THE ROLE OF THE CHEAT WINDOW (Sometimes referred to as a re-feed)
5 years ago when I was lucky enough to be brought to a CrossFit gym (CrossFit San Antonio), it was purely for the workouts. It was 2010 and I was not really interested in anything other than working out between parties (because, college) or naps.
A year later when found CrossFit 1525, and eventually left my job to work there, Nikki emphasized the role of nutrition in our life. It was the first time someone mentioned food being a bigger player in our body composition and performance than our workouts. We ran (and the staff took part in) nutrition challenges two or three times per year and the premise was to eat well (Paleo) Monday through Friday and then enjoy our normal choices on Saturday and Sunday.
This was a great way to introduce athletes to better food choices without intimidating them with a 5 week plan of little joy (because we do see food as sources of our fun). If you only have to get through the work week then that is something you are able to take on without too much worry because you know that beer or that pizza slice will be there Saturday.
As the years have passed quite a bit has changed. We have seen the emergence of full blown auto-immune protocols like the Whole 30 and nutrition guidance that includes donuts and other treats so longs as they fit the macro nutrient prescription you are told to follow.
Look, everything in life comes down to a donkey and a carrot. Im the donkey (we are all the donkey) and the carrot is whatever it is we are pursing (in this case, successfully navigating the Black Wolf Lifestyle Throwdown). If the carrot is too far away we will eventually fail to believe we will ever be able to reach it. 5 weeks without a break might be just that for some of us. At the same time, if the carrot is too close we have no reason to continue to move forward and push to be better. So where’s the balance?
The Sunday cheat window is a tool that directly impacts how far away the carrot is dangling. If we get to Sunday and we gorge on every little thing then we might be failing to take full advantage of our hard work the other 6 days of the week. Let me be clear, you are still healthier and better off for making awesome food choices Monday through Sunday morning. The question is, what is the cost of the cheat window when we go all in?
Who should go all in and who might hold off a bit:
-I want to lose a bit of weight but I’m not married to a specific number so long as I am getting healthier and looking better naked along the way.
If this is you then you should have no qualms with eating whatever you want. You will definitely continue to lose weight (if you have it to lose) at a steady (that doesn’t mean a lot at one time) rate and you will definitely continue to see changes in body composition due to your workouts and your food choices the rest of the week.
-I want to have a body like a greek god.
The road is long and the road is hard. If having 6 hours on Sunday to eat anything and everything seems too good to be true then it absolutely is. If you are purely motivated by aesthetic improvement or you are desperately desiring to drop to a certain body weight then you need to avoid the cheat until your coach tells you a re-feed is in order (this is not a weekly event).
-Im a normal person but losing weight is important to me and I would really like to drop a specific number of pounds (especially if more than 10 pounds).
Forgo the cheat window and limit to yourself to a cheat meal if you need the psychological break. Yes, if you happened to go a weekend or two during the challenge without cheating then you might be a bit better off, but having a treat is not derailing or even hindering your progress. But burying yourself in treats and eating your way out very well could limit the gains in body composition you are seeking.
I believe outside of the challenge I will always enjoy my food on Sundays. When I am training consistently and eating well the rest of the week, Sundays are not only a break for me but they also occasionally give me something to look forward to. Id also like to point out that every Sunday is not a feast of poor choices. The reality is that turkey patties and rice or sweet potatoes and beef, or avocado and tuna actually taste good and I find myself craving them as much as anything else.
I want you to understand what good food choices arebut I do not wish that you live a super strict diet life (unless that is your jam). If you are educated on what works well for your body and what causes health issues (sugar/refined carbs) then you have every right to enjoy a cookie from time to time or stop by your favorite restaurant that doesn’t generally specialize in great choices. But when we think 100 calorie packs of cookies are the answer or we think the diet soda means its healthy, or that breakfast cereal isn’t a big bowl of sugar (even the cereals that are not sugary treats because refined carbs are processed into sugars and you get the same response from your digestive track #dieabetes #heartdisease), we have to fix ourselves because we are broken.
Get food right 90% of the time and allow yourself a bit of wiggle room every now and then.