You eat a clean diet Monday through Friday, but when the weekend rolls around, and you let your guard down, and eat an entire cheese pizza. That pizza may taste good going down, but according to a study carried out at Washington University School of Medicine, weekend splurges are common weight loss saboteurs that can make it harder to reach your weight loss goals.
Weekends, Splurges and Weight Control
When researchers followed a group of study participants for a year, they found that their calorie intake was highest on Saturdays, and they consumed more foods high in fat on that day. Even when they asked the participants to reduce their daily calorie intake by 20% or to increase the amount they exercised by 20%, they still took in more calories on the weekends than they did during the week. As a result, their weight loss ground to a halt on weekends. Even worse, the group that increased their exercise but didn’t cut calories actually gained weight.
Interestingly, many of the participants weren’t even aware they were consuming so many calories on the weekend. Researchers in this study speculate that weekend overeating is the reason many people have difficulty losing weight when they’re on a diet.
Don’t Let Down Your Guard on the Weekend
It’s still possible to enjoy some of your favorite foods on the weekend without adding inches to your waistline. Plan a cheat meal into your weekend, but don’t turn Saturday and Sunday into a food free-for-all. You can consume a lot of calories over a two day period and quickly undo any fat loss you achieved by eating cleanly during the week. Most people have more success when they limit a splurge to a single meal rather than an entire day or weekend of indulgent eating.
Enjoying a weekly cheat meal can actually be beneficial if you’re trying to control your weight. Shocking your body with a higher calorie meal, particularly one that’s higher in carbs, boosts your metabolism. If you restrict calories and carbs too much, it lowers leptin levels, which slows down your metabolism. A higher carb cheat meal helps to kick start the fat-burning process.
Having a cheat meal on the weekends is also good from a psychological standpoint. It gives you the opportunity to indulge in foods you wouldn’t normally eat. Exercise also feels a little easier the next day since you’ve ramped up your glycogen stores.
The key to safely enjoying cheat feasts is to keep them to a single meal while eating cleanly the rest of the weekend. To increase awareness of how much you’re actually eating on the weekend, keep a food diary for a few weeks and add up the number of weekend calories and carbs. You may be surprised.
The other key to avoiding overeating on the weekend is to consume enough calories during the week. Some people restrict calories too much during the week so they can indulge on the weekend. Even five days of clean eating won’t compensate for a weekend of pizza, French fries, and ice cream. Eat a diet that contains a reasonable number of calories during the week so you don’t “fall off the wagon” on the weekend.
The Bottom Line?
Enjoy a weekend cheat meal, but don’t turn it into a two-day splurge. Don’t let your guard down and give back all of your weight loss and fitness gains. Enjoy a splurge but not at the expense of your waistline.
Science Daily. “Weekends Slow Weight Loss, Researchers Find”