I just had my cheat day today. I ate a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast, which adds up to about 2400 calories. That’s more calories than most people eat in a single day, and I had it in one meal.
Yet, somehow, I’m still shredded at 8% bodyfat with a body that turns heads at the beach. How the hell do I do it? Am I on steroids, or maybe I just have that magical “good genetics” thing that people always use as an excuse to not workout?
The truth is that I have neither. The reason I’m able to eat like such a fat fuck and still maintain a shredded physique, is because I understand the biology and mechanics behind having cheat days. Despite meathead stereotypes, lifting is a science.
Here I’m going to share with you how I have a cheat day every single week, and completely pig out, without gaining an ounce of fat. If you’re trying to lose weight you may want to go easy on the cheat days, but if you’re under 16% bodyfat, then have at it.
1. Grapefruit Juice
“Ugh, I hate grapefruit juice,” I said to myself as I pounded down an 8oz glass of the stuff. While I’ve never been a fan of anything grapefruit related, I still drink it before my first cheat meal on every single cheat day—this is a tip I got from Tim Ferris.
This common food, which is often recommended to diabetics and those with obesity, has been shown to blunt insulin levels, which is your best friend on a cheat day. Without going too in depth here, insulin is basically a storage hormone, which when secreted by your body leads to fat deposits.
So by drinking grapefruit juice right before your first cheat meal, you’re effectively hacking your body to “shut down” its fat storage processes, for a few hours. Granted it won’t stop insulin production entirely, but it’s still a powerful trick.
“But Jon, doesn’t grapefruit juice have calories?” I can hear someone ask. Why, yes. Yes it does, BUT the added benefits you’ll get from suppressing insulin production, and by extent decreasing fat storage, far outweigh the paltry 120 calories you’ll get from an 8oz glass of grapefruit juice.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another one of those “wonder foods” that the health industry can’t seem to stop shilling for. Yet, is it a key staple food of bio-hackers or is it just a fad, that’s bound to come and go, like the Atkins diet? In my opinion, ACV is one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal to rock a cheat day.
I recommend taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar after each meal you have on your cheat day, for the same reasons that I recommend drinking grapefruit juice prior. Consuming just a small amount of apple cider vinegar has been shown to blunt insulin production massively, and decrease fat storage.
Even when I’m not having a cheat day, I still consume apple cider vinegar on a regular basis. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to get shredded that I know of. Simply take a little tablespoon of the stuff (make sure it’s raw ACV), and boom—you’ve got yourself an anti-fat complex right in your belly.
Again, make sure you get raw apple cider vinegar, though. While much of the health benefits come from consuming acetic acid, when you get pasteurized ACV you won’t get any of the probiotics or the benefits that come with them. I prefer using Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.
3. Drink Yerba Mate
Many nutritionists and bio-hackers alike have known about the benefits of consuming caffeine for decades. From increasing metabolism to enhancing focus, it seems that caffeine is a wonder drug with all sorts of applications—but what if I told you there’s a better way to get it than coffee?
While I certainly do love my coffee, and while coffee does have a ton of benefits, I actually opt for drinking Yerba Mate on cheat days. This powerful beverage made from the leaves and stems of a sub-tropical rain forest tree has a ton of benefits…especially if you’re trying to rock a cheat day.
First, the caffeine will increase your metabolism and blunt insulin. This is a double whammy that not only speeds up the fat burning process, but prevents you from putting more fat on. In addition to this, Yerba Mate will also speed up “waste elimination,” AKA make you shit.
This certainly isn’t pretty, but hey—I’m not here to give you pretty. I’m here to give you the no-bullshit truth, and here it is: drinking Yerba Mate will speed up your “waste elimination” process, which means less time for your body to absorb the disgusting amounts of calories you’ll be consuming on your cheat day.
4. Time Your Cheat Meals
One huge mistake I see guys making is that they’ll just opt to have a cheat day on some random day of the week, without putting any sort of thought or effort into it. The truth is though that half of getting shredded isn’t even what you eat, it’s when you eat it.
As I discuss in Body of an Alpha, there’s several optimal “metabolic windows,” where your body is primed to consume high amounts of calories without putting on an ounce of fat. One of these windows is after a particularly grueling workout, which drains your muscles of glycogen.
To maximize your cheat day, I recommend following the “Day 1: Strength Training” protocol in Body of an Alpha, or another extremely grueling workout routine BEFORE you start eating cheat foods. Work out on an empty stomach, and then have your first cheat meal post-workout.
This drains your muscles of a vital energy source called “glycogen,” which primes your body to absorb all of the fat and high carbohydrate foods you’re going to be eating post-workout, and to put it all back into your muscles rather than converting it into fat and storing it on that oh-so-important six pack.
5. Drink Kombucha
Kombucha is another one of those wonder foods that’s being promoted by everyone from J.P. Seers to Whole Foods to even popular pickup artists that I know of. Again, is it a fad or is there actual science to back this super food? In my opinion, kombucha is highly effective at rocking your cheat day.
Made from fermented black tea, this ancient drink has been prized by Chinese healers for millenia, due to its miraculous regenerative properties. Not only is the stuff loaded with tons of probiotics, which will help digest all of the food you’ll be eating on your cheat day, but it’s also a great detoxification agent.
I recommend drinking 1 bottle of kombucha during your cheat day, split into two doses. Drink half after your first cheat meal, and the other half after your last cheat meal. This will not only help your body deal with all of the foods you ate, but it will also aid in clearing out any toxins you may have had while cheating.
I prefer GT’s kombucha for their purity, high quality control, good taste, and overall business ethics. What’s great is they also sell particular flavors of kombucha with apple cider vinegar in them, so you can knock out tips #2 and #5 at the same time. Alternatively you can also make your own kombucha (although I don’t recommend it).
How to Rock Your Cheat Day
There’s a ton of little tips and tricks that you accumulate over the years from working out, reading tons of bodybuilding magazines, and making huge mistakes. This list is just a small compilation of some of those tricks that I’ve learned over the years from having dozens, even hundreds of cheat days.
As a reminder, I don’t recommend you go “all out” on these cheat days unless you’re already at a relatively low bodyfat percentage. For those of you who are obese, or severely overweight, having a cheat day like this would be counterproductive. Instead, just have a mild cheat day with maybe some desserts or candy.
Be sure to also get enough protein during your cheat days, so that your muscles continue to repair themselves. Some good cheat meals that are high in protein would be double cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, and meat lover’s pizza.
Personally I aim to have a cheat day once a week—sometimes more, sometimes less. It all depends on what I’m aiming for and if I’m preparing for a photoshoot or not. Ultimately it’s on you to decide how often you should cheat, but either way, I’ve got your back.