People who are seriously committed to clean eating meal plans can all relate to the excitement felt when we allow ourselves a scheduled cheat meal. Cheat meals are built into our programs because they serve a purpose; they are designed to help us psychologically and physiologically. Before going any further, it’s important to distinguish between these two types.
When someone has already achieved a healthy body weight and the majority of their diet is clean, lean and nutritionally balanced, it’s important to enjoy an occasional cheat meal. These scheduled treats are like psychological mood-boosters because they help us avoid feeling constantly deprived of our favorite, naughty foods. If we continuously deny ourselves all indulgences and stay on a restricted, repetitive meal plan, it can break down even the toughest of us and we may lose the motivation to keep it clean during the week. If you have worked hard in the gym and remained conscious in the kitchen, then by all means, you deserve an occasional cheat meal, but keep it to one meal and not a whole day!
The other type of cheat meal (often called a re-feed meal) has a completely different purpose and is designed to crank-up a sluggish metabolism. When dieting and in a calorie-deficit state, like cutting for a competition, your metabolism will slow down and your leptin hormone levels will drop. With low leptin levels, it becomes much harder to burn body fat, as leptin is the most essential of all fat burning hormones. As a result, incorporating a welcome re-feed meal or DAY into your cutting diet is highly recommended… (And NO it doesn’t hinder all your progress, quite the opposite!!!)
On a re-feed day you spike up your carbohydrate intake by 100% (or more) increasing your calories up to maintenance level or above so that you are in a calorie surplus for this day (but still in a weekly deficit). This re-feed is designed to boost your metabolism and increase your leptin levels so that you can continue to burn fat like a furnace! The longer you diet, the slower your metabolism will become and your leptin levels drop and it becomes a lot harder to burn body fat. This is where re-feed days come in and throw fuel on your metabolic fire.
One last point about these cheat meals is that they are generally enjoyed on a rest day; that way, all the fats and glycogen has time to really absorb into the muscles. If you have a cheat meal and then go then go train weights, all the nutrients from the cheat haven’t had enough time to absorb into the muscles and you won’t end up benefiting from your cheat. So, think of it as your deserved reward on your day of rest.
So, whether you are a health conscious individual who religiously adheres to a clean eating plan, or an athlete who is in the cutting/dieting phase of contest prep, allow yourself the occasional indulgence of a really naughty feast. It will boost your mood and your metabolism….. However, if you are just starting out on a weight loss routine and need to shed unwanted body fat, cheat meals should not be included into your plan.
Think of them as the future best friend you have yet to meet until you reach a healthier bodyweight.
Written by Angel Simmons
Approved By Kosta Kromidas