It’s OK to Cheat!
(On your diet, that is…)
In the last Trip Fitness blog post, I provided you with a list of fast food restuarants, Healthy Fast Food Meal Choices and ways to maintain your diet while traveling.
In this blog post, let’s take the side of “junk food” and how it can help you lose weight. Let’s talk about cheat meals.
Yes, you read that correctly, how junk food will HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT!
Speaking of cheating, let me go on a quick tangent… Who used to watch the TV show Cheaters back in the day? Is that show still on? It was amazing! How could those people be so dang stupid? And WHOA, those women and men were like spider monkeys, coming at their cheating partner!
Shut the Front Door!
No BS here, many avid health and fitness people understand the reasons for the occasional cheat meal or carb re-feed. The entire concept of cheating on your diet has grown over the past few years.
Proper Diet Cheats Can:
- Reduce potential catabolism from prolonged dieting
- Refill glycogen stores which will in turn support hard training
- Recharge and refuel your metabolism which may slow down from prolonged dieting
- Give you something to look forward to and help get you through the tough days of restricting calorie and macro nutrient intake.
- Provide sanity to your fuzzy, diet brain
The only problem here is that many people tend to completely miss the boat when in comes down to the proper way to implement a cheat meal. They cheat at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong fashion.
Don’t be that guy/gal!
Look, I’m not a competitive bodybuilder, and if you are reading my site, I doubt you are either… I don’t intend to have 4% body fat and step on a stage wearing a speedo that is too small, showing my ass cheeks, I mean glutes (proper bodybuilding term…), letting my junk flop around for the audience to see. I don’t plan on shaving my entire body!
Did you know they shave everything? I mean ev-er-y-thing… I watched a True Life show about ten years ago on bodybuilding. This guy had his dad shave his glutes! His dad… Really? As Chris Carter would say, C’MON MAN! Get a girlfriend…
I have a cheat meal weekly and I enjoy being sociable.
The biggest knock to “low carb diets” is that you are no longer able to be social. I go out with my wife on a Friday or Saturday night and have beer, pizza, wings, pasta, ice creams, etc… Like I said, I am not looking to step on a contest stage. I just want to be in great shape and live a healthier lifestyle. Cheating helps me continue dieting.
If you want to cheat, do it! Just make sure you do it wisely!
A common occurance with bodybuilders is; they go on a “pre contest” diet and get down to about 4-5% body fat. They compete. Then they go on a post-contest binge… They eat everything in sight. The funny thing is, sometimes they end up looking better because of it than they did on stage. They tend to look fuller, more vascular, and muscular.
As us average Joes (and Janes) go on a weight loss journey, we too, can benefit from the same phenomenon PERIODICALLY!
Key word, periodically…
How is this possible?
The average cheat meal is packed with calories coming from all the macros: carbs, fat, and protein. These calories will give your metabolism a temporary boost. If you are currently dieting, and have had a good cheat meal, you know about the accompanying sweating that often comes with it…
The added carb intake will replenish muscle glycogen and the fat will end up filling out the muscle a little bit also. The elevated sodium will help with glycogen storage and water retention (both of which improve strength).
Add up all the above, and you’re in for an amazing diet and workout boost… if properly implemented.
Pay Attention to the Body Signs
If you incorrectly implement cheat meals into your diet, it can derail progress in a major way. Here’s how to understand when is a good time for a cheat meal:
- Your workouts begin to suck! Strength and the typical lifting “pump” are lackluster
- Your focus in the gym begins to suffer from dieting ADD
- Your body temperature begins to drop (you feel cold often)
- Your fat loss has plateaued and reducing calories isn’t helping
If any of these apply to you, It may be time to look into a cheat meal or re-feed.
If none of these apply, keep doing what you’re doing. Not yet!
Cheat Meal vs Re-Feed
The term re-feed usually applies to a carbohydrate feeding designed to complete the same goals as a cheat meal. Carbohydrate intake is high, and like a cheat meal, the goals are to refill glycogen stores, recharge metabolisim, and provide sanity.
The main difference between a cheat meal and a re-feed is typically only mental.
If you don’t stick with a diet, it will not work! Plain and simple… So, a periodic “cheat period” may help you continue dieting longer.
If that is the case, then obviously it should be the method of choice. Strict dieting 100% of the time, requires an extreme amount of will power. As you diet longer and longer, your will power will get pushed to the limits.
You really need to take into account, your personality and psychology prior to implementing a cheat meal.
For some people (myself included, at times of weakness) a cheat meal may set off a shark-like feeding frenzy and they end up binge eating for hours and shoving their mouth full of cookies, ice cream, and potato chips. This will set you WAY BACK in your dieting progress. Choose a more controlled and planned out re-feed if this is the case.
You Have a Choice
Depending on how depleted your body is, and how long it has been since your last cheat meal or carb re-feed, your body will decide how long your cheating should last.
There are certainly times where full days are needed, but most cheat meals can be contained in just one hour and one single meal. (I personally do 12-36hour carb re-feeds when following a low carb diet, but that is typiically more controlled than a cheat meal.)
Typically the leaner you are, the more often you will need to implement a re-feed. The more body fat you are carrying, the less frequent a re-feed should be.
Jedi Cheat Meal Mastery
You should try to be a little more sophisticated than just “eat whatever junk I want,” but not overly… When implementing a cheat meal (instead of a carb re-feed), I would follow these guidelines:
- Have the cheat meal as the last meal of the day. This will stop you from extending a cheat and ruining your whole day.
- KISS – Keep It Short and Sweet. 45-60 minutes. This keeps you from going on a binge fest that will set you back on your goals!
- Have the cheat meal the night before an intense training period. The added glycogen and fullness will ensure that you have a powerful training session.
Other than that, have whatever you crave, as much as you want…
What to Expect
- You will fill out! Muscles swell from glycogen. Your next day or two of training will be your best and most powerful.
- Your fingers may swell, your body will smooth out. Those Jersey Shore abs you are used to seeing may get hidden by water retention.
- Your weight WILL rise! As much as 3-8 pounds in some circumstances and it may take you a few days or up to a week to return to your previous weight.
- Conversely, you may not gain much weight at all depending on how depleted your body is and how big the cheat meal is. It is still working!
Sample Re-Feed Meal
A cheat meal is easy: eat everything you want for a limited timeframe. A re-feed tends to be much cleaner.
Below is a sample carb re-feed meal for a 200 pound male:
- 2 cups of cooked brown rice
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 2 pieces of Ezekiel bread
- 1 grilled chicken breast
- 1 cup broccoli
- 2 pieces of fruit
Cheat Like a Pro
Cheat meals are frequently misapplied. They CAN set your progress back if implemented improperly. I still believe in them strongly!
Be smart, use my guidlines here and you will be able to harness that junk food as fuel in your weight loss diet!
Until next time, stay fit my friends…
Please feel free to Contact Me if you have any questions at all!
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