Cheat Meals Cheat Days

Hey folks, in part 7, we learned some very interesting things about milk when it comes to fat loss and health from Eat Stop Eat author Brad Pilon.

Today our fitness and nutrition expert shares with us his research on calories and metabolism.


Craig: Right on. Your opinions on cheat meals versus cheat days.

Brad: The meal versus the day.

Craig: Just in general. Do we have to force these cheat meals on us? If someone wants to not have a cheat meal is it going to make a difference? You made a great point of you can’t really eat yourself into a faster metabolism.

Every time I hear somebody say that you have to have breakfast to get your metabolism revving, that’s just ludicrous. Your metabolism is going regardless of whether or not you eat breakfast, and if you eat 400 calories your metabolism is not going to consume all 400 of those calories.

Brad: Do you remember, I don’t know how many years ago, when we did those diets versus exercise videos?

Craig: Yes.

Brad: They kind of stuck with me. I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s an upper limit. Like how many calories can you actually burn in a day? I’ve been toying with this and actually looking through it, and I finally found awesome research from, of course the military, because it’s easy to do awesome research when you practically own the people involved.

I looked at the data on Marines going through the hardest part of their training. This crazy exercise called “crucible”  is where they basically are playing football  for two-a-days, 24 hours straight with no sleep. These guys get up to a level of about 40 calories per pound of body weight. That seems to be the topped off level of calorie burning.

Craig: So, about 8,000 calories if you’re a 200 pound guy.

Brad: There you go, yes. Keep in mind this is someone doing just insane exercise for 22 hours of a 24 hour day. It’s not like they just did a really hard core workout from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM after a day at work, they were doing insane stuff for an entire day and that’s the number they got to.

That same number has been found something near it or under it, in the people who fight forest fires, just full days of fire work and cutting down and brush removal, it’s been found in other militaries, so it’s a general number we can work with. It may not be exact, it may be 41, it may be something else, but let’s just stick with that one number.
I’m not anywhere near 200, but let’s just pretend I am. That gives me 8,000 calories. Force feeding myself on a cheat day I can get to 10,000. It would take an effort. I wouldn’t feel good, I might need a couple of coaches telling me to eat the food, but I could do it.

So, in one day I can overdo the amount of calories that I know I could burn, especially since if I’m sitting down eating 10,000 calories in a day I’m not out sprinting with 80 pound backpacks on and doing combat situations like these Marines would be, so in no way am I burning 8,000.

If we look at the thermic effect of food, that whole idea of eating food can cause this massive increase in your metabolism because of the process of digestion. The highest reported number I’ve ever been able to find on the thermic effect of food was 27 percent of the calories consumed. Well, crap, if I eat 10,000 calories I still have like 7,000 to deal with type of thing.

It’s not like you’re just magically burning it off, NO FOOD CAN CAUSE YOU TO BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU CONSUME, it just doesn’t happen. Then if we get back to what you and I just talked about earlier about inflammation and acute inflammation responses, a little bit of inflammation, that specific acute inflammation response has a long term benefit, it’s just through the general adaptation syndrome of your body, a little bit of stress your body adapts to it.

However, if you overload that stress it’s now a negative thing. So, is the oxidant damaging inflammation you’re causing at a level where when you take that away it’s actually a benefit or it an, I’m doing some damage here type of thing?

I don’t want to rule out the concept of cheat meals, no way, because I like them. A cheat day I don’t want to rule out, because they happen. Weddings are a perfect example. I don’t care who you are and what amazing willpower you have, it’s almost impossible to make it through a wedding without overeating. So, a cheat day there’s just NO WAY around it, birthdays, weddings, etcetera. So, I don’t have any issues with it.

Is there even a possible benefit to sort of letting loose and enjoying food, especially if you’ve been dieting hard? I think psychologically absolutely. However, can you turn something that’s really beneficial, like sort of letting loose and eating once in awhile, into something that’s actually negative by force feeding yourself to the point where you feel sick?

I think that last sentence kind of sums it all up. If you’re feeling sick your body is obviously telling something. Maybe just stuffing food in yourself when you can’t eat anymore might be counterproductive. Even if it did have short term effects on what you see on the scale, are there long term effects we should be concerned about?

The bottom line is I like cheat days, I have no issues with them, they’re going to happen regardless of whether or not you’re planning them. An old friend come in, flies in, and you haven’t seen them in a couple of years, you guys go out, it’s probably going to end up being a cheat day. Weddings, birthdays, those sort of things. I wouldn’t freak out or stress out if they happen. What I wouldn’t want to do is CONTINUALLY force feed myself in situations where I just don’t feel like it, or I don’t want to or it’s not the right day, planning it that harshly.

So, if I had to pick cheat day versus cheat meal, I’d say both are fine. Are there benefits? There may be. Are there negatives? Possibly. So, the issue just becomes is it something you should be forcing on yourself? If it’s something you’re enjoying, a nice break, great. But, if it’s something you’re forcing where you’re feeling sick, you don’t want to do it but you’re forcing it still, I think that’s when you have to stop and reconsider your actions.

It gets back down to intentions and what you’re doing and possibly even gets back to the old dose is in the poison. Have you gone beyond what is beneficial and now started into a negative situation?

That’s all for today. Join us in part 9 when Brad Pilon talks about exercising under fasting conditions.