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Should you have cheat days?

April 27, 2022 3 min read

Should you have cheat days?

When you’re working on your fitness goal whether it is for muscle gain or weight loss, it is a fact that eating right makes up a huge part of achieving great results. To achieve this, one might follow a diet plan consisting of healthy balanced meals which are sometimes calculated to fit one’s required macros for each day. 

Depending on which diet plan you wish to set out on, and with your doctor or dietitian’s advice of course, it is important that your diet or fitness program is flexible and well balanced to ensure that you are not totally cutting out entire food groups like certain fad diets might promote. 

But is it necessary to bid farewell to your favourite desserts and guilty pleasures forever? 

This has been one of the great debates in the fitness community- so we’re here to discuss the matter. 

Should you have cheat meals or cheat days? 

Let’s dive in. 

First let’s define what cheat meals are.

Unless you’ve been training under a rock, when diets become too restrictive and we begin to feel too deprived, it is natural to start craving and aggressively yearn for pizzas, doughnuts, and cakes. We all probably have used the term at least more than once as an excuse to indulge in our favourite food and sometimes with good reason. 

To put it simply, “cheat days” are our days off from clean eating and these are supposed calculated and planned within the diet plan – not random outbursts of binge eating. While some may do without it, some can find it a vital part of their week. 

Cons | Downsides of Having Cheat Days

When a dieter goeswithout a limit on their cheat days or cheat meals, they set themselves for failure and this statement presents different outcomes for different people. 

  • While some can view cheat days as a welcome rest from strict self-discipline, for others it can trigger a loss of self-control and lead to binge eating while carrying a mindset of guilt from the lapse. Thus, they end up throwing all one’s progress down the drain – this behaviour is known as theAbstinence Violation Effect. 


  • Cheat days work against you when you out-eat your training. 

This means cheat day indulgences still come with moderation. This is why big cheat meals may not be a big deal for the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as he is an ex-wrestler who has built up a diet and exercise routine over decades, but it may affect someone who is a beginner in their fitness journey. So, it all boils down on how hard you train. 

Pros | Benefits of Having Cheat Days

With all the cons that ultimately lead to negative effects of cheat days, why do some people still bother? 

  • The answer: Leptin. 

Caloric deficits cause a significant drop in your metabolic rate. Research shows that restricting calories as done when eating on a caloric deficit can cause the hormone calledleptin to decrease.  

What is leptin?

Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells in the body to control metabolism and hunger. Itregulates your energy and prevents you from either starving or over-eating. So, cheat days or cheat meals boost your metabolism by increasing levels of leptin in your body. 


  • Cheat days can also be regarded as a reward-based diet strategy for sustainable weight loss. It teaches you balance and moderation – something strict fat diets never do. This way, you can still have space for occasional indulgences and help you adopt clean-eating more doable for the long run. 

If you must cheat, here’s how to cheat effectively

Cheat meals don’t have to spell disaster. So, if you must, plan them ahead, be easy on yourself and indulge with a purpose. 

  • Structure your cheat days 
  • Don’t make it a habit – make it a treat 
  • Cheat on heavy training days 
  • Keep an eye on your calorie intake 
  • Make your healthy eating days enjoyable 


If you already enjoy your daily meals, then your body won’t feel the need for having a cheat day. Planning out your meals and including a healthy snack which you personally enjoy helps a bunch. This is why prepping your meals at home beats takeaway food any day. Homemade high protein desserts and snacks are always a staple recommendation from the VPA® team so you can find the best tried and tested high protein recipes on our website. 


Kathleen Belleza

A wordsmith with a passion for health and wellness.

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