A CHEAT MEAL CAN ACTUALLY BE A POWERFUL TOOL.. BUT LEARN TO USE IT WISELY
When it comes to getting into shape, changing your body, transforming your physique – diet is without a doubt the hardest part of any fitness goal and lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong there’s def some mornings where getting out of bed to do my morning cardio feels rough, or steering down 4 – 5 sets of heavy ass deadlifts has me wanting to tap out before I even grip the bar for the first warm up set; but not giving in to the urge to clean out half the pantry can at times be even harder. But I’m able to resist thanks to three truly amazing words: Weekly Cheat Meal.
Yes, I cheat. But before I go any further I better exactly clarify what I mean by ‘Cheat’. First of all the word ‘cheat’ sounds wrong. It sounds like I’m doing something that I shouldn’t be doing, when in fact this ‘cheat’ is 100% Legion authorized. We keep it named ‘cheat meal’ still however because phrasing is Authorized Additional Re-feed’ takes all the fun out of it.
This Cheat Meal (Authorized Additional Re-feed), has tremendous beneficial effects on your physique. When used correctly cheat meals can help reset hormones responsible for metabolism and insulin regulation, replenish glycogen stores for increased energy, and keep high the mechanisms responsible for calorie and fat burning.
Woo! Hold up there solider! Before you take that as a que to commence a full frontal attack on a local drive-thru, you better realize cheat meals aren’t a free-for-all. Theres a right way which can help enhance your physique goals, and theres a wrong way that can have you going backwards… way backwards.. Listen up to get it right every time.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAPPENS ON CALORIE RESTRICTIONS
Being on a daily calorie restriction, especially when its in a deficient comes at a cost. Though we do use carbohydrates even when the focus is on pure weight loss the values for this macro is generally in a lower ratio percentage than the norm. After time, this can effect a number of things – sure its effecting your bodyfat stores – depleting them nicely but there will come a time when it starts to effect your hormone levels. Lets have a quick run down on these.
Hormone #1 LEPTIN. Leptin is a protein mainly produced by fat tissue responsible for regulating appetite and energy balance in your body. It acts on your brain’s hypothalamus to suppress food intake and stimulate the use calories. Leptin plays a key role in regulating body weight and fat mass through its stimulating effect on the brain. Its been shown that even with just one full day (24 hours) of no food what so ever your leptin levels decrease down to 30% of their normal levels.
Hormone #2 GHRELIN; Ghrelin is a peptide hormone mainly produced by the stomach. Its an appetite stimulant that signals the release of growth hormone. Super low calorie diets and chronic exercise have been shown to result in increased ghrelin concentrations un-warrently sending your appetites and carvings through the roof..
In addition to affecting your appetite and energy use through leptin and ghrelin, sustained calorie restrictions also cause the body to attempt to conserve energy by decreasing levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which help regulate and maintain your metabolism function. Which ultimately means your body eventually will get to a state where it will refuse to release fat as fuel, which means an incredibly slowed rate of fat burning.
USE THE SCIENCE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Since significant changes in your levels of leptin and ghrelin are seen after only only 72 hours of calorie restriction, weekly cheat meals that influx calories, in particular carbs and fats can help raise leptin levels and lower ghrelin. This is important because the return of your hormone levels to normal can help reverse or even prevent any negative effects on metabolism, hunger drive, and energy expenditure. In addition, the increased calories will also help to increase thyroid function, further boosting metabolism.
This increase in metabolism can last for days after your body digests a cheat meal, thus offsetting the drop in hormones that occurs when the calorie-restriction meal plan is again resumed. As a result, a scheduled cheat meal can actually help optimize your body’s hormones to avoid weight-loss plateaus and prevent it from entering starvation mode. That’s right, structured cheat meals can help you break through weight-loss plateaus!
Leptin levels in your body typically reflect your total body fat mass. This basically means the leaner you are, the less leptin your body produces. The leaner you get the even greater reason and benefit for adding cheat meals into your plan.
Studies have shown that in lean individuals, not only does leptin decrease faster with short-term fasting, but also the majority of the leptin available is bound. When bound, leptin is unable to suppress your appetite and stimulate energy use. Maximize the leptin that you do have by eating prescribed Legion meals on time, and never skip meals.
Now if your idea of a cheat meal is a bucket of Ice Cream and packs of sweets you best be checking yourself. You need to be avoiding sugar-laden, nutrient-poor foods that can that WILL ruin a week’s worth of progress. Instead, eat a cheat meal that is still well balanced. Meaning one that has all the macros in it but favoring more carbs than your normal Legion meals.
Cheeseburgers, pizza, pasta dish, chicken or beef curry dish, chicken tortillas, stir fry with noodles – these meals are both rich in carbs, fats and protein, but they’re also meals that I enjoy and leave me satisfied.
SCHEDULE CHEAT MEALS
This is important – plan you cheat meals. Don’t leave them to chance and just end up finding yourself in a cheat meal. These never end well and actually end up leaving you feeling often cheated yourself when you can’t fullfill what you’ve been craving. Plan ahead and workout exactly what your carving.
Remember too that while cheat meals are meal replacements, they need to fit into your current eating regimen. Cheat meals allow you to satisfy cravings and give you a chance to loosen the reigns a bit, but they shouldn’t turn into cheat days. They also shouldn’t be a reason to eat less than you normally would at other meals. The purpose of the cheat meal is to add extra calories to your current plan. Skipping meals before or after could end up limiting you cheat meal’s effectiveness and ultimately backfire on you, causing you to become overly hungry and overindulge in your cheat. Avoid this potential pitfall by knowing the logistics behind your cheat meal. Pick a meal that will allow you to indulge without going overboard. Personally, I prefer to replace dinner with my cheat meal. I’ve found that this limits my tendency to want to snack the rest of the day, which is not the case when I opt to indulge at breakfast
In addition to which meal you choose to replace, which day you choose to have your cheat meal is also a key factor. I find often that the mental and emotional aspects surrounding a cheat meal make it more fun and enjoyable. Instead of stuffing down a greasy takeout burger while driving home from work, build your cheat meals into social situations.
Try switching up your cheat day until you find one that best fits your lifestyle. If you have difficulty jumping back on track after a mid-weekend treat, consider moving it to Sunday night. After all, there’s nothing like Monday morning and the start of the workweek to ground you in reality and get you back on track.
ABOVE ALL ELSE
While cheat meals can have positive effect on your metabolism, energy, and even psyche, cheat meals will ONLY work if and only if you have hit every other meal of the entire week leading up to you one weekly cheat meal with out any other ‘slip ups’. Slip ups include both foods not on your meal plan finding there way into your mouth as well as skipping meals.
Now, be aware; for some people cheat meals can do more harm than good. If you find that you have difficulty sticking to your meal plan after a cheat meal or experience increased cravings that are difficult to manage, you may have to reevaluate whether cheating is beneficial for your goals.
Sometimes deviating from your Chicken Breast and Approved Vegetables to Steak and Potato instead of Cheese Burgers can satisfy a craving to cheat without leading to opening the gates of hell – but you have to discover and make that call
TY TIP – When it comes to my cheats, I do it, and do it well. But once I’ve destroyed my choice of ‘off the plan foods’, I ‘flick the switch’ back into normal everyday life mode for another week. The moment that cheat meal is over satisfyingly wipe my hands and mouth and then forget about it. My focus is then switched back to looking forward to the next week of making gains with my diet and training.