Cheating on Your Diet – Can You Do It Once a Week?
To “cheat” – Lets take it back to basics…
The English dictionary describes the word “cheat” as to “Defraud, swindle, or to deceive.”
The term cheat meal as been around for years and years.
In the “urban” dictionary it is defined as “When one is on a strict diet regime they occasionally will have a meal that allows for them to eat things that are not a part of the prescribed diet. You are on a high protein, low carb diet, so for a cheat meal you can have pizza or french fries or dessert.”
But what does all this mean and it is relevant to you?
If you have been around enough body builders or those heavily into the fitness scene you will have heard about the words “cheat meal” or “re-feeds”.
But actually, what are they and can they be damaging to your new way of life, your progress or perhaps your chances of being able to pick up some bronze, silver or gold on the stage?
Do you know the meaning of these two words?
If you are competing “cheats” or “re-feeds” are usually deemed as acceptable.
When I was competing my coach called mine a “free meal” – a meal in which you can have whatever your like within the time period of 1 hour. This works in a way that my “cheat/free/re-feed” does not end up lasting the whole day and is restricted to just one hour.
Lets look at the hardcore first…
The reason that bodybuilders have this kind of meal works threefold:
1. Psychological Benefits
This helps with any cravings that they may have to act as a physiological deterrent to prevent bingeing.
Usually as humans if we are told we cannot have something then it means that we want it more. It helps when mid week if something is being craved, and if you are strong willed enough you can stave off this craving and save it for the day when you “cheat” on your meal plan.
If you can do that, it is quite satisfying.
2. Weight loss
The other reason that a “cheat/free/re-feed” is a good thing, especially if it involves more carbs, is that it will boost the levels of glycogen in your bloodstream which will indicate to the hormone leptin that you have weight to loose.
You see: without going into a science lesson, put simply Leptin loves carbs and it is stimulated by them. If you have little carbs in your diet then weight loss can stall this is why strategic refeeds/cheats are thrown in.
I remember having 2 “free” meals in one day or one week, which consisted of more good carbs to boost my leptin to lose more weight for competition.
If it is for this reason that you can tend to feel that you deserve this meal and so have no guilt usually attached to it.
3. Energy levels
By the end of a long week of cardio, weights and restricted diet glycogen levels in your body can become low due to all the calories being burnt during the week.
You can start to feel a little tired and grotty.
This is where an injection of a “cheat” meal can also come in handy. Re-feeding the muscle with some good glycogen can help your energy levels for the week ahead and make sure that you don’t burn out.
You can see why the term “cheat” is used when it comes to bodybuilding, based on the above definitions but if this “cheat” meal was specifically written in to your meal plan would it make it a cheat or just part of your plan? Now there is something to think about!
Up next the good old “lifestyle change”
This is the one where guilt and fear can creep in. You’re not competing, you are simply just changing the way you eat and live your life, because you want to feel better about yourself, feel healthier and perhaps lose a little weight.
So you have set out to change your lifestyle, rid yourself of sugar and bad fatty foods.
But you are out one day and you “fancy” a chocolate bar, or a pizza or a burger. But at the same time you feel guilty, you worry that if you eat that it means you are going backwards, and that you have failed in your mission of being able to cut the rubbish out of your diet. All of a sudden the word cheat comes to you mind.
You’re a fraud; the question “what if?” comes into your head.
What if I eat that will I put all that weight on again?
What if I cannot stop eating?
What does it mean if I give in?
What if, what if, what if…?!
At this stage I would urge you to stop what you are doing and just think.
One “bad” meal won’t make you fat just as one “good” meal won’t make you thin!
When it comes to a lifestyle change, in my personal opinion you should not see these types of meals or snacks as a cheat.
You are not defrauding or swindling yourself at all.
You’re not interested in being obese; you are just not going to beat yourself up for everything you eat.
Make sure in these cases that you choose to have these types of foods, perhaps once per week for example and don’t beat yourself up for it. Don’t attach any emotional attachment to the foods; guilt, happiness, fulfilment etc. just see it as something you are going to enjoy in moderation. Period!
The key here is moderation
Sure if you go and eat, 10 pizzas, 20 burgers in one day and gorge then of course it is going to cause an issue for you and your not really going to see much progress.
So when you hear the word “cheat” or “re-efed” remember if you are a competitor, sure use it, but if you are leading a healthy lifestyle are you really cheating on your prescribed “diet” or “meal” plan?
Connect with Expert Laura Ash