Binge days happen.
Whether it’s around a special occasion or holiday, many of us will have days where we consume far more than our usual calorie intake.
We may also eat high calorie foods like pizzas and ice cream, which we’d usually avoid when dieting.
How you respond to a binge day is important for weight loss and body composition. One approach is to fast, but should you do it?
Overall, fasting after a binge day is a bad idea.
Fasting slows your metabolism which slows calorie burning. Fasting also increases hunger levels. This can create a negative cycle of fasting and binging that becomes hard to break.
As I’ll go on to explain, instead of fasting there are a variety of different things you should do after a binge day.
From reading this article you’ll know:
– Whether you should fast after a binge day
– The disadvantages of fasting after a binge day
– What you should do after a binge day instead
Before reading on, If you want to know more about fasting, check out this video:
Table of Contents
What Is Binge Eating?
Before covering what you should do after binge eating, it’s best to get clear on what exactly can be considered “binge eating”.
Binge eating is defined as – the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as part of an eating disorder.
Now, a binge eating disorder is a much more serious topic and something that you should seek advice from a registered medical profession for.
In a more everyday and general aspect though, we’d loosely consider a binge to be a day when you’ve eaten a substantially large quantity of food in comparison to what you would typically consume.
See related – Cheat day vs binge eating
If you usually eat 1,500 calories per day and then all of a sudden you eat 4,000 calories in a day, this would likely be considered a binge by general public standards.
Fasting After a Binge Day – Should You Do It?
You shouldn’t fast after a binge day. Fasting slows your metabolism which leads to fewer calories being burned. Fasting also increases hunger levels which can contribute towards future binges.
This creates a negative cycle of fasting and binging, which is harmful to your overall health.
People may think that fasting after a binge day is a good idea because fasting will cancel out the additional calories that they consumed during a binge day.
That math and reasoning behind this checks out. I often stress to people that your average calorie consumption over the duration of each week is the most important number to track.
Your body weight naturally fluctuates each day so the body does not operate on an exact science or scale. Therefore, the more you balance out over a longer duration of time, the better results you’ll see.
This is why I say theoretically a fast following a binge makes sense to even out your calorie consumption.
Unfortunately, these variations only work on smaller scales and not when we look at dieting extremes which have multiple implications for your hormones and body functions as a result.
Fasting can also give people the illusion of control.
During a binge day people can feel out of control, as though they’re not able to stop eating. For some, fasting gives back this sense of control.
However, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t fast after a binge day.
Firstly, fasting can slow down your metabolism.
When restricting calorie intake, the body responds by slowing down the metabolism in order to conserve energy and prevent weight loss .
When your metabolism slows, you don’t burn as many calories as you usually would and it is harder to then lose weight as a result.
After a binge day, you would want to burn those excess calories so fasting will have the opposite effect of what you want.
Secondly, fasting after a binge day can create a damaging cycle of binging and fasting.
When fasting, the body triggers hunger hormones such as ghrelin and neuropeptide Y to encourage you to eat.
These hunger hormones increase the longer that you fast for.
As hunger levels increase you’re more likely to binge again, as many people crave high calorie foods when they’re hungry.
This creates an ongoing cycle of binging and fasting. This cycle is very dangerous and can have serious negative consequences for your health, particularly if it leads to binge eating disorder.
Thirdly, fasting leads to low energy levels.
To have energy, bodies need calories. Restricted eating leads to low energy levels.
This will make it harder to return to your usual routine and make it harder to exercise which can negatively impact future weight loss.
Fourthly, fasting after a binge day can create a negative relationship with food.
It treats calories as something that you have to balance out and starving yourself can feel like a punishment for eating more than usual.
What Should You Do After a Binge Day?
Instead of fasting there are a few different things you should do after a binge day. These include:
- Getting back to your regular diet
- Supporting digestion
- Focusing on your long term goals
1) Get Back to Your Regular Diet
After a binge day, it can be tempting to go to the other extreme and cut your calorie intake by fasting.
However, getting back to your usual diet is a much better option if you want to lose weight or see body composition changes.
Getting back to your regular diet ensures that your metabolism doesn’t slow down, as it would when fasting.
This way, your body continues to burn calories which will help to reduce the impact of excess calorie consumption during a binge day.
Instead of having huge swings between a high calorie intake during a binge and low intake during a fast, getting back to your usual diet ensures you’re consistent.
Consistency is the best approach to see long term results!
As with getting back to your regular diet, getting back into your workout routine should also be a priority.
Exercise will help to burn additional calories consumed during a binge. Exercising can also help to boost energy levels and improve your overall mood – both of which are probably low after a binge day.
However, exercising after a binge day shouldn’t be taken to the extreme. As with fasting, it can be tempting to do an intense workout after a binge to try and burn off all of those calories.
But this can have very negative consequences.
Overdoing it puts you at risk of injury which will ultimately prevent future progress. It also reinforces a negative relationship with food as something you have to burn off.
The idea with exercising after a binge day is to get back to your usual routine and start building that consistent routine again.
NOT as something to counter or balance out a binge day, it’s very much a case of just getting back into routine.
3) Support Digestion
After a binge day it’s common for people to feel bloated and overfull. As blood goes to the digestive system, people can also feel lethargic and experience low energy levels.
By supporting digestion, you help your body to recover faster from a binge which helps you to feel back to normal.
Some of the best ways to support digestion are by getting enough quality sleep and by drinking enough water. This means trying to sleep for around 8 hours and drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day as some basic principles.
You may also want to eat foods higher in fiber to promote digestion and also consume more easily digestible foods like higher GI carbs which can be absorbed quickly by the body and require less digestion (especially in the stomach).
4) Focus On Your Long Term Goals
After a binge it can feel like we’ve erased all of the progress we’ve made when dieting. This can lead people to ‘fall off the wagon’ and stop dieting entirely.
Instead of dwelling on the past or beating yourself up over having a binge day, it’s important to think about your future goals and how you will achieve those.
Focusing on the future provides motivation to get back to your diet. Setting goals that you can work towards also helps to keep you focused, which reduces the likelihood of binging again.
Everyone will have their own goal and their own version of goal setting, but it’s important to be clear and realistic about the results you want to see.
Binge days happen. How you respond to them is ultimately what will determine any short or long term effects to your physique.
While fasting may seem like an obvious solution – if you eat “x” surplus on day 1 then simply have an “x” deficit on day 2 and balance the calories out – it’s not as beneficial as you may think.
There are far more negatives than benefits which we’ve covered above but the overall best response you can have after a binge day is to simply get back on your regular routine.
Having a reset will set you up well for the rest of the week and you can carry on your training routine and diet plan as normal with very little disruption.
If you try to fast and go to other extremes then this is where most people will end up struggling even more! Therefore, accept the binge for what it is, an accident, and get back on plan…
While not quite the same, I’d recommend checking out our article on how to recover from a cheat day next.
Wang Y., Wu R. The Effect of Fasting on Human Metabolism and Psychological Health Hindawi. 2022 Jan 5. doi: 10.1155/2022/5653739. [National Library of Medicine]