Guidance on Cheat Meals
Its time we discussed cheat days and cheat meals!
It’s okay, on the select occasion to incorporate a cheat day or cheat meal into your nutrition plan. Indulging in foods that aren’t usually in your plan. Cutting out the foods that have refined sugar, too many carbs or anything covered with cheese can be a challenge itself. Particularly if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey with a shiny new eating plan or have plateaued in your weight loss effort. Cheat meals and cheat days have become ever more popular and, for some, more often.
What is a cheat meal/day?
A cheat meal is a moment in your day where you allow yourself to indulge in any foods you want. A Cheat day is a full day where macro’s and calories don’t count or matter. Say goodbye to any bland foods and hello to the ever-delicious hamburger you’ve been eyeing off from your favourite vendor. You can schedule this day (once only, or if your coach allows it) into your week at any time. Some choose to have it coincide with a day on the weekend. Just don’t turn it into a cheat weekend!
The theory behind having the cheat meal or day is that you’ll stick to your restricted eating plan throughout the week and stave off any cravings for the particular type of food you want, saving it for that special meal or day. Reminding yourself that you have that special moment coming up. And then, at that moment, you may enjoy whatever food that has taunted or teased you throughout the days leading up to it.
Does it work?
While the whole “cheating” makes it sound illicit, cheat meals and days are actually something that many bodybuilders and athletes program for their nutrition and training programs. This is due to the reduction in overall calories that are consumed throughout the week. At the onset of any diet, you may notice that weight does come off rather easily.
But, thanks to our body’s evolution, they wise up and realise that you’re eating fewer calories than you need to survive. To offset this, your body adjusts its metabolism, slowing it down and conserving energy to become efficient. Around this moment, your weight loss grinds to a halt. Introducing the cheat day, you’re introducing the extra calories your body needs, in the short term, to trick the body shifting your metabolism back on track.
Some cheat days can be huge! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s cheat day consists of something that could feed a large family
Should you introduce a cheat meal or day, here are three reasons why it might be right for you!
It can help you stick to your long-term goals.
Having this planned hedonistic moment in your life has been proven to help people stick to their goals. Studies have shown that placing a cheat day at select times of the program can be extremely motivating. The researchers behind this study believe that the “all or nothing” approach, found in most general population’s “diets” are gone. Programming the cheat day is acceptable so you can have your cake and eat it too!
2. It can keep your metabolism on track
As mentioned earlier, restricting your calorie count will slow your metabolism. Much of this is to do with the starvation hormone known as leptin, which tells you when you’re full, regulates energy and suppresses the desire to eat more. When you decrease calories, leptin levels are affected. By incorporating a cheat meal or day, you’re adding in calories for a window of time in which should increase your leptin levels. Maintaining or increasing your metabolism can lead to a stable weight loss in the long term and lasting results.
3. It will help you make the right choice.
Making your goals easier to achieve long-term and maintaining or increasing your metabolism sounds well and good eventually, but what happens when you’re faced with compromising your strict plan with the platter of sugary treats at work? This is where the beauty of the cheat meal can help you make smarter choices about food in the present situation, allowing you the ability to eat intuitively.
For many, it’s the big N-O when it comes to certain foods that make it really tough to stick to an adequate plan ahead. And knowing that sweet relief is coming in the form of a cheat day or meal can make it easier to say no now and yes to the pizza later!
Dangers of the Cheat Day
Of course, like most topics in the health and fitness world, cheat days are highly debated. If you’re considering adding a cheat day or cheat meal to your diet plan, there are a few dangers to consider.
Gorging the food "because I can!"
Cheat days are meant to prevent slip-ups, maintain your metabolism and enjoy the foods you've eliminated from your diet. Some find that going all out on an extravaganza keep going when they're no longer hungry can be counterintuitive. Inhaling all the pizza's you can instead of what you're craving be a sign of a deeper problem with food, or yourself.
2. Making food thy enemy
Even with the word "cheat" makes it rather taboo for our modern ways of thinking. Noone is perfect 100% of the time. Even some vegetarians have been known to eat meat at some point in their vegetarian diet. Perhaps instead of spending the entire week thinking about the foods we crave, such as chocolate chip cookies, we actually sit down to eat one or two, then move back into our nutrition plan? For some, this makes more sense.
3. You're not as healthy as you think
For many athletes, the cheat day makes sense as they are constantly training. But much of the general population would be on a casual diet and are not eating as healthily or training with the same vigour as an athlete. Eating more calories than you need and burning less than you should be a reason that you're not seeing the results.
Doing Cheat Meals and Days the Right Way!
Cheat meals and days do have their place for the general population. Here's some useful help for you:
1. Its a "treat" day, not a "Cheat" day!
The whole idea of cheating may not sit well. So, replace "cheat" with "treat"! Allowing yourself something special. No shame, no stigma. Just deliciousness!
For example, if you're on a low carb plan, and your treat is low-carb pancakes, throw some maple syrup on top, and possibly a scoop or two of ice cream!
2. Don't confuse the treat meal or day with a bad habit
If your treat consists of the same chocolate bar at the same time of day, then its a habit. Be honest with yourself about whether you're treating yourself too often and how this can affect your long-term goals.
3. Get your workout in
Just because its treat day, doesn't mean you can skip the workout entirely. Allow yourself some form of exercises such as a brisk walk or yoga, or even something more intense. You'll feel better before and after eating.
4. Plan treat days around major events
You have your mates birthday, a wedding or some other significant event coming up. Change the treat day to that event. The key is to be included, not excluding. And not abandoning your diet or workout altogether.
5. Make your treat real food
I've often heard some people treating themselves to junk or processed foods that do nothing for our bodies. Junk food has its problems long-term, but I often counteract this and choose unprocessed foods such as making my own pizza, hamburgers or brownies. For me, this works really well in satisfying cravings with little to no side effects from the likes of processed foods.
6. Herb and spice up the healthy foods
Eating the plain "diet food" all the time can be very bland and you'll want something with a bit extra come treat time. Adding herbs and/or spices to your bland meals can make all the difference mentally just as much as gustatory, olfactory and all the other senses. My favourite is adding a bit of lemon pepper to chicken or some pepper and herbs to beef.
Incorporating these ideas can help you long term shifting the weight constantly and keeping it off, most importantly. There might be some issues that you need to resolve if you see treats as constant habits, but changing your mindset of "cheat" to "treat" should help you think differently moving forward!
If you need to shift your mindset and your weight, contact Discipline Fitness today!