How to Fast After a Cheat Day or Binge Eating [5 Methods]

How to fast after a cheat day or binge eating

Fasting helps reverse a lot of the harmful effects of overeating junk food.  

So for most people, I’d say it’s a good way to get back on track after binge eating.  

But it helps if you know what you’re doing.  And your mindset matters a lot.  

Today I’ll explain several ways to fast after a cheat day, ranging from easier to more “advanced”.  

I’ll also share some tips about what to do after binging (besides fasting), and answer a few common related questions.  

Let’s dive in.

Intentional vs Unintentional Cheat Days 

Some people plan a cheat day every so often.  If that works for you, great.

But it doesn’t work for everyone. 

For example, if I plan a cheat day, that usually means losing control and eating until I feel sick.  I’m kind of addicted to sugar (and other processed foods), so it’s hard to have just a little.  

Here’s the good news-

Whether you planned to binge, or just fell off the wagon, fasting can be a quick and effective way to reverse the effects.  

What to Do After a Cheat Day (Besides Fasting)

Here are some key things to keep in mind after binging.  

Don’t Beat Yourself Up – We All Make Mistakes

Obviously, this mainly applies if you didn’t plan to binge.  But it’s always a good reminder anyway.

Everybody messes up — I’ve done it countless times.  

Don’t be harder on yourself than you would be on a friend who did the same thing. 

The key thing is just to get back on track sooner rather than later.

In other words, don’t go off the rails for weeks or months just because you messed up once. 

One bad day isn’t a big deal.  Try to be the type of person who doesn’t miss two days in a row.  

Progress, not perfection. 

Hydration Helps Control Your Hunger

I always drink a lot of water the morning after binging. I think it really helps.  

I don’t know about you, but if I overeat in the evening, it still feels like there’s a bunch of undigested food sitting in my stomach the next morning. It seems like drinking water sort of “flushes it out”, and helps digestion get going again.  

Eating a lot of food kind of dehydrates you indirectly, because there’s more salt and other particles floating around in your bloodstream.  So the water helps balance that out as well.

What to do after a cheat day

I also feel like drinking enough water keeps my hunger under control.  

Of course, you can drink other things too. But if you’re drinking coffee or tea, make sure you drink some extra water to make up for the caffeine (since it causes you to pee out more water).

And try to avoid sweet drinks, since they often stimulate cravings.

Exercise Clears Out Stored Sugar in Your Liver & Muscles

It’s always good to exercise after overeating carbs.  That’s because it burns off some of the glycogen (chains of glucose / sugar) stored in your liver, and in your muscles. 

Here’s why that matters-

If you use up your stored glycogen, it’s like clearing out the fridge before you go grocery shopping.  When you get home from shopping, you’ve got somewhere to put the groceries, rather than leaving them on your counter or in the car.

Similarly, with your glycogen cleared out, next time you eat you’ll have somewhere to store the sugar and other carbs, rather than leaving them in your bloodstream (where they promote fat storage and cause other harmful effects). 

Getting Enough Sleep Improves Your Self-Control

Sleep can fix a world of ills.  

Proper sleep puts you in a better mood, so it’s easier to avoid “emotional” eating, like from anxiety.  

People who are sleep deprived also tend to select more processed foods.  So getting enough sleep makes it easier for you to avoid junk food the next time around.  

Prioritize sleep the night after binge eating. And every night after that. 🙂

What Happens in Your Body When You Binge?

Here’s the simple version-

When you binge, you usually eat a lot of processed foods. That means a lot of carbs, and lots of sugar.

Carbs and sugar raise your blood sugar, and stimulate your pancreas to secrete large amounts of a hormone called insulin.  

Insulin promotes energy storage. That includes filling up your liver and muscles with chains of glucose called “glycogen”.  

what happens in your body when you binge eat 3 21

That’s the “carb loading” you hear about athletes doing the night before a competition. 

Insulin also promotes fat storage. So when you’re binging, you’re continuously storing body fat. 

What Happens in Your Body When You Fast?

Tons of cool things happen in your body when you fast.  I’ll just focus on a few of the most relevant ones here. 

First, your blood sugar and insulin gradually go down. This is normal, and natural. And it’s a great antidote to the high blood sugar and high insulin that you have when you’re eating junk food.

Second, you start using up stored glycogen. 

what happens in your body when you fast 3 21

Third, once your insulin comes down you start using some of your own body fat as an energy source. 

When you break it down to the basics, it’s pretty easy to see how fasting reverses a lot of the harmful effects of excess junk food.  

Is There Anyone Who Shouldn’t Fast After Binging?

For most people, fasting is a great tool to get back on track after binging. 

There’s one main exception (along with the usual caveats):

I wouldn’t advise someone with bulimia (the “binge and purge” eating disorder) to do any prolonged fasting after a binge. That’s because they may just think of it as another way to “purge” (in addition to things like vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, and so on).

And obviously young children and pregnant women should think twice about fasting more than a few hours.  

For just about everyone else, fasting is an awesome way to reverse some of the harmful effects of overeating junk food.

(As always, people with chronic health issues or taking certain medications while fasting need medical supervision, especially at the beginning.)

How to Fast After a Cheat Day: 5 Approaches

Here are 5 different approaches you can take, from easier to more “advanced”.

Each one has specific benefits, and some of these methods reverse the harmful effects of eating junk food more quickly than others. 

Depending on your experience and health status, at least one of these various methods will probably be a good fit.  

Easiest Approach: Focus on Meal Timing & Avoid Snacks

If you don’t really wanna do fasting, but maybe wanna inch a little closer to it, do this-

  1. Eat a hearty breakfast (something high in protein and fat, like eggs & bacon)
  2. Eat a hearty lunch – make this your biggest meal
  3. Have an early dinner – smaller than lunch
  4. Then, no more food until the next day.

Try to avoid snacking. If you have cravings, drink some water and wait a few minutes.  Or try pickle juice / vinegar, broth, coffee, or tea (all unsweetened) whenever you feel hungry between meals.  

The benefit of doing this is that it kind of retrains your body to eat less often, and helps you regain control.  And the hearty meals keep you full longer.  

It also moves you a little closer to the next option…

Time-Restricted Eating (a.k.a. Intermittent Fasting) After a Binge

Time-restricted eating (TRE) means eating all your food for the day in a shorter window of time.  Like noon-8pm (8 hours), for example.  

Some people call it “intermittent fasting”, but I find that term a little more confusing.  

If you focus on meal timing (as described above), you may already be doing a little TRE.  But you can also shrink your eating window a bit more. 

I actually find it easier to fast for a few extra hours the day after a binge.

Here’s why I think that is-

When I eat a really big meal (or a lot of junk food) it takes several hours just to digest it.  Once I finally finish digesting, my liver is still stock full of glycogen (stored sugar).  

That stored glycogen can easily maintain my blood sugar for another 12-24 hours.  

So there’s really nothing that extreme about fasting through the morning after a cheat day.  And maybe the afternoon as well.  

Just the other day I had a few too many treats while watching a movie, so I fasted till mid-afternoon the day after.  

When you do that, it gives plenty of time for your blood sugar and insulin to come down, and helps you use up some of your stored glycogen.  If you go long enough, you’ll also start switching over to fat-burning mode.    

“Fat Fasting” After a Binge

 

If you want to be a little more aggressive, you could try “fat fasting”. 

Fat fasting can mean different things, so let’s divide it into two categories:

Pure Fat Fasting

The stricter version of fat fasting means you literally consume nothing but fat.  In other words, eat a few spoonfuls of coconut oil, drink a little MCT oil, have some butter, etc.

You could also use something like keto coffee (a.k.a. bulletproof coffee), where you mix the butter or coconut oil in with your coffee or tea.  

Not-so-Pure Fat Fasting

Alternatively, you could limit yourself to a handful of high fat / low carb foods.

For example, you could eat nothing but bacon, eggs, olives, and avocados for a day, or even a few days.  Add some pure fats if you’d like (olive oil, butter, etc).  

Fat fasting food options 3 21

Optionally, you could also include leafy greens, and maybe even some non-starchy vegetables.

Here’s how fat fasting helps:

  1. Since you’re consuming almost no carbs, your blood sugar and insulin gradually come down.  
  2. You can use up your stored glycogen, and gradually transition to fat-burning mode.  
  3. Dietary fat helps control your hunger and cravings, so you’re less likely to overeat again.  

Overall, fat fasting has various benefits and it’s an effective way to regain control after binge eating.  

Doing a 24 Hour Fast After a Binge 

Fasting for 24 hours is like TRE, you just fast slightly longer. 

For example, if you finished eating around 8pm on Sunday, you could fast until 8pm on Monday, and then have dinner.

As I mentioned above, I actually find fasting easier the day after a binge.  That’s because I’m “carb loaded”, with enough glycogen in my liver to easily maintain my blood sugar for 12-24 hours.  

glycogen storage in liver maintains blood sugar 12 to 24 hours

And that’s after I finally finish digesting my food (which could easily take 8 or 10 hours after a huge meal).  

Mindset is really important here – if you’ve never done it before, fasting for 24 hours might sound extreme, just because it’s unfamiliar.

But it’s not that extreme for your body.  

The nice thing about fasting for 24 hours is that it’s a pretty good amount of time to reverse the effects of binge eating the day before.  

Not only does it let your blood sugar and insulin come down, but you can probably use up your liver glycogen and start burning some body fat as well.   

Keep in mind, you’ll get some waves of hunger, since you’re in the habit of eating at certain times.  But the hunger will pass.  

In the meantime, drink some water, pickle juice, broth, tea, etc.  Any of that stuff can help, so use it as needed especially if you’re a beginner.  

Extended Fasting After a Cheat Day

 

Multi-day fasting after binging can be okay, with a couple caveats. 

First, if you’ve never done it before, you’re probably better off trying one of the easier methods listed above (like TRE or fat fasting).  That gives your body more time to adapt, and you can always try a longer fast later on.

Second, don’t just do it cold turkey. Instead, use some “training wheels” to make the transition easier.  In other words, do a sort of “dirty” or “modified” fast.  

Once you hit about 24-hours and your liver runs out of glycogen, that’s when training wheels help the most.  

Basically, they help bridge the gap from sugar-burning mode to fat-burning mode (when you start using mainly body fat and ketones for energy).

Using training wheels can make fasting a LOT easier, especially when you’ve been eating a bunch of carbs beforehand.  And you still get a lot of health benefits.

Here are a few “training wheel” options:

  • Bone broth 
  • Pickle juice 
  • Chia seeds 
  • MCT oil 
  • Olives

Anything that’s pretty low in carbs, and reasonably low in total calories is ok for this purpose.  

Prolonged fasting after a cheat day has a few benefits-

First, you give your blood sugar and insulin even more time to come down, so you’ll be less likely to develop diabetes or insulin resistance.    

You also let yourself get into maximum fat-burning mode, which probably means you can eliminate body fat stored the day before.  

Like I said,I don’t think you should try prolonged fasting for the first time ever, right after a binge. If you don’t have experience doing multi-day fasting, do something easier first (like “fat fasting” for a few days) before you consider jumping into a longer fast.

Related Questions

To round things out, here are a few common related questions.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Cheat Day?

It depends on what you mean by “recover”. But in general, a day or two is enough to reverse the effects of one cheat day, both in terms of metabolic issues (like blood sugar) as well as using up excess body fat.

How Long Does it Take to Get Back Into Ketosis After a Cheat Day?

It usually takes 3-4 days, assuming you start eating low-carb / high-fat. 

Exercise helps, since it uses up your glycogen storage more quickly, and makes room for you to store carbs next time you eat them (even if you don’t eat hardly any carbs).  

MCT oil and coconut oil directly stimulate ketone production, so they can also help boost your levels.

Count your carbs (try to stay under 30 grams per day) and check your ketones at least daily.  You should probably have measurable ketones within a few days.

What to Do After a Binge to Not Gain Weight

Obviously when you binge you’re going to store a little body fat. But you can basically balance this out with a day or two of fasting. 

So fasting is a great way to prevent significant weight gain after a binge. 

24 hours may be enough, but it depends on what you ate, and your overall health status. 

Alternatively, you could do TRE and/or low-carb for a few extra days. That can also reverse some of the weight gain from binge eating, it just takes longer than full-on fasting.  

Conclusion 

Fasting after a cheat day is the quickest way to reverse the harmful effects of overeating junk food.  

In this article, I’ve explained 5 different approaches you can use to fast after binge eating.

Any of them will help, though some help more quickly than others.  

If you’ve never done multi-day fasting before, try one of the easier methods first.  

After eating a lot of carbs, “training wheels” help smooth the transition into full-blown fasting, which can make things a lot easier for you.

Other important steps after binging include hydration, exercise, sleep, and not being too hard on yourself.

Everybody makes mistakes, but the best thing you can do is get back on track sooner rather than later.

Lastly, if you found this article helpful, click on one of the sharing buttons below so someone else you know can benefit as well! 🙂

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Ben Tanner, PA-C

Ben Tanner, PA-C

Ben has been practicing as a physician assistant (PA, or PA-C, similar to a doctor) in emergency medicine, urgent care, and family practice since 2014. Since 2016, he has developed an avid interest in various forms of fasting, using it to improve his own health while helping friends, family, and patients do the same.

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