I want to make a distinction right away about 'cheat' days vs our 'eat up' days. From what I understand, a cheat day has been promoted to be a day where you eat massively excessive calories well above your metabolic needs for the day. This has become a bit of a ritual for fitness competitors and bodybuilders who follow severely restrictive diets then let it all loose on their 'cheat' day. I find this to be an unhealthy practice for multiple reasons.
Firstly, we can all overeat enough on a given cheat day to undo weeks of dieting. This is clearly just taking a big step backwards.
Secondly, the word 'cheat' implies you're doing something wrong or dishonest. Dieting and managing food is already psychologically stressful enough, there is no reason to add in things that make you feel like you're doing something wrong on purpose.
There is no way to lose body fat without creating a calorie deficit. This should not be news to you. In other words, if you burn 1800 calories today you need to consume less than 1800 calories in order to force your body to burn up some of your body fat in order to make up the difference. This is a fundamental law of energy balance and fat loss and it does not change.
When men follow a severely calorie restricted diet they don't have as severe of a drop in leptin and therefore their metabolic rate seems to remain stable throughout the process. Women on the other hand cannot simply hit it hard, and go super low on calories for as long as they can stand it. Your leptin levels will fall dramatically leading to metabolic changes that could slow the fat burning process, as well as leaving you ravenously hungry and craving carbs. I mentioned this in the previous article (click here to read).
You add in strategic 'eat up' days to prevent these dramatic drops in leptin and to avoid the carb cravings that will come. Most men can push for weeks without having an eat up day, but through research I've found that women need to have strategic 'eat up' days much more frequently than men. This means you're only going to be in a deficit for short stretches of time, then eating up to maintenance to restore normal leptin functioning and avoid any chance of a crash, cravings or a rebound.
Your 'eat up' days can come as frequently as every 3 days stretching to every 5th or 6th day. The point is that you'll never go an entire week eating in a deficit and you'll always be able to bring your calories back up to maintenance to reset your system.
'Eating Up' Means Eating at Maintenance
Your daily calorie burn is what we call 'maintenance'. When we say 'maintenance' we refer to the amount of calories you burn and eating up to this same amount of calories such that you don't gain or lose weight but rather you 'maintain' your weight and maintain your metabolism. For example if you burn 1800 calories today, and you eat 1800 calories today you are eating up to maintenance. This is what an 'eat up' day is:
Eating up to the total amount of calories you burned in a given day.
This is in contrast to a 'cheat' day where you're instructed to eat significantly above maintenance, in some cases 1000's of calories above maintenance. In my experience having full out 'cheat' days just leads to a string of days of binge eating that sets you spiralling backwards both physically and psychologically. And this is because of a phenomenon called “disinhibited eating” which is the mindset of 'Good food vs Bad food'. I will talk more about this in the next article.
The total amount of calories you eat will determine if you are successful at weight loss or not. The specific foods you eat to get there matter much less than the total calories. When you eat those calories is also a minor issue compared to the total amount. Getting caught up thinking about these other issues will distract you from the real issue and that is calories.
In order to lose bodyfat you must consume less calories than you burn in a day. But you also must do this in a pattern that doesn’t eventually crash your system and cause you to be less efficient at fat burning. As discussed earlier, as a woman your leptin levels will go through more dramatic highs and lows when you change your calorie intake so you cannot eat very low calories for extended periods of time the way a man could. In order to avoid these big swings in leptin (specifically the dramatic drops) the Venus Factor system adds in ‘eat up’ days that allow you to eat up to your maintenance calories levels for the day. On these days you’re not going to be in a calorie deficit. The point of your eat up days is to restore leptin to a normal level and avoid it dropping any further.
Deficit vs Maintenance
“Eat up” days are meant to be days when you match your daily calorie burn with your calorie intake. This is called eating at maintenance - maintaining bodyweight.
Deficit days are when you do your bodyfat burning and these days you will be eating less calories than you’re burning. This forces your body to make up the difference by burning off some of your bodyfat.
You will not be spending more than 4-5 days in a deficit until you get to “eat up”. We’ve tried all different lengths of deficit vs eat up days, and it seems that about 5 days is the longest most people can go in a deficit until they simply want to eat more. Until recently we didn’t really know why this would happen but it appears to be because leptin levels are falling far enough that you start to really want to eat more. I purposely tell you to eat up at the 5th day so you don’t push your leptin levels even farther down which could lead to a crash and binge.
Research has discovered a relative sweet spot around the 5th day that works for most women. It allows enough days of deficit eating to burn off a significant amount of bodyfat without pushing you too far and causing any metabolic disruption.
It’s about time that we address the one burning question that might be in your head right now. And that is: “So how many calories do I get to eat anyway?”
Your daily calorie burn is determined by your resting metabolic rate and any calories you burn from exercise. Click here to explore what average metabolic rates are for women.
In order for a diet plan to be effective, you should match your degree of energy deficit up with the degree of fat you have left to lose. The more body fat you have to lose, the larger energy deficit you can work with. As you start to lose weight, you can start to eat more calories until you’ve reached the amount of calories you need to sustain your new bodyweight. In other words you do the EXACT opposite of any other diet. You start low and end high...or to be more specific you end at ‘maintenance’.
This is the main benefit of 'Reverse Taper Dieting', not only do you match your calorie deficit to your body fat, but you also slowly increase to the amount of calories needed to maintain your new lean body. This is what is known as “Calorie Optimisation”. You do NOT want to be on a diet for the rest of your life. Instead, you learn how to eat at a level that is optimised for your new body.
Weight loss will always follow an energy deficit. Our goal is to achieve and then maintain the maximum rate of FAT LOSS while we lose body fat, and not to go over this rate in the false assumption that more WEIGHT LOSS somehow means more FAT LOSS. This is an important distinction to make. You can still have a deficit larger than what your body fat can fill in, however this is not what you want to do since the energy must come from somewhere else, often times this means blood sugar and protein sources such as your internal organs and even muscle mass.