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The science of cheat days is all about metabolism. Eating more can boost leptin production and help the body burn more calories after a big meal. But reducing calories on every other day can actually cause leptin levels to drop (short-circuiting those weight loss attempts). While all-out cheat days — i.e. eat anything and everything you want — may not be the key to losing weight, trying to keep leptin production at a consistent level could help boost weight loss. Try these tricks to up leptin production on a day off from strict dieting:

  • Eat more protein. Compared to a low-protein diet, overeating on a high-protein diet was shown to boost resting metabolism.
  • Choose complex carbs — not fats. Given the choice between the two, lean toward carbs over fats.
  • Stick with red wine. Most alcohol has a negative effect on leptin, but red wine actually has a positive effect… for women. (Sorry, gents!)

The Takeaway: Strict dieting can throw hormones out of whack, but occasional, careful indulgences could help increase resting metabolism.

Energy Bites

These Greatist-tested (and approved!) bites are a quick and easy treats that won’t undo all of your hard work.

Pizza, Pizza!

A traditional slice (or pie) isn’t your only option for a cheat day pizza. This veggie-packed, super thin crust version is a great option.

Photo by Caitlin Covington