CHEAT MEAL 101
1. Sometimes calling it a “CHEAT” meal is the first mistake. Using the word “cheat” triggers something with people which makes them think it’s ok to binge and gorge on anything and everything in sight. This is then mentally justified as being ok because “it’s their cheat meal”. Often using the word “FREE” meal works a lot better with some people psychologically.
2. Just because you have done a week of dieting doesn’t mean that you NEED a cheat meal. Your metabolism isn’t going to slow down after a week of dieting and no, that one meal isn’t going to “spike” your metabolism. I have prepped clients and know people who go 8-10 weeks without a cheat meal easily.
3. A cheat meal isn’t an opportunity to replicate a Man vs. Food challenge and eat yourself into a coma.
4. The benefits of having a cheat meal are strictly psychological. It’s a mental break from the diet and a time to enjoy a meal with friends & family. Many will claim benefits of regulating hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, but really those benefits would come with a structured refeed and prolonged periods of over eating carbohydrates, not a single meal.
5. A cheat meal is a great opportunity to not eat out of Tupperware and eat out at a restaurant e.g. have a starter & main, or main & desert, whichever you prefer and not worry about tracking any calories.
6. Eating your cheat meal out the house often works a lot better for people because you’re more likely to just have a main and dessert in a restaurant. If you’re at home the temptation is there is keep raiding the cupboards again and again once you have had your cheat meal.
7. I would always recommend eating a cheat meal on a training day and preferably after training a large muscle group e.g. legs or back, not on a rest day from the gym.
8. It’s a cheat MEAL not a cheat DAY/ WEEKEND. Sometimes the message is lost in translation and some clients extend the meal to a 24-hour binge. Save your cheat meal for the last meal of the day, enjoy your meal then go to bed, then the day after get back on the diet and training.
9. Don’t weigh yourself the day after a cheat meal! If you have been following a low carb diet and then have a cheat, expect an increase in scale weight the day after. Don’t worry this isn’t body-fat, just your body holding on to the carbs, so best to leave it 3-4 days before you step on the scales again Otherwise it will be a false reading.
10. Frequency of cheat meals depends on lots of different factors. I would suggest the leaner an individual is the more frequently they could get away with cheat meals. Also, those with a higher training frequency and energy expenditure can get away with more than someone who is sedentary or just lifting light weights twice per week. For someone who is just starting their fitness journey, they may not have the mental adherence just yet to be able to have a cheat meal and then switch straight back onto their diet. The cheat can throw them further off track and trigger more food cravings, so it’s not always a good thing.