You’ve decided you’d like to get in better shape, lose some body fat, and clean up your diet.
And if you’re like most people, weekdays are a breeze.
It’s the weekends that bite you in the rear.
Is there a way to still enjoy yourself from time-to-time on the weekends while continuing to make fat loss progress?
Let’s go over some strategies to make weekend dieting seamless, enjoyable, and most importantly, non-detrimental to progress.
Strategy 1: Stop Treating the Weekends Differently
Too many people let things go off the rails when the weekend gets to them. They’ll do 5 days of ‘healthy’ eating only to be completely washed out by 2 back-to-back mega high-calorie weekend days.
You’ve got to stop treating the weekend differently than weekdays.
Trust me, I’ve been there too many times to count. I figured if I ate ‘perfectly’ during the week then a couple of days of crap eating wouldn’t be so bad.
Except that it is. You fall into the trap of bad eating behavior and get less than stellar progress.
Whether you overeat or party like a rockstar, the weekends can be progress killers if you let them.
Adopting a more flexible nutrition approach could help prevent you from going crazy over the weekend. This allows you to eat foods you enjoy while staying within your calorie allotment.
And, you can still have a social life while continuing to make fat loss progress.
So the first thing you’ve got to do is to get out of the ‘living/working just to get to the weekend mindset.’ This mindset will set you up to fail on the weekends because you’ve turned these two days into something magical and different than Monday-Friday. When in fact they’re just days like any other.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that many people work Monday-Friday and the weekend is their time to relax, take vacation, or hang with friends. That’s 100% normal but it doesn’t mean the same rules of dieting shouldn’t apply.
One of the best ways to stay on track with dieting is to maintain a consistent schedule on the weekends. This is one reason I prefer to have at least one planned workout on the weekend. It helps me keep my normal routine, which in turn helps me stick to my diet. A lot of people get to Friday night and don’t have any structure or a plan in place for the next two days.
For some, keeping a consistent eating schedule similar to the weekday will help them stay on track.
Strategy 2: Calorie Deficit is Still Most Important
When it comes to fat loss, the calorie deficit is still the primary focus. If you crush it all week but have a blowout weekend and end up going over your total calories for the week, you’re not going to be able to lose fat.
But, if you can manage the weekends to fit within your weekly calories, fat loss will happen.
The key is how you manage it.
So how do you make sure you stay in a deficit while ‘letting loose’ a bit on the weekends?
You’ve got several options.
Game Day (day of actual party, cookout, event, social gathering etc)
The first is managing calories on the day of said event, party, or social gathering.
No, I don’t suggest starving all day long only to eat like a pig wherever you end up. Instead, sticking to protein and veggies during the day will keep calories low and give you a calorie buffer for when you go out.
Let’s say you’re supposed to eat 2000 calories on a typical Saturday. If you stuck with lean proteins and veggies for the first couple meals you may end up only consuming 500-600 calories, leaving yourself with roughly 1500 to work with for the rest of the night.
Unless you’re going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is certainly manageable. You will have to make choices if going out to dinner, or going to an extended drinking affair.
At dinner, enjoy a higher calorie meal while limiting alcohol to a few drinks, or go with a lighter dinner option saving more cals for da booze.
It’s totally up to you, but if you do both in excess, you’ll likely go way over your total calories.
During the Week
Maybe you know ahead of time you’ve got big plans coming up. This is actually a good thing because you can plan that into your routine and keep yourself on track.
One example is to have an extra lower calorie day during the week to offset a higher calorie weekend day.
Say you normally have 2 higher calorie days, 4 lower calorie days, and an off day low-moderate in calories. One option is to simply rotate the days you’ll have your higher calorie days so that one of them falls on the day of the event. So maybe you’d do Monday (low), Tuesday (low), Wednesday (high), Thursday (low), Friday (low), Saturday (high), Sunday (low).
So by switching around the days you’ll have higher calories, you create a cushion for the calories you’ll eat and drink on the weekend.
Another option is to burn a bit more calories through low-intensity cardio during the week. Not only will this help with recovery, but it’ll also contribute to your weekly deficit. You don’t have to do 2-hour cardio sessions, but a 20-30 minute session each day will rack up a good amount of cals by the time you get to the weekend.
Strategy 3: Get In A Hard Training Session
Now if we were talking about building muscle and maximizing performance then I’d probably recommend not training the same day you know you’ll be drinking a ton. Alcohol hinders the recovery process which isn’t great for building muscle.
But we’re talking about fat loss. And here’s why I think you ought to train the day of your event.
1) You’ll burn calories
Not only will you burn calories during your workout, but you’ll continue to burn them once your session is over with. Especially if you train with weights and throw in a high-intensity finisher at the end.
2) You’ll feel good mentally and physically
The feeling you get from a solid workout just may help you to stay on track a little bit more. Knowing that you’ve just had a solid training session and want to get those gainz, you may not be as tempted to go completely off the rails. So from a psychological perspective, a lifting session the same day can be a very good thing.
3) You’re more likely to use the extra carbs to replenish glycogen rather than store as fat
If you have a voluminous training session the day of a party or social gathering, all those extra carbs you’re likely to eat with first go towards replenishing your glycogen stores rather than being stored as fat.
Now that we’ve talked about a few strategies you can use, I want to break down some things you should try to avoid food wise and which alcohols are best for keeping calories down.
The only possible way to lose body fat during the weekends is by avoiding gluten.
Totally kidding, btw.
Let’s say it’s Saturday and there’s a big party that night with a dinner beforehand. During the day, you’re going to want to do several things.
First, you’ve got to get a solid training session in. I’d recommend a lower body session or total body session as far away from the event as possible.
Second, keep calories lower by sticking to lean sources of protein (not bacon, as sad as that makes me) and fibrous vegetables. Don’t worry about carbs or fats during the day because you’ll likely get plenty of those wherever you go.
Now, when at dinner or the party, it’s best to still continue to stick to the leaner options. Load up on lean meats, vegetables, and some fruit. You can even have carbs like rice, pasta, potatoes, but keep in mind they’re pretty easy to overeat.
Aim to eat to about 80% fullness comprised mostly of protein and veggies. If you’re ordering at dinner try not to order the fried seafood platter or anything fried for that matter. If you do, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be well over your calories for the day.
Grilled, broiled, and baked dishes are going to be the best options for entrees. Ask to get any butter/condiments on the side. Order double veggies and don’t go hog wild on the bread basket (not because it’s bad but because it’s way too easy to eat the entire thing ;)).
Now, on the drink side of things.
Here’s a quick list of ‘better’ drink choices to avoid unnecessary calories:
These options are lower-calories. You’ll want to avoid drinks with extra sugars and use club soda or diet sodas as mixers. The alcohol content will be the same, so why not use a zero calorie soda or mixer and save yourself hundreds of calories?
Your sugary drinks like margaritas, sangria, anything frozen, and anything with regular soda, juice, or Red Bull are likely to have tons of calories. Skip those and have the lower calorie options instead.
Once the Party Stops Get Back on the Wagon
This may be the most important here. It’s crucial to your long term progress.
Now that your special event is over what should you do?
Besides drinking a ton of water, simply get right back on track with your diet. This means picking up right where you left off.
Don’t try to overcompensate if you ate or drank too much. This will create an unhealthy balance with dieting and your social life.
The best thing you can do is to just get right back to your diet the way you were before your big event.
Starving yourself isn’t going to help you get back on track, so make sure you’re emphasizing protein and go right back to following your regular eating schedule.
Let’s face it: you can still be social, have drinks with family and friends, and enjoy yourself while losing body fat.
Keep in mind there are tradeoffs and it all comes down to your goals and how extreme you want the results to be.
If you manage your calories properly, you can relax a bit on the weekends without derailing progress.
As I’ve shown above you just have to plan a bit and make some choices.