How to Properly have a Cheat Day

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Nowadays, everyone seems to be having a cheat meal or a cheat day.

If you browse Instagram, you’ll see a massive wave of deliciously looking foods posted with “cheat day” as the hashtag.

But is it really a cheat meal or are you just enjoying yourself just because?

In this article I break down the reason for implementing a cheat day in one’s diet plan and how it can positively affect results when timed correctly.


Carbohydrate Refeed Days aka Cheat Days

When you are following a fat loss diet, there will be a point of stagnation where your body and metabolism has adapted to the new stimulus.

In order to overcome the plateau, some variables must be altered.

Firstly, you may increase cardio or the intensity of training to burn more calories and continue losing fat.

Now, a little further down the path will come a point where muscle glycogen stores are depleted from lack of carbohydrate intake, lower calories as well as the intense glycogen-demanding workouts.

When this happens, a fat loss stagnation occurs. At this point, it is more than likely that your leptin levels significantly decreased, while ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels elevated.

The result is a slower metabolic rate and an increase in cravings for the ‘wrong’ foods.

In other words, you’re starting to hit the starvation point where your body is so depleted that it’s starting to fight back.



Leptin plays a significant role in regulating hunger, feelings of satiety and energy expenditure.

While leptin has various functions in the body, its primary purpose is to control or regulate fat-cell size.

Once leptin is secreted from fat cells, it lets the brain know that the body has received sufficient food. — and that it’s time to put the spoon down.

Fat cells release leptin, therefore a lower body-fat percentage negatively affects leptin—meaning lower levels of leptin.

Note: Leptin levels are often elevated in individuals with higher body-fat percentages which potentially results in leptin resistance. Resistance to leptin means the brain essentially becomes desensitized to this appetite-suppressing hormone, significantly lessening its effects on hunger and satiety.


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Carbohydrates and Leptin

Carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient which has the ability to boost leptin levels and reduce ghrelin (hunger hormone).

When doing a cheat day, carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your total calories.

Refeed days are to be implement purposely when in a depleted state and dieting down (negative energy balance).

  • For optimal leptin increases, refeeds must be done with high glycemic (fast digesting) carbohydrates. Example: white rice, pasta, jam, potato, white bread, sugary cereal.
  • Increase total calories by 20 to 40%, judging by how depleted you are.
  • During a refeed, protein intake remains unchanged, while fat intake is minimized. (fats = 10 to 20% of total calories). The remaining of the calories will come from carbohydrates (high GI).
  • Ideally, spread your meals apart for a more steady leptin and a longer on-set release. Also, to avoid the huge “coma-like” insulin spike if crammed into one meal.
  • Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy. Thus, if eaten in excess without being burned as fuel, the excess calories will be stored as fat. Be aware not to go overboard and avoid unnecessary fat gain.
  • The longer you have been in a caloric deficit and less body fat percentage, the more refeeds you’ll require.



In summary, high-glycemic carbohydrates ( glucose ) will increase leptin levels which will resume fat-burning and help you continue progress.

The lower your body fat levels are the more often you should have a refeed or a cheat day and vice versa.

Randomly eating pizza and ice cream, but calling it a cheat day will just add layers of unwanted body fat.



Primal Breed is committed to providing you effective personal training in Toronto, helping you lose unwanted weight permanently and build lean muscle for life.

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