Read this post to learn the top 5 cheat meal rules, why to eat cheat meals, and how to cheat like a pro.
First it's important to understand the science behind cheat meals. Our appetites are controlled by two hormones, grehlin and leptin. Grehlin stimulates your appetite, while leptin suppresses it. When you're in a caloric deficit for an extended period of time, your leptin levels decrease and your grehlin hormone levels increase. What this means is your body's natural appetite suppression decreases over time and instead triggers you to want to eat more. Think of it as your body in self preservation mode, and this is yet another example of it doing its job.
When you incorporate in a cheat meal, those extra calories allow your hormone levels to regulate and for your leptin hormone to get back to work. Leptin levels decrease within days of resuming a caloric deficit. This is why incorporating regular cheat meals into your diet plan is a proven method of furthering your diet progress. Now that we've covered the basics, let's get into the rules for effective cheating.
Rule No.1: Cheat Meal vs Cheat Day
It's a cheat meal, not a cheat day. The purposes of a cheat meal are to boost your metabolism after being in a caloric deficit, and prevent food binging by allowing you to fulfill your cravings. The goal is to accomplish both objectives while not derailing your fat loss progress. It's very easy to overeat, and if you treat a cheat meal as a free day you can potentially erase all your progress for the week. Remember it takes the average person 30 minutes of exercise to
Rule No.2: How Many Cheat Meals A Week
This will depend on how aggressive of a fat loss plan you're on. Typically fitness enthusiasts will stick to one cheat meal per week, but if you're on a more aggressive plan you may be able to fit in two. Start off by fitting in one cheat meal per week and continue tracking your fat loss progress. If you're losing weight too quickly, moving to two cheat meals per week may be a great solution.
Plan your cheat meals in advance, or at minimum the days you will be cheating on. There's a strategy to cheat meals to make them more effective. Try and eat cheat meals on leg and back days as you burn more calories during those workouts. More importantly, those extra calories will help your body recover post workout. Are there any holidays, meetups, or events coming up? Plan your cheat meals in advance around those events, that way you will be able to enjoy yourself guilt free by knowing you stuck to your plan.
Rule No. 3: Cheat Meal Before or After Workout
Cheat meals are best saved for after a workout, as they're usually high carb and high fat. The best pre workout meals for an effective workout are high carb and low fat. They provide you with enough energy, but don't make you feel full, sluggish or cause you to lose motivation to workout. Also, a cheat meal post workout can be a great mental boost as you can look at it as a reward for an intense workout.
Rule No. 4: Cheat Meal Ideas
This one is pretty simple. Eat whatever you've been craving the most to prevent you from binging or having unplanned cheats. Never prepare your own cheat meal. If you must, only cook enough for one or two servings. If you prepare your own cheat meals, or have leftovers you may be tempted to overeat which will hinder your progress.
I personally like to do a "power hour." This is a cheat meal technique where I go to a restaurant with a good-sized menu and order a couple items. I eat whatever I want for one hour and don't take home any leftovers. This works perfectly for me to both satisfy my cravings and make me feel good about my ability to remain in control.
Rule No. 5: Be Honest With Yourself
Fitness progress is driven 80% by your diet and 20% by your training. You can and will out-eat your workouts. Think of cheat meals and dieting as an honor system. No one is tracking your diet but you. You may be able to convince yourself and others that you stuck to your plan, but your progress will tell the unfiltered truth.
If you are honest about your diet and effort, cheat meals will be a wonderful tool to use at your disposal. If you struggle with sticking to your diet, you may not be ready to incorporate cheat meals just yet. First prove to yourself that you can stick to your diet 100% for an extended period of time. Take mental notes of what helped you stay motivated. Then once you've shown yourself you can control your food intake, begin incorporating cheat meals by using the very rules in this post.