Sometimes I wonder whether a majority of my clients were rewarded with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every single time they were good little boys and girls, because after just a few days of “being good on their diet”, they think they deserve a cheat meal!
Some of them are surprised when, unlike the classic coddling parent, I don’t just succumb to their requests and order them up a pizza because they “said the magic word”.
Instead, I recommend that clients enjoy a cheat meal when that meal will actually be beneficial to their fat loss and/or muscle building goals.
You see, under the right set of circumstances, cheat meals can do the following:
1) Stimulate your metabolic rate. With a recharged metabolic rate, you can eliminate those dreaded fat loss plateaus.
2) Refill your glycogen stores. This will give your muscles energy and a nice tight appearance.
3) Give you a psychological edge. Dieting can be tough at times, and having something to look forward makes it significantly easier to stick with.
4) Give you a boost of energy. This makes you feel better, but perhaps even more important, it allows you to train harder, thus making your training sessions more effective.
Cheating too much or at the wrong time can totally backfire and wreck havoc on your fat loss goals.
So how do you know when to cheat? This is THE magic question. The precise answer is based on a variety of factors, including your metabolic rate, your body fat levels, how hard you’ve been dieting, your lean body mass (LBM), etc.
Without the keen eye of an experienced coach, taking proper account of these factors can be difficult. But here are some questions that, if answered objectively, will help you to determine if a cheat meal is warranted.
Here are some signs that a cheat meal may be in order:
1) If your weight has dropped more than 5 pounds in a 7 day period. (The only exception to this would be the very first week of dieting) This indicates a rapid loss of glycogen and water which can lead to muscle loss.
2) If your fat loss has slowed to a snail’s pace or perhaps even stopped all together.
3) If your morning body temperature drops 1 degree or more from the start of your diet.
4) If you feel like you are in a fog all day.
If your diet has resulted in any of these above symptoms, a cheat meal is certainly worth considering.
Next, we need to understand what criteria a cheat meal should meet. First of all, a cheat meal needs to have an abundance of calories and carbohydrates. The amount of calories should be approximately 5 times your bodyweight.
And as for your carbs, eat approximately 1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
These carbs can come from “clean” sources such as potatoes, yams, brown rice, oatmeal, etc. I recommend keeping the carb sources clean for those of you who have an “all or none” personality. For these personality types, binging on junk foods can potentially throw them off the fat loss wagon completely.
On the other hand, you can simply eat whatever you want. This can certainly be more enjoyable, but you must be sure you have the ability to eat “bad” foods and get right back on track.
By following these simple guidelines, you will accelerate your fat loss progress while enjoying some of your favorite foods along the way.
Remember that in many cases, taking a cheat meal will NOT set you back. But not taking one will. So eat up, enjoy and get ripped!
Dedicated to your success,