
If you want 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 impact you. Weigh yourself, take your measurements, and notice how you feel. We have mostly talked about weight loss, but I have already mentioned 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 decreases while my cravings increase. 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 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 must find what works for YOU. I know some women prefer the 16:8 method consistently. Avoiding cheat days completely helps them stay on track. I notice I feel better when I fast longer and less frequently. The average woman will notice that a longer fasting window will help her achieve better results, particularly 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 many cheat days, or you won’t see much progress. However, a consistently longer fasting window will improve your metabolic gains and reduce your cravings substantially.
Including an intermittent fasting cheat day in 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, experimenting is a matter of finding the best approach for you.