Let me start with a massive Tim Ferriss is awesome! Reading his book the 4 hour work week was where it started and that has shaped much of the most recent 3 years of my life – cheers Tim!
His book the 4 hour body, like many books has it’s flaws though for me the key thing he did is he shook up the fitness industry, it seemed that was one of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping points. No Ferriss wasn’t the first with this info, but he did do it at the right time and he did market it very well.
Though, his famous cheat days are becoming a little more infamous. I’m still into them when they’re done the right way.
What’s a cheat day?
A day off from your normally impeccable eating regime where you eat higher sugar foods. some take this to the excess and say you overfeed yourself with anything an everything (I’m not into that).
When to do it?
According to Ferriss in his book the Four Hour Body once per week though my body gets a cravings once every 10 to 14 days so I listen to my body. I’d say go with 1 per week as a maximum and listen to your body.
Why do it?
1) To give yourself a day off and a ‘reward’ from the strict eating regime you have ben following
2) To spike your metabolism. Ferris Says that our metabolism slows down when we eat clean food all of the time and by strategically eating high sugar foods on one day per week we trigger our metabolism into working harder for the days that follow because our metabolism takes a day or so to catch up. We trick it by having one day of indulgence, spiking our metabolism then drop our food back to our strict regime and thus burning food like an oven furnace!
One reason Ferriss recommends going wild with your cheating is because you’re likely to ‘overdose’ and not want to cheat for a long time after. This can be the case or it can trigger huge sugar cravings!
How to cheat properly
There are mixed views on this though in my opinion there is only one answer to cheating properly and that is cheating clean. Why, when you’ve been eating grass fed organic beef, farmers market veggies and fruit (of course that’s how you’re eating right?) would you then one day poison yourself with trans fats, Frankinstein sugars, wheat and a whole loads of horrendous ‘foods’?
This is how I advise you to cheat clean:
1) Organic chocolate (no soy lecithin). Some Green and Black and some montezumas chocolate in the UK doesn’t have soy lecithin (read this to find out why you avoid soy). In the states there is a whole foods own brand 85% without soy lecithin too. Always read the label. Cakes from almond or coconut Flour, yoghurts from coconut milk. I really love Whole foods for making these foods so readily available! Though do understand that not all food in the sacred Whole Foods is so innocent. Always read the label!
2) As Ferriss & Poliquin say, get a high protein, high veg/salad nourishing breakfast in. I recommend Salmon stakes with spinach or broccoli or chicken breasts and other veggies. Then start indulging.
3) Keep it steady – you don’t have to eat utter crap all day, choose 1 meal or 1 set period of time where you eat clean junk for that time period then stop.
4) Know that you are going to have cravings the next day. Sugar is one of the most addictive things on this planet so be mentally prepared for them and have the right foods at hand the next day. Start the next day with a VERY fulfilling breakfast!
Other sources of info on cheating:
In his post Jonny Bowden (2011) relates cheat days to alcoholics just getting drunk once per week. I like this point he makes because like I said above – sugar is very addictive! Though Jonny, who’s material I normally really like also quotes a study on 18 people (I find this a little weak) that showed it’s subjects cheating for 14 days (not what Ferriss or anyone else is referring to when they say cheat days) who gained loads of fat during the next 2.5 years. Bit of a Weak one there Jonny – you’re better than that! And, Charles Poliquin (2009) also has some great rules around ‘cheating’.
For more on Soy I’ve written this fairly extensive and comprehensive rant on ‘Why Soy is Killing your bird’ and messing with your sperm.
Jonny Bowden (2011) ‘Why I don’t believe in Cheat day’ http://jonnybowdenblog.com/why-i-dont-believe-in-cheat-day/
Charles Poliquin (2009) ‘Cheat Meal Rules that Increase MEtabolism’ http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/120/Cheat_Meal_Rules_that_Increase_Metabolism__Help_Yo.aspx