In many of my articles, I talk about how you should be eating if you want to build a lean and muscular body.
But as we all know, life doesn’t always go according to plan…
Yes, things will happen, and some days you’ll find that you are way off base with your diet.
Obviously, I’m not encouraging you to do this – but I’m realistic and know that it happens to everyone (including myself).
So this article is going to be all about what to do when things don’t go to plan.
You know, when you have one of those days where you end up eating too many calories, too little protein, too many carbs, etc – and feel like you’ve blown your diet.
Well, when this happens, don’t blow it out of proportion and beat yourself up!
As it turns out, these ‘bad’ eating days are often a lot more fixable than you may have thought, and don’t have to threaten your overall progress.
Let’s walk through a few of the strategies you can use to repair the dietary damage after a bad day of eating.
Averaging The Problem Away
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here…
Even though I often recommend sticking to daily targets for your calories and macros, it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t hit them from time to time.
This is because bad eating days won’t matter at all if your daily average over the course of the week is where it should be.
To paint a clearer picture of what I mean by this, let’s imagine that you are following a cutting diet, where you are aiming for 1800 calories per day to lose 1-2 lbs per week.
Now imagine that you hit those targets perfectly for the first 2 days of the week – but then on Wednesday things got a bit out of hand and you ended up eating 2400 calories!
With a traditional dieting approach, you would probably conclude that you had failed – and may even binge a bit since it’s already screwed up anyway.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case!
Instead, you could simply reduce your calories by 150 for the next 4 days, and by the end of the week your daily average would be right on track.
Here is how it would look:
Monday: 1800 calories
Tuesday: 1800 calories
Wednesday: 2400 calories
Thursday: 1650 calories
Friday: 1650 calories
Saturday: 1650 calories
Sunday: 1650 calories
As you can see, the weekly average here is still 1800, which means that your ‘bad’ day of eating on Wednesday wouldn’t really hurt your progress at all.
And you can actually do this in a bunch of different ways…
For instance, you may decide to bite the bullet and eat 300 calories less on Thursday and Friday, so that you can go back to your normal calorie level for Saturday and Sunday.
What’s more, you can also use this strategy of weekly averaging with your macronutrient targets.
So let’s say that your protein target is 180 grams, and you only manage to hit 130 grams one day.
No worries – just eat an additional 25 grams of protein for the next 2 days, or 50 grams of additional protein the next day.
As you can see, it’s pretty flexible how you do it, but your goal should always be to have your daily averages for the course of the week hit your calorie and macro targets as best as you can.
Just don’t go too crazy with it – this ‘averaging’ strategy only works within reason, and shouldn’t be attempted if you are 1000s and 1000s of calories over your target (I’ll cover what to do then in just one moment).
Do Some Additional Cardio
If you find that you’ve overeaten, then you also have the option of doing some additional cardio to burn off those calories.
For instance, if you overeat by 400 calories one day, then you could do an additional 30 minutes or so on the elliptical machine the next day to make up for it.
However, I would recommend using this strategy sparingly, if at all.
While cardio can be used to a limited degree to repair excessive eating, its effectiveness is definitely limited – and trying to do too much will only risk overtraining.
The old adage that you “can’t outrun a bad diet” is largely true, so be responsible with this strategy, and don’t think you can spend hours on the treadmill to work off regular nights of pizza binges.
Trust me, this will not be good for your progress in the long run…
Accept It & Move On
Now there is a lot to be said for accepting these bad eating days and moving on from them.
If you have one of these days, where you pack in a couple thousand calories more than you should when you’re trying to lose weight, you may not be able to repair it with either of the strategies mentioned above.
But you know what, it’s not the end of the world.
In fact, if it’s just isolated to that one day, it really isn’t the biggest deal at all.
For instance, let’s say that as part of your cutting diet, you are eating at about 750 calories below your maintenance level (TDEE), which has you losing roughly 1.5 lbs per week.
Then say that one day you eat 2000 calories more than you should have…
The thought of averaging out such a large number of calories isn’t really viable, and you aren’t going to realistically spend hours on the treadmill to burn it off.
In the end, though, when you factor in those additional calories to your week, you are consuming less than an additional 300 calories per day.
This means that you will likely still lose weight that week – perhaps only half a pound or so – as long as you stay consistent on the other days.
You see, hardly the end of the world – as long as you don’t make the MUCH bigger mistake of getting upset, deciding to throw in the towel, and binge eating with reckless abandon for the rest of the week.
And this brings up an important point, which I’ll end with…
It is what you do 90% of the time that will make or break your progress, even if you go off the wagon a bit the remaining 10%.