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In this article, the reader will learn the honest truth about the effect of cheat days in their diet plan. Instead of having to choose between great food and a lean physique, the reader will discover strategic ways to have both while enjoying the process.

It’s the beginning of spring-aka cutting season. You’re spending the last few months before summer trying to shred off as much fat as possible to reveal the solid muscle you’ve built, the result of grinding at the gym every week for the past year. For many, the “cut” is the most grueling phase. Long and tiring workouts, low calorie diets, and bland meals that typically consist of rubbery chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli, it’s amazing that those who embark on such a challenge come out the other side alive.

The only things that keep us trudging onwards in our painful pursuit of leanness are:

1) that subtle hint of a six pack that is ever so slowly poking through, and

2) the controversial “cheat day,” in which all dieting rules get pushed to the side once a week, allowing our deprived taste buds to indulge in “unclean” foods that, during the rest of the week, are strictly off limits.

Cheeseburgers, nachos, pizza, ice cream-pretty much any food, is a possibility.

But is the infamous cheat day really worth it in the end?

While it may temporarily cure the cravings, does it set back all your hard work, and to what extent? Should you even have cheat days? The answer is by no means an easy one. For most, cheat days really do setback progress. To burn one pound of fat each week, you would need to eat at least 500 calories less than your body’s maintenance calorie intake every day, or roughly eat in a weekly deficit of 3500 calories.

This weekly deficit can be easily offset, and even turned into a surplus, with one cheat day during the week.

One day filled with eating high-calorie foods with limited restraint can lead to consuming potentially 3,000-5,000 calories (depending on how much you eat that day). Not only does this severely diminish your aimed weekly deficit of 3500 calories, but it could, as stated earlier, transform the deficit into a surplus, in which you are now gaining fat, not losing it.

Naturally, this can setback your progress by weeks or even months, meaning more time spent in the gym, and more dry, tasteless meals that you have to consume.  Does this mean that you should cut out all “unhealthy” foods, and stick to the diet that’s making you hate mealtime? Not necessarily. Ultimately, how you manage your diet is up to you. If you want to get shredded as fast as possible, and can tolerate disgusting food for three months, then go for it.

However, for the vast majority of people, this is not only dreadful, but also unsustainable, and eventually leads to binge eating and coming off the strict diet once cravings become too strong (it happens to the best of us).

After all, we are only human, and fitness should not be something that makes us miserable, but rather, something that makes us happy. There are two ways you can manage your diet so you can actually enjoy the process of leaning down in time for summer.

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