You indulged in your favorite foods on cheat day, and now you want to know how to get back on track.
I often tell people that it’s fine to eat whatever your belly desires sometimes, as long as you are able to keep a good routine most of the time.
After all, food is also a pleasure.
So, how do you lose cheat day weight fast? The best way to lose cheat day weight is by being disciplined and consistent with your diet before and after a cheat day. If you return to your usual calories, eat less processed foods, and keep hydrated, your weight will return to your pre-cheat day weight within 1-2 days.
If you want to lose that weight (and keep it off long-term), it is important to have the right mindset around cheat days to avoid going overboard. Often cheat days can lead to an “all or nothing” mentality, hindering progress.
In this article, I will explain how to keep that excess weight off while including cheat days in your diet.
- Research suggests that If you plan to have cheat days occasionally, it will support fat loss in the long run. So don’t worry about the temporary increase in body weight after cheat days (which is mostly water, anyways).
- The amount of water weight you gain after a cheat day and how quickly you lose it will vary. However, it won’t take more than 2 days to lose this weight.
- Eating more fiber and reducing your sodium intake following your cheat day is important. Aim for 14 g dietary fiber per 1,000 kcal, and no more than 2300mg of sodium.
Understanding Why You Gain Weight On Cheat Days
Cheat days are often accompanied by bigger portions of food and more calories.
Depending on how much extra you eat (whether it’s a cheat meal or a cheat day), you will notice a smaller or bigger weight increase on the scales.
So, knowing why you gain this weight will help you understand the next sections of this article.
This weight increase is very normal. It’s caused by your body holding onto more water because you probably ate more food (including lots of carbs and salt) than your usual amount.
Don’t forget, the food in your stomach also contributes to the weight increase that you see on the scales.
As such, the weight you gain from cheat day is likely not fat, but water weight.
Fat is gained over time, whereas fat loss is usually a result of a sustained period in a calorie deficit.
This means that one cheat day or meal will likely not make you gain weight as fat.
How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight From Cheat Day?
The amount of water you retain and how quickly you can lose it will differ from person to person, as it depends on the quantity of excess salt and carbs you eat.
However, as weight gained from a cheat day is water weight (and not fat), the good news is that it can be lost fairly quickly. Within approximately 24-48 hours your body can get rid of that excess water weight.
It is also worth noting that weight can greatly fluctuate day to day as well.
This means that often the number on the scales might be a false indication of your exact weight, making it challenging to track your progress.
This means that you might want to weigh yourself once/twice weekly, at the same time of day.
Recording the time, date, and weight over a specific time period will allow you to accurately keep track of your progress.
5 Steps To Take To Lose Cheat Day Weight
Losing cheat day weight is simple if you get straight back into what you were doing pre-cheat day.
Here are 5 steps that explain this in more detail.
1. Return to Your Usual Eating Routine
The day after cheat day, ensure you get back into your routine.
By following your usual diet plan again and consistently hitting your calorie deficit, you will get back on track quickly.
The important thing is to consistently adhere to your calorie deficit, ensuring that you don’t overindulge again until your next planned cheat day.
For example, let’s say you have a cheat meal or day once a week on a Saturday. On Sunday you revert back to your diet plan following this as consistently as possible until the following week.
2. Eat Less Processed Foods, but More Fruits and Veggies
Processed foods like pizza and chips tend to be high in salt, and low in fiber.
If you eat less of these foods following cheat day, then your body will hold onto less water. This will help to reduce water weight quickly.
It is important not to exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt per day. One pizza or a ready meal likely contains half of this amount.
As such, aim to eat more whole foods like fruits and veggies that naturally have less sodium content and high fiber content.
Eating more fiber in your meals will make you feel fuller and less likely to feel hungry after a few hours.
Fiber is found in whole grains like brown bread/rice/pasta, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts/seeds, vegetables and unpeeled fruits.
In fact, you should be consuming 14 g dietary fiber per 1,000 kcal, or 25 g for adult women and 38 g for adult men.
So, it’s a win-win situation if you eat more whole foods, if you think about the salt and fiber content.
3. Drink Lots of Water
Ensure you drink enough water to keep your body well hydrated after a cheat day.
Drinking more water is a way to help remove that excess sodium (salt) from the body. This means that by drinking more, you will reduce excess water weight.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that men should consume at least 2,900 mL (12 c) fluid per day, and women at least 2,200 mL (9 c) fluid per day. Those who regularly exercise require higher amounts than this.
If you struggle with drinking this amount of water in a day, consider that things like soups, broth soup, fruit or yogurt smoothies, and milk count towards your fluid intake too.
4. Stay Focused/Motivated and Don’t Feel Guilty for Having a Cheat Day
If you want to lose cheat day weight, do not overindulge the days after cheat day because you feel like you ruined everything by having a cheat day.
Having a good relationship with food is important if you want to avoid falling into your cravings the subsequent days after cheat day.
However, often people associate cheat days/meals with “bad” foods. It is important to stay away from this mindset, which can often happen after indulging into cravings or fatty/sugary foods.
“Cheating implies that you’re doing something dishonest or undesirable, when in fact, you’re just eating for pleasure. Eating for pleasure is totally healthy and normal, and we all do it sometimes”.Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD
As such, there are no “good” or “bad” foods. So you may want to move away from the all-or-nothing mindset, allowing yourself to enjoy your cheat day without feeling guilty afterwards.
5. Don’t Change Your Calories Because of Cheat Day
Don’t reduce your calories the next day to “compensate” for the extra calories you ate on cheat day. If you add more restrictions to your diet, it can increase the chances of going overboard on another occasion.
However, if you feel uncomfortable because you have eaten too much on your cheat day, you could try to incorporate more movement post cheat day, for example by going for a walk and increasing your steps.
The important concept here is that as your cheat day is a planned day of eating above your maintenance calories, you don’t need to make up for those calories the next day to balance things out.
For example, if you eat 1000 calories over your normal target on cheat day, but over the course of the week you are still in a calorie deficit, then overall you are still losing weight.
One cheat day will not ruin your progress (unless you have a few in a row or have them too frequently).
How Cheat Days Can Help You Lose Fat In The Long Term
There are some benefits to having a cheat day if you are trying to lose fat. These benefits will also help you keep that weight off in the long term.
The reason why cheat days support fat loss is that during this dieting phase you usually are quite strict with calories and macros, as you will be in a calorie deficit.
So, eating a bit more on occasion can boost your satiety hormones temporarily (these hormones, called leptin, send signals to your brain to say you are full).
Although this occasional boost in satiety hormones is only temporary, over a period of restrictive eating and dieting, it will help you lose fat in the long term.
So what does this mean?
Let’s look at some science.
Some research looked at the effects of adding occasional splurges in the diet to support weight loss:
- One study done on obese men concluded that those having planned splurges dropped more weight over 4 months (and gained less weight back afterward) than those not having any splurges at all in their diet.
- Another study concluded that by satisfying a craving with an occasional cheat day participants felt more positive about the diet process and stayed motivated to lose weight. Subjects also kept food portions in check.
Key Takeaway: If you integrate occasional cheat days in your diet, this will allow you to eat better throughout your period of diet restriction. By adding this planned time of calorie indulgence, you will be able to refrain from going overboard on other occasions, as going overboard is easy and could put you off track.
- Related Article: How Many Cheat Days Per Week Are Optimal (Without Ruining Your Results)
Bankir L, Perucca J, Norsk P, Bouby N, Damgaard M. Relationship between Sodium Intake and Water Intake: The False and the True. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 1:51-61. doi: 10.1159/000463831. Epub 2017 Jun 15. PMID: 28614828.
About The Author
Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist.
She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta).
Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals.
She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).