I’ve recently instituted a “cheat day” which I take on Saturdays, and it has really proved advantageous. I originally decided on a cheat day in order to ensure my body doesn’t go into starvation mode while I am reducing fat. Basically the science is that if one reduces calories to below what the body requires for maintenance, then over time the body will adapt by both causing an increase in hormones to increase hunger (driving you to search for food), and decreasing lean muscle mass (in order to reduce metabolism requirements, i.e. slow down our metabolism). So beware. If you engage in a long term calorie deficit without respite then the longer you go the more likely it will be that you will succumb to the intense hunger pangs caused by the increased hormones, and go on a binge. You will also lose muscle mass – which is what you want to hold onto at all costs since this helps you burn more calories when you are resting (i.e. increases your metabolism).So how long is “too long” to go on a calorie deficit? Well Tom Venuto recommends a 3 days low 1 day high regime, which when I followed it entailed a calorie deficit of 20% for 3 days followed by a calorie excess of 15% for 1 day, and repeat continously, in order to ensure the body doesn’t fall into the traps mentioned above. So for me at 214 pounds it means 3 days at 2,800 calories (20% deficit) and 1 day at 3,900 calories (15% excess). It worked ok for me and I found that I was never tempted to go on a binge and also able to maintain my body fat percentage at around 13-14%. However on this regiment I should actually be losing some fat, and I wasn’t, so I started looking at other options as my goal is 10%. For fat loss Will Brink suggests setting a deficit target of 10 calories per pound of body weight. So for me that means a daily intake of 2140 calories. He doesn’t mention anything about the “loading” day (i.e. the day you eat excess calories) so I have started an experiment by trying it one day a week. I chose Saturday as typically this is the day I have the most trouble eating healthy all day since I wake up later (putting my regular meal schedule out), and usually eat somewhere special with the family (so difficult to avoid going over calorie budget). As those of you who have been following my blog will know, I have also started doing some easy cardio to help break my plateau too.
I have been following this pattern for 3 weeks now, and am happy to report that I really enjoy it. It is easy for me to keep the deficit during the week knowing that on Saturday I can relax and eat a lot of the stuff I like. Now, I don’t go crazy on Saturday, I still try and eat healthy like fish, veges etc., however I will treat myself to an ice-cream too, or some chocolate. This week I got the calipers out to check my fat level. I take a one-site measurement (at the illiac crest) using the accumeasure. You can see above how this measurement is done. Many body-building sites recommend the accumeasure as one of the best ways for normal people (without access to sophisticated measures) to measure fat. When you buy the accumeasure it comes with a guide telling you how to take a “one site” measurement and a key for what it means. Tom Venuto has presented some research showing that a one-site measurement is basically just about as accurate as a 3 site or even 7 site measurement, so I’m happy to use 1 site in order to check progress.
I take several readings (to ensure I’m measuring right). Today my measurements were 9mm, 6mm, 8mm, 8mm and 8mm. So I took 8mm as the reading, which at my age and sex equates to 13.22% bodyfat. The thing that surprised me was that over the last couple of months I’ve put on 4 pounds – so I’ve managed to keep a lot of that lean muscle. I’ll continue with the easy cardio this week and see what my readings are next week.
Now, the added advantages of the cheat day. Firstly I’ve found it is a great way to keep the kids eating healthy all week. Before the cheat day the kids would eat junk food every day and alway be harassing me to buy McDonalds, pizza, chocolate etc. I introduced the cheat day as a family project, and they were very keen to join Dad in eating healthy. So far it has worked tremendously well. They don’t ask for junk food at all during the week now, knowing that they can go crazy on Saturday. Also, whereas previously junk food wasn’t seen as a treat or anything special, now it is – which in my view is how they should be seeing it.
I have found that there is also another advantage. Yesterday (Friday) was “one of those days”. I had been ‘given the news’ on Thursday that I would have to change offices in order to accommodate a new staff member. For the past 2 years I have had a wonderful corner office in our building with wonderful views. I was able to get the office as it was old, and in a part of the building that requires a long walk, including down an old storage like corridor. So no one else really wanted it but I was very happy with it because of the views, and it was larger than most other offices (being bigger).However that came to an end yesterday. Basically they ran out of office space in the building I was in and so had to take my office back. I have moved back to the building that I’m actually supposed to be in, to a newer (but smaller) office. On the one hand I’m sad that I have to move, but on the other hand I’m excited to see what new changes the move will bring. I am not superstitious, however every time something like this has happened that could be viewed as a setback, an amazing door has opened and taken me to a more exciting position.
Anyway, I had to clear my desk from my old office on Friday, and naturally wasn’t in the best of moods. Added to that I had a 3 hour meeting in the afternoon where I had to do most of the talking. I missed one of my scheduled meals and by the end of the meeting my throat was quite sore. My wife has recently come down with a cold so I was worried that I may also be getting it – which is the last thing I want since I have a suppressed immune system (from the Remicade), and being sick stops me from going to the gym too. So getting home on Friday night naturally I was tempted to binge on something tasty, to help improve my mood. Normally I would, however I knew that the following day was cheat day, so I could wait for that. I did, and today being able to eat lots of my favorite foods has really lifted my mood (and the Dicodin for my headache helped too!). Thank you cheat day!