It’s generally accepted now that to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit, but how often do your weekends derail your progress?
The thing is that you could be in a deficit all week but if you go too big on the weekend that will all go to waste.
If you eat a salad one day you aren’t going to immediately lose a stone or if you eat a massive cake one day you aren’t immediately going to gain weight. Your body doesn’t reset every day and bank a deficit or surplus, your energy levels are a continuous thing. This is why coaches will often suggest clients track across a week rather than day by day. Not only does it allow for flexibility, as some days your plans may mean you’re going to eat more and others less, it also helps adjust your mindset to avoid panicking after a big calorie day or going mad after a low calorie day because you need to ‘reset’ or because ‘you deserve it’.
So say you calculate your TDEE IS 2,500 a day so you want to eat 2,000 a day to be in a 20% deficit. That’s creating a deficit of 3,500 calories across the week.
You do really well Monday to Friday and actually only eat 1,800 each day so you’ve built that deficit of 3,500 calories already.
But then on Saturday and Sunday you eat 4,000 calories each day, you did well all week and deserve it right? Only thing is that’s 3,000 calories more than your TDEE across two days, 4,000 calories more than your goal to remain in a deficit.
And there we have it- your surplus over the weekend has suddenly cancelled out your deficit from the week. Do that every week and you might not put weight on because you’re pretty much coming out even but you’ll struggle to lose weight.
So the solution? Well you don’t need to not eat more at the weekend, I think naturally we all do (or at least all of us who work Monday to Friday tend to). What you can do is be more mindful. Keep track of the calories, make sensible choices where you can to avoid unnecessary calories (do you really need a full fat mixer when a no calorie one is available?) By not letting the weekend be a crazy ‘time off from tracking’ you will probably find you end up consuming less just by being more aware.
So now if you’re back in that same situation above and you’ve hit a deficit of 3,500 Monday to Friday you still have an extra 1,000 calories to play with at the weekend whilst remaining in a deficit, so you could actually have 2,500 calories each day and still hit your target.
Or you could even reduce your deficit target to 10% for those two days, then you’d have 2,750 calories each day to play with.
Or you could even aim for 10% deficit across the whole week. Now the same Monday to Friday would leave you a whopping 6,750 calories for your weekend to remain in a (smaller) deficit. Slower progress but you would still see progress.
The point being whilst YOLO is a tempting attitude for your weekends or any time off if you really do want to make changes to your body you need to understand how being really good in the week doesn’t automatically counteract a crazy weekend. It can certainly be used as a tool to help balance out your energy deficit, but if complete abandon is applied and you find you frequently aren’t getting the results you want a little more awareness could be your first step in changing that.