Should I Count Calories On My Cheat Day?

When you’re on calorie deficit for a while then cheat days are probably one of the most anticipated moments you have where you can just eat what you want. In this article I will explain everything you need to know about cheat days.

Should I count calories on my cheat day?

You shouldn’t count calories on your cheat day because counting calories daily creates extra stress. Therefore, having a day where you don’t count calories and eat what you want will not only help with reducing the stress but also improve metabolic rate and balance hormonal level.

So you will make yourself a huge favor by lowering the bar and reducing stress, instead of adding to it. More on that in a moment.

Can You Have A Cheat Day On A Calorie Deficit?

After years of counting calories, I’ve developed this irrational belief that the only way to stay lean is by having a perfect diet. I also thought that counting calories is the only way to lose weight.

And if my diet wasn’t perfect, I would feel guilty and ashamed.

That mindset messed up my mind like nothing else. Because the more I’ve diet, the more restrictions I’ve put on myself, the morecravings for food I would get.

As you can probably imagine, with more cravings I felt like food was haunting me. All I was thinking about was food that I cannot have. Until one day I fall of the wagon. And started to eat everything I wanted, without any brakes.

The problem with that is this lead me to feeling worse, instead of better. So I would start the cycle again. More restriction, more cravings and more stress. And drop down again.

So, can you have a cheat day on a calorie deficit? You can have a cheat day on a calorie deficit because cheat days will release the stress that comes with prolonged dieting and calorie counting. It’s better to have a controlled day where you eat what you want, rather than binge for a week.

That’s why it is so much better to have a regular eat-what-you-want day and don’t worry about the calories. Because sooner or later, everyone breaks down. And when they do, they can’t control themselves. This means one cheat day will turn into a cheat week or a cheat month.

And it takes a lot of will power to get back on that horse again.

So by introducing a regular cheat day where you eat what you want, will prevent from that multiple days binge.

How Many Calories On A Cheat Day?

If you don’t mind counting calories on your cheat day, then go ahead. This is not a strict rule. In fact, I have many clients, believe it or not, that like to count calories. Those folks are usually engineers or some mathematicians. And they love numbers.

Numbers make sense to them. So they like to look at the data.

So in case you’re all in for counting calories, even on the cheat days, here’s what you should know.

How many calories on a cheat day? You can have anywhere from 2000 to 4000 calories on your cheat day, depending on your physical activity. For physically active people, having a cheat day with 4000 calories won’t change the results. For sedentary people, a 2000 calorie cheat day will be enough.

But that is just the estimate. These are no magic numbers. The rule is that the more active you’re, the more calories you can have. And the less active you’re the less calories you eat. That’s it.

Remember that your daily calorie intake matters, too. If you’re on 500 calories a day, then having a whooping 4000 calories meal won’t make you gain weight.

But if you’re going for 2000 calories every day, your seldomly move and want to have a cheat day once a week with 4000 calories, this may slow down your results.

One trick to lower the damage after your cheat meal is to have a low-calorie day immediately after cheat day. Or, if you gonna go one step further, have a fasting day.

Regular intermittent fasting days (once to twice a month) where you don’t eat anything will dramatically help with your results. Why?

Because fasting helps you with eating less food by reducing your gastric capacity. That means you’re full with less food.

And over time, when you’re doing it again and again, you will eat less food, without counting calories.

So to get started, you can have a cheat day followed by fasting day.

How Many Calories After A Cheat Day?

Once you have your well deserved cheat day now is time to get back down to earth. And the sooner you do it, the better you will feel.

So one trick thatI use to lower the damage is by doing fasting day after a cheat day. Fasting day doesn’t mean you cannot eat anything. There are many ways to skin the cat.

How many calories after a cheat day? You don’t have to count calories after a cheat day because to lower your food intake you can simply skip a meal, eat smaller meals, eat just one meal, or have a full day of fasting. Reducing the food amount after cheat doesn’t have to be numerically oriented.

That’s actually how you can get around with your diet, too. Intermittent fasting can help you eat less food, without the worries about counting calories.

Because if you’re used to eating 3 meals a day, and now you reduce your meals to 2 or even 1 meal a day, it will automatically reduce the total food intake. No calculator needed.

Can I Go Over My Calories On A Cheat Day?

Can I go over my calories on a cheat day? You can go over your calories on a cheat day because not worrying about calories will reduce the stress and help you stay more consistent. Counting calories on your cheat days can bring more harm than good.

Dieting is hard. Especially if you’re doing it for a while, and you have other things going on in your life. It can get stressful very quickly.

For a single guy who is in his 20s, diet and exercise may feel like a walk in the park. But for a single mom in her 40s who is juggling two full-time jobs, having a prolonged diet will add more stress to the plate.

So if you’re already having other worries in your life, why would you add more stress?

Counting calories is extra stress (source). It’s this mindset of obeying the rules. And if we don’t follow the rules, we get punished.

So instead of adding more stress, I would strongly suggest you reduce it. That’s why cheat days shouldn’t feel like an assessment.

Cheat Day On 1200 Calorie Diet

If you’re on 1200 calorie diet than having a cheat day once a week can help you with the process. Remember that weight loss doesn’t happen overnight.

Like with anything else, patience and consistancy is the key.

I would go for 2000 to 2500 calories once a week when you’re on a 1200 calorie diet. Assuming that you can do intermittent fasting the day after, and you’re physically active, 2000 to 2500 calories won’t slow down the results.

In fact, I would even say that having a cheat day will help you with weight loss.

Do Cheat Days Help With Weight Loss?

Regardless of what type of diet you’re on, the longer you stay in the caloric deficit and the more weight you lose, it will lower your basal metabolic rate. This means as you dieting more, it gets harder to lose more weight.

This is called metabolic adaptation. Body uses less calories as the weight goes down. It slow down metabolic rate, lower energy, and down regulate sex hormones.

So, do cheat days help with weight loss? Cheat days help with weight loss because alternating low-calorie days with high-calories days can maintain the metabolic rate, which is key in the long-term results. Some of the popular variations of cheat days are alternate-day fasting, carb cycling, or calorie cycling.

All those strategies have been proven to balance metabolism, hormones and most importantly, increase compliance (source).

This means you will likely stay on your course for the long haul if you know that once or twice a week you can have a cheat day.

Another alternative is to have a regular cheat meals, rather than full blown cheat days.

Do You Count Calories On Cheat Meal?

Cheat meals are easier to manage than cheat days.

What I like about cheat meals is that they can be seen as a special event. A planned cheat meal can be anything from a date night with your loved one, a movie night, a football game in the pub with your buddies, or a simple dinner out where you just enjoy your food.

So, do you count calories on cheat meals? You don’t have to count calories on a cheat meal because it can take the enjoyment out of your meal. Food is a pleasure and If you’re focusing on calories rather than enjoying the moment, it can wreck your relationship with food.

So it’s a big difference from using cheat meals as a celebration versus coping with frustration, loneliness, or stress. A controlled cheat meal is eating something delicious with the purpose of being present in the moment and enjoying the moment.

Uncontrolled cheat meal is a reaction to emotions and using food as a coping mechanism.


You shouldn’t worry about counting calories on your cheat days. Cheat days are the opportunity to enjoy your life and celebrate those special moments.

Having a leach on how much you can eat will take away the fun and enjoyment from your food, and over time can alter your relationship with your food.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is a personal trainer and writer at Millennial Hawk. He holds a MSc in Sports and Exercise Science from the University of Central Lancashire. He is an exercise physiologist who enjoys learning about the latest trends in exercise and sports nutrition. Besides his passion for health and fitness, he loves cycling, exploring new hiking trails, and coaching youth soccer teams on weekends.

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