What is the weekend effect?

I was having this discussion with a client who is very disciplined with his diet and exercise this week as we analyzed his food intake for the week.  He had a few things he wanted to address based off of his most recent blood tests so we decided to start with a week long food journal in Myfitness Pal.  When the week was over, he put his numbers in a spreadsheet so we could see what the numbers said. We talked on several points but one of the big ah ha moments was when we took the activity data from his apple watch and did an assessment of his energy balance (energy in compared against energy expended).  His weekly snapshot had him consuming roughly 400 more calories than he burned. (As a side bar, all of this data is an estimate based off of what he and the watch collected). If this week was truly a sample of his normal week, from an energy balance stand point, in a little more than 2 months, he would be a pound heavier.   The exercise really hit hard because he is participating in the whole90 and he pointed out that he would have consumed 5-7 alcoholic drinks in a normal week, bumping his caloric intake up roughly 1000-1400 kcal. If you take those numbers into consideration, the one pound weight gain occurs in less than 3 weeks!  

Where does the weekend have to do with this?  Well, you work hard all week long and when the weekend rolls around, it’s time to relax and indulge a little. After all, it’s the weekend!  For some people this might mean a night out on the town with dinner and drinks, for some a Netflix or Game day binge in front of the tv, for some it might mean less restraint with snacks, alcohol, or sweets.    Well so what? You worked hard all week, you made it to the gym 3 times, you prepped and planned your meals, you got to bed at a decent hour. Surely, the hard work of the week deserves a little R&R over the weekend, right???  

When we take a look at nutrition and activity over the week vs the weekend, what we typically find is that the negative energy balance you worked so hard to achieve over the weekend is completely demolished over the weekend.  Consider it this way. It’s like taking the money you earned working all week and gambling all of it and some more away over the weekend. Do this week after week and you’ll find you’ve amassed a significant debt!  

The problem with the weekend effect is that for most people, its a very slow deficit. So slow that it goes unnoticed, you don’t hop on the scale and see that you’ve gained 10 lbs over the weekend, it happens so slowly that its almost impossible to notice unless you weight everyday and watch the weekly/monthly  trends in your weight.  

So what can you do about the weekend effect?  There are several strategies to approach combatting this issue.  We’ll discuss them next week. 


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