You know the general rule about doing one long ride (3-6 hours) per week to maintain endurance? Even during the race season where you’re focusing more on interval training and racing itself, it’s common to do that long endurance ride each week so your body doesn’t forget what it’s like to go long.

Well I was thinking about that, and I wondered, “couldn’t that idea apply to other areas?”

buffet table featuring nutritious food

Almost instantly, I got the idea to do an “endurance eating” day once per week, too. This would be one day per week where you consume a substantial amount of calories above your usual intake.

It’s not a cheat day where you can binge on the worst junk food you can find; rather, you’d binge on your regular healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, oatmeal, lean meats, nuts, legumes, etc.

I’m not a doctor or an RD, this doesn’t match up with the basic habits of Lean Eating, and I didn’t test this idea in a laboratory. But I think it has merit. Here’s my reasoning…

First, the ever popular “starvation mode” argument. This is where your body adapts to a restricted calorie diet and therefore lowers your metabolism, burns fewer calories, stores more fat, etc. It’s not a good place to be.

That’s the danger with restricting calories every day for long periods of time. Your body just adapts to that caloric intake and you’ll no longer lose weight that way. (Just like if you do the exact same exercise routine for a long period of time, your body adapts and no longer produces results.)

People used to say that if you skipped meals, your body would enter starvation mode. I think that’s an old wives’ tale, though. Experts that I have some faith in say starvation mode kicks in after seven days. (It has to do with the hormone leptin; here’s some more info on starvation mode if you’re interested.)

What I’m thinking is that if you strategically eat big once every week, you can keep your body out of starvation mode and continue to burn lots of calories, as if you were on a high calorie diet each day. Basically you are keeping your body prepared to handle a large amount of food in one day (just like keeping it ready to handle lots of miles in one day).

Ideally your body will think “burn fat!” since it will think you’re eating 6,000 calories per day, but then since you’re eating healthy and low on the calories for the next 3-6 days, you burn more than normal thanks to that big eating day!

By the time your body starts considering that you’re going a little low on food, bam, you hit it with another endurance eating day!

I wouldn’t expect miracles, but every little bit helps.

I do know that this strategy is getting more common in the general fitness and bodybuilding population (for example, there’s a book called “Cheat Your Way Thin” written by Joel Marion), but I thought it was interesting to compare it to endurance training so it makes more sense for cyclists.

And hey, what’s better after a long endurance ride than a huge amount of tasty food? The two go hand in hand!

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Photo credit: morrissey

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  1. Don’t you miss pizza?

    • @Anthony

      During racing season, I missed pizza like you wouldn’t believe! Which is why I still made the occasional exception for pizza! 😉

      It was all worth it come Autumn. Once my main races of the year were complete, but the weather was still nice enough that I could put in lots of fun riding time outdoors, that was the time of year for pizza!

      Really though, if you make your own pizza, you can make it so it’s both healthy and delicious! Even low-calorie!

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