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Friday, December 24, 2010

Cheat on Christmas Day

Since the holiday feasting season is fast approaching, I thought I would share our philosophy around maintaining a healthy diet while still pigging out on junk food every so often… probably more often than you’d think.  

I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to be “dieting” per se on Christmas day (I’ve been guilty of hardcore dieting on special occasions in the past…)  If you have a particularly important event coming up, such as a wedding, a competition, whatever, then sure, you should carry on with your planned routine.  But for the majority of the population, there is a way to cheat on your diet during the holidays and still stay in shape.  In fact, I’m about to show you how to do it every week.

Brian and I plan for a cheat day on a weekly basis, usually resulting in eating 6000+ kcals of pure junk for the both of us.  Wouldn’t this make the both of us fat?  Well, to give you some perspective, I’m currently 176 lbs (5’9), down from a starting point of 180lb, have been gaining strength, and yet am spending one day/week eating anything I want (pizza, chinese food, etc).  Here is the protocol that I use in order to allow myself one cheat day/week.

1.  Eat completely “clean” 6 days before your cheat day.
The 6 days before my cheat day are rather strict.  I don’t take the liberties that I would usually do when I know that a large cheat day is coming.  If I don’t plan to eat something, I don’t. 

2.  On your “clean” days, keep protein and fat relatively high, while keeping carbohydrates low
Most of my meals consist of protein + fat, except for my post workout meal(s), which is protein + carbohydrates.

3.  Create a strict window in which you’re going to cheat
Make sure that your window is clearly defined.  For me, it’s when I wake up on a cheat day until a few hours before  I go to sleep.   

4.  Surround the days around your cheat meal with fasted cardio
It’s funny how scientists have just figured this out.  Fitness enthusiasts have known about the properties of fasted cardio for quite some time. 

5.  Prime your body to be flooded with carbohydrates
For special occasions when I know I will be consuming 6000+ kcals, I go completely 0 carb the day before my cheat day, even if I would normally take a carbohydrate meal after a workout.

That’s it.  This may all seem like common sense for some, but I realized that not everyone was adept at staying lean while letting their inner fat kid out (which I’ve been doing for quite some time).  You might need to tweak these tips for your body type through experimentation.  I also suggest reading Lyle McDonald’s material on “carbing up”, which was my baseline for experimentation 6 years ago.

Happy holidays from all of us at Fitocracy!