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80/20 principle VS the cheat day

Whether you are starting a new diet or just trying to eat cleaner, staying consistent is hard work. Allowing yourself to indulge once in awhile can help you stay consistent and more disciplined.

A common debate between fitness junkies are “cheat a little bit often” or “cheat big once.” This refers to the idea of going outside the restrictions of your diet or daily eating habits. Cheating a little bit often, is commonly known as the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule means you strictly adhere to your diet 80% of the time, while allowing yourself to “cheat” the other 20% of the time. Cheating big once, refers to the so called “cheat day.” Meaning you can blow the lid off your diet for the day! No need to monitor caloric intake, macros or even care about what you’re putting in your body. There are many different reasons why some choose 80/20 and why others choose a cheat day. There is a lot to consider and that’s what we’re here to discuss.

80/20 Principle

The 80/20 principle refers to maintaining a strict diet 80% of the time while allowing for “cheat style meals” the other 20% of the time. This allows people to look forward to some sort of reward every day and can make a “diet” feel less of a burden. This can promote a healthy style of living, while allowing for room to actually enjoy life. People have achieved amazing results using this style of intake regarding their nutrition. However, some people may find that when they allow themselves to “go off the rails” for 20% of their diet, they cannot come back. They get sucked into the temptation of "mouth pleasure" or junk food and have a tough time returning to their diet once they indulge in a treat. Also, people commonly think “oh I worked out today, so this one thing won’t hurt me" and they come to find out they are over their daily caloric intake. Often the cheat meal items are high in calories, fat and sugar. If you are tracking your macros or just consistently trying to stay in a healthy deficit for weight loss, this system could potentially throw you off. Should we be consuming unhealthy products everyday? Although we like to see it as a reward, processed food, high fructose corn syrup and sugar can be detrimental for your health. People are attracted to this mentality due to the fact that it adds a sense of “normalcy” and scratches the itch for the temptations that surround us all on a daily basis when trying to maintain a healthy diet.

Cheat Day

Cheat day, this is probably the most common practice among the health and fitness community. Cheat day can be described as a day where you indulge yourself. You can choose to pay no attention to the diet you have been strictly following for the past week. Many people pay no attention to their caloric intake, nutritional value of their intake and macros. This means you have to strictly adhere to your diet the time leading up to this day. Many people choose to have their rest days, line up with their cheat days. It allows you to have something to look forward to all week long and serves as a reward for eating well and holding fast all week.

Other pros to consider when talking about cheat day: it can rev up your metabolism, boost your energy levels and some even say “it can shock your body back into making the most of the nutrients it has been intaking all week.” Some cons to consider are, if you have not been fully sticking to your diet all week, then the cheat day does not really serve its purpose. Even a small cheat meal or snack here and there throughout the week can disvalue the benefits of incorporating a cheat day. Also, having a day out of the week to “cheat” makes it feel like you’re following a “diet” all week long. Some believe, unless you are training for a show, triathlon or marathon, there is no reason to force yourself to have such a strict diet, making your life a game of denying temptations all week long. This is why some people live by the 80/20 rule and others live by the laws of a cheat day.

Neither method is right or wrong.


Following a strict healthy diet while allowing yourself to indulge throughout the week a small percentage of the time or enjoying one day of indulgence, both have their pros and cons. You have to decide what is right, sustainable and realistic for yourself and your fitness goals. The temptations are there and none of us are perfect, so instead of denying ourselves these temptations, you should choose a plan that is going to work for you and achieve the most optimal results. At Modern Age Fitness, both our coaches and clients at practice both ways of breaking up their diet in order to stay more consistent and it works for them. The choice is yours.


The Modern Age Family

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