As you may know, a cheat meal means just skipping your diet to have a big meal without checking the food type, portion size or calories per serving.
However, a Cheat Meal means more than just a treat after a week on a strict diet; it can prove to be a way to boost your metabolism and have a positive effect due to the following reasons:
- On the psychological level, it is helpful to ward off feelings of cravings and deprivation derived from hypo-caloric diet plans. It minimises the risk to skip the diet if you know you will have a chance to eat a meal of your like with no restrictions. It can be a reward for all the hard work done, helping to stay positive and motivated to stick to your nutritional plan.
- Additionally a cheat meal, increases leptin levels, a hormone that regulates our appetite and plays an important part in balancing energy levels in our metabolism, making our body burn more fat.
It’s known there is a relationship between leptin and thyroid hormones. In turn, these are involved with how fast our metabolism work. An unexpected food intake or cheat meal can help to boost metabolism and thermogenesis.
Lastly, a cheat meal facilitates recharging muscle glycogen. Being on a hypo-caloric diet for a long time can lead to our muscle glycogen to be affected and impact on our energy levels, feeling apathetic and tired.
A planned cheat meal can help you stoke on glycogen levels and feel more energised.
It is important to plan your cheat meal effectively depending on your individual needs and goals. This way you will maximise the weight loss benefits and minimise the damage while eating the foods you crave.
- Weight Loss: 1 cheat meal every fortnight or 1 weekly depending on evolution.
- Muscle Definition: same as above
- Weight Maintenance: 1 weekly cheat meal o o 2 at the maximum, only on an exceptional basis.
- Increase Volume: 2 cheat meals/weekly
- Extreme Muscle Definition (for competition purposes)- None
Take into account this is just ONE SINGLE MEAL during a particular day.
They are not cumulative, so if on one week you didn’t’ have your cheat meal, it doesn’t mean you will have 2 to spare on the follow
Plan your cheat meal effectively
1. Avoid days where you may be very stressed. It's a good idea to line up that cheat meal on a weekend or social occasion.
2. Ensure you got enough sleep hours the previous night. Poor sleep has been shown to increase appetite and cravings for sweets and junk food.
3. Don’t cheat when you’re famished: if you know you will be having your cheat meal don’t try to compensate severely restricting calories for days in advance.
Make sure you eat one high quality protein meal with a small salad for instance to feel satiated for the lowest amount of calories to to avoid overeating later.
4. Plan your cheat meal as a post work out meal
It will maximise the anabolic time span that is produced after working out. Your glycogen stores will be depleted and your body will use the cheat meal to store glycogen levels to the full and minimise calories that will heat our fat reserve
5. Don’t confuse a cheat meal with a few drinks with friends. Alcoholic drinks are very caloric and they don’t provide any beneficial nutrients for your body and besides they don’t help to boost your energy levels to go back on track and resume your diet.
6. Try eating protein rich dishes before to get you satiated and avoid jumping on simple carbs.
If going for tapas or nibbles, try chicken wings, grilled octopus or shrimps first,a and then some bread or some roasted potatoes.
7. Me mindful of what you are eating, chew properly and appreciate the taste of your favourite foods.
There’s no need to end up absolutely stuffed. Put limits to stop eating at the right time, your body and your mind will thank you.
8. Plan the following meals after a Cheat meal.
Knowing that you’ve got a meal plan handy, it will help you stick to it and not let yourself go down a "cheat day madness"
Alberto Lázaro, personal trainer
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photo credit: The Fab Dog via photopin (license)