Guide to Labor Day Cheating

Labor Day is all about bidding summer farewell with BBQ and beers, but that is no reason to ruin the summer physique you have sculpted.  If you are strategic you can actually make that Labor Day BBQ binge work in your favor to give you an even better physique than you have today! Life is all about balance.  If you are training your butt off and eating well you are going to get results.  That part is straightforward.  There are however, days like Labor Day when social conventions and celebrations call for a deviation from the norm.  Rather than going without or wasting what should be a fun day with friends obsessing about what you’re putting in your mouth you should learn how to cheat.

Knowing the Rules So That You Can Break Them

Put simply, sugar makes you fat.  It also ages you, makes you retain water, and a host of other bad things.  There is a ton of research and statistics to back me up on this, but I’d rather get on with teaching you how to cheat rather than convincing you that sugar is the issue.  Let’s save the debate until someone sustains a hard body, six-pack, high levels of performance, and health all while eating a lot of sugar.  Until then there is no argument.

There are two things that can stand in the way of you showing off all the chiseled muscle you’ve earned in the gym or out at the park.

  1. Adipose tissue (aka body fat)
  2. Water retention

The following factors make you fat:

  1. Arachidonic acid (AA), converted from Omega 6 fatty acids, makes fat cells divide thereby increasing the total number of fat cells.  Stress, sleep deprivation and obesity generate more AA.
  2. Insulin tells your body to increase its number of fat cells.
  3. Sugars,
    • increase insulin levels,
    • increase triglyceride production in the liver,
    • trigger fat cells to start making more fat that from sugar in the blood stream that will then fill up the cells like a sponge saturating with water
  4. Glucocorticoids stimulate fat cell division.  Our bodies make glucocorticoids all the time, but levels rise during stress and sleep deprivation.
  5. Unnatural, trans fats (vegetable oils) distort all cellular function to the point that it stops fat from being able to leave fat cells.

The following factors make you retain water:

The amount of water you retain is changing all the time.  Everything from hormonal changes throughout the month like menstruation, carbohydrate intake, sodium intake, and water intake affect your water retention.  Heck, even flying in an airplane will make you retain water.

  1. Hormonal changes, especially menstruation, make you retain more water.  Estrogen and cortisol, the stress hormone, in high levels will tend to cause more water retention.  Men have fluctuations too.  There have been studies that have shown that some men get so attuned with their partner’s menstruation cycle that they actually start retaining more water at the same time of the month.
  2. Carbohydrates make you retain water.  For every molecule of glucose stored in places like your muscles and liver, your body holds on to three additional molecules of water.  This what gives your muscles that pumped up feeling after you drink a post-workout shake with a lot of sugar.
  3. Contrary to what a lot of people think, a diet low in sodium will actually cause your body to retain more water because it is trying to hold on to the water and sodium it does have.  Table salt affects water retention differently than sea salt or kosher salt.  Salt your foods generously with sea salt, but avoid table salt.
  4. Drinking too little water will make you retain water for the same reason as above.

Focusing too much on water retention will be an exercise in frustration, but there are several things you can do to minimize water retention, such as

  • Drink more water.  Putting a pinch of sea salt in your water will help balance electrolyte levels.
  • Get more sleep, or at least better quality sleep to lower cortisol levels.
  • De-stress with exercise or meditation.
  • Eat less sugar.
  • Use more salt.  It is common for people eating very clean diets with lot of unprocessed foods to actually be low in sodium if they aren’t salting their foods.
  • Intermittent fasting (IF) will keep your water retention very low during the fasting periods as long as you are drinking water.  This is the best way to manage water retention.  Register at the bottom of this blog to receive updates on new articles if you are interested in IF.  I will be posting an article summarizing the reasons you should be practicing IF and how to get started.

Do you notice any common themes here? 

  1. Minimize sugar intake.
  2. Keep blood sugar and insulin levels low (see #1) through diet and exercise.
  3. Manage stress.
  4. Get good sleep.
  5. Drink more water.

How to Cheat for a Better Physique

Now that you know the rules, you are ready to break them. Cheating the right way is very liberating because it makes it easier to be social around your friends that don’t share your nutrition philosophy and allows you to eat some of the foods you miss.  It does however, take planning if you want to minimize damage and actually get some benefit from cheating.

This week I am going to guide you through your Labor Day strategy, laying out a plan that you can follow anytime you have a cheat day on the horizon.  I will explain the methods I employ and how to execute them leading up to a big cheat.

Register at the bottom of this blog or the top of any page on my site to receive my email updates throughout the week so you can follow along and learn how to do this in the future.  I am also including a week of workout programming and a killer Pre-BBQ Workout that you will have you looking your best on Labor Day.

This week I will cover the following and much, much more:

How to Carb Cycle

Easy Intermittent Fasting

Week of Workouts including the Pre-BBQ Beast: 

Labor Day Workout Program - Day 1: Circuit

Labor Day Workout Program - Day 2: Strength

Practical and delicious recipes:

Homemade Italian Red Sauce by Lauren O'Neil 

Cool surprises