One of the most discouraging and/or possibly uplifting meals in many people’s fitness regimens is the cheat meal. There has been endless debate on the subject of allowing your body to consume those hard to resist, fatty, salty or just plain amazing tasting treats once per week. When a person trains consistently, it seems nearly impossible to eat clean ALL the time. Somewhere along the line life will get involved and temptations will get the best of you: someone brought cake to the office or doughnuts to the company get-together. We’ve all been there. Other commitments outside of the gym will force you decide which is more important: your results, or the free chocolate chip cookies sitting in the break room. You may be more of a salty person like myself who craves Mexican food or fatty cheeseburger, but in the end it’s all the same. For many people, cheating on their diet will leave them discouraged like they messed up big time, and as a result, they feel the need to put up the extra effort in their next workout.
I’m here to present you with good news! There are benefits of adding a cheat meal once per week, although there are some conditions. Let me break it down…
Let’s say Kylee works out 5 times per week. She resistance trains with weight 3 times and does cardio each day as well as yoga once per week. Her cardiovascular training has a high intensity which allows her body to burn calories and fat EVEN when at rest. Over the weekend she allows her body to rest up in preparation for the following week’s workouts. On Sunday her parents are having a BBQ to celebrate her sister’s birthday. Whats on the menu?? Burgers, beer and cake. Is she allowed to enjoy the meal along with her family?
The answer is yes! With the amount of effort Kylee puts forth in her training each week, it is completely safe to switch out a regular meal with something not as nutritionally beneficial. Now let’s look at someone else:
John is a regular guy who spends 3 nights a week away from the family to run on the elliptical at the gym. He pushes himself to a light sweat for 30 minutes each day. His diet is random depending on his schedule and sometimes he misses a meal here and there because of work. He has specific fitness goals but lacks the dedication to achieve them. Should he have a cheat meal over the weekend due to his lack of food or the busy week he had?
The answer is no! If a person lacks the ability to stick to a desired goal, then most likely they do not want it bad enough. If fitness and health are a priority in your life your body will reflect it completely. For John, a cheat meal will only set him back because his body lacks the consistent nutrients it needs to make improvements!
The lesson from this: if you’re looking to achieve a fitness goal, your food intake must be consistent with your training. You will need both parts, not just one individually. So here are some rules to follow with cheat meals:
Don’t get these confused. This doesn’t mean that every meal is a free-for-all on the day you pick to cheat. Have some self control and keep it to just one meal.
If you know the day that you’ll be able to get a cheat meal in, it will help your mind battle through your weekly cravings for the GOOD STUFF.
Just because it a cheat MEAL doesn’t mean you should sit at the nearest home town buffet for 6 hours stuffing your face. It’s all great in moderation.
Sometimes the best way to avoid those bad cravings is to spice up your good food with a little flavor. Healthy food can be enjoyable; all it takes is a little effort. Many protein powders can be added to ordinary meals or desserts to give extraordinary flavor.
If your diet does not compliment your training habits then you do not deserve a cheat meal, it’s the truth! Once your nutrition is a priority and everything is in place, then have at it.
If you’re looking for fat loss then the cheat meal is a great option to increase your metabolic rate by “stirring the pot.” With consistently high amounts of nutrient intake over time, the body will adapt to these foods just like the body will adapt to training. It’s important to change things up and also allow your mind to catch a break. We’re all human here, and we seek out great-tasting food; so one cheat meal per week will do no harm for a dedicated and committed fitness individual!