So, that pizza everyone was eating was just too good to pass up, and instead of having only 2 slices like you’d planned, you couldn’t resist adding an extra 3 more on top of it. You’ve now gone 1000 calories over your target for the day, and it feels as though all that fat loss progress you’ve been working so hard for has come to a screeching halt. Well, not so fast. Cheating on your diet from time to time is actually completely normal, and it’s totally unrealistic (and unnecessary) that you’ll be able to stay 100% on point with your calorie intake every single day. Achieving ongoing fat loss is all about what you do in the big picture, and if you went over on calories for a particular day and aren’t sure what to do, here are the two simple options I’d recommend.
Option #1: Make Up For It The Next Day.
The first option is to adjust your calories over the next day or two to compensate. There’s nothing particularly special about the specific time frame of “24 hours”, and it’s not as if your calorie intake needs to be completely set in stone within each of those 24 hour blocks. What’s much more important is your average calorie intake in the bigger picture, spread out over the course of a few days or even a week. Whether you eat exactly 2000 calories every single day, or whether it’s 1600, 2500 and 1900 calories over the course of 3 days, the bottom line results are not going to be noticeably affected.
I would recommend that you make an effort to keep things relatively steady overall (for example, I wouldn’t suggest eating 800 calories for 5 days straight and then 8000 in a single day), but if there’s simply a modest ebb and flow to your intake with a few bigger up and down spikes here and there, that’s nothing to worry about. So, if you unintentionally went over by, say, 600 calories on a particular day, reducing your intake by 600 the following day or by 300 for the following two days would be a perfectly viable option in order to keep your diet fully on track.
Option #2: Don’t Worry About It And Just Continue As Normal.
The second option is to simply accept the fact that you over-ate, not stress about it, and just get back on track with your regular diet the next day. Fat loss and fat gain are both very slow processes that happen gradually over the long term, and cheating on your diet for one or two days is hardly going to make any difference at all in the big picture as long as it’s only happening once in a while.
For example, I received an email recently from a reader whose daily calorie target was 1800, but they accidentally ate 2300 on a particular day and were wondering what they should do. In a case like this there is literally nothing to stress out about whatsoever, as adding 500 calories to your regular intake would basically just mean that you ate at your calorie maintenance level. (Assuming you’re following a standard fat loss diet by eating around 500 calories below maintenance per day)
There would simply be no fat loss or fat gain in this situation, and the day could just be considered a wash. Even if you were to eat 1000 calories over your limit, you’d still only be looking at around a 500 calorie surplus, which is hardly anything on its own when you consider that a single pound of stored fat contains about 3500 calories.
In order to cause any real noticeable damage to your fat loss progress, you’d have to over-eat by a pretty hefty margin and do so for several days on end. Not only that, but when cheating on your diet, it’s not even as if all the calories you over-eat will end up being stored as fat anyway. Since you’ll be performing regular weight training as part of your fat loss plan, several hundred of the extra calories you take in will actually be diverted to muscle growth as a result of having that weight training stimulus in place.
Which Of The Two Options Should You Choose?
Neither option is technically “right” or “wrong”, and it just depends on your individual goals, mindset and on which option is going to keep you the most motivated moving forward. If you’re aiming to lose a very specific amount of fat and get into a certain shape by a set date, then option 1 might be more suitable to ensure that you reach your goal in time and don’t fall off track. Or, if you’re just following a general fat loss program with no time constraints and you recognize that a day or two of over-eating is no big deal as long as the overall trend is on point, then option 2 might work better. Just choose the option that feels best for you and that maximizes the chances that you’ll stay consistent with your program longer term.
Also keep in mind that if your body weight suddenly shoots up the day after you cheat on your diet, most of this is simply due to an increase in water retention from the additional carbs and sodium and is not a result of actual fat gain. Your physique may also appear a bit softer and “puffier” looking, but again, this is just simple water retention and will return back to normal within a day or two of resuming your normal diet.
Cheated On Your Diet? The Bottom Line/
When it all comes down to it, losing body fat is simply a result of your overall calorie intake versus your overall calorie expenditure over the long term. If cheating on your diet is a regular ongoing occurrence, then yes, those calories are certainly going to add up and offset your progress in a measurable away. However, as long as you’re hitting your calorie targets with reasonably accuracy in the big picture, a few upward spikes here and there are hardly going to make a difference if any at all. When it comes to cheating on your diet, just accept that you’re human… that your nutrition plan is never going to be perfect… that you will have days where you over-eat… and that the only answer is to just get back on track the following day and continue moving forward from there.