Cheat meals are a popular topic of discussion in the world of fitness and physical transformation. To cheat meal or not is the question?
This article can be broken down into two sections. First, cheat meals for putting on mass and secondly, cheat meals for losing fat.
Let’s start with cheat meals for mass building.
It is no walk in the park, putting on weight. Not only do you have to work out, but you also need to eat, constantly. Because of the high caloric needs in order to consistently put on muscle mass, cheat meals can be a beneficial and a convenient way to up your calories. Now depending on if you want to put on muscle, muscle/fat, or just fat, you should watch what you cheat with. Cheating with clean calories will help you put on muscle mass without all the body fat that comes with ‘dirty’ cheat meals. Clean cheat calories can be defined as whole foods that do your body good. Too many “bad calories,” such as sugars, refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, alcoholic beverages, etc., will increase inflammation. This can lead to increased belly fat gain and decreased muscle gain. An example of a clean cheat meal is whole grain pasta, pizza, burrito, or sushi. Focus on higher carb with moderate protein.
Having a cheat meal can also help you power through your workouts. After indulging in a high carbohydrate cheat meal, your muscles will be full of energy. The more energy you have, the more you can power through your workouts and break down muscle fibers. The more you break down, the more you can potentially build up.
In conclusion, adding in a high-calorie cheat meal (high carb, moderate protein) every 2-3 days can be beneficial both for upping your overall calories and increasing your fitness and strength performance.
Now let’s discuss the benefits of cheat meals for fat burning.
Incorporating cheat meals for fat loss is beneficial for satiation hormones. When on a calorie-restricted diet, individuals often struggle with hunger cravings. To understand this more, let’s talk about the two key hormones involved:
Leptin and Ghrelin are your hunger hormones that influence your appetite, satiation, and body weight. These two make sure you don’t get too fat or too skinny. These homeostatic hormones will either trigger hunger (Ghrelin) or satiety (Leptin). When dieting and losing weight on a calorie-restricted diet Leptin can drop, this is because leptin lives in your body fat, and as you burn body fat, your leptin is triggered. If leptin drops, it gives your brain the impression that you are not satiated. When leptin decreases, Ghrelin increases, which begins to tell your brain that you are hungry. Can you imagine how much harder dieting is when you are feeling hungry all the time?
So how do you increase Leptin while dieting, so you don’t feel hungry all the time?
1) ADDING AN EFFECTIVE CHEAT MEAL
Having a high carbohydrate cheat meal can trigger a leptin spike. Bare in mind, both fat and MSG (artificial sweetener) can do the opposite. So make sure your cheat meal is more glucose-based then fat-based. How often should you consume a cheat meal? We recommend one every two weeks.
Tips for cheat meals:
A. Make it yourself. When you have a cheat meal at a restaurant, you do not know what is in your food. As discussed above, artificial sweeteners like MSG and high amounts of sodium are typically used in many dishes at restaurants.
B. Consider consuming digestive enzyme, lemons, or apple cider vinegar before cheat meal. A cheat meal can be strenuous on the digestive stem. Digestive enzymes, freshly squeezed lemon in lukewarm water and ACV can all support digestive processes, aiding in the processing of a high-calorie cheat meal.
C. Exercise the following day. After a high-calorie cheat meal, your muscle stores will be full of fuel. Capitalize on a killer workout by exercising the following morning.
2) INCORPORATE INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting (IF) typically consists of 16-hour fast window followed by an 8-hour feed window. Research shows that IF may decrease ghrelin and increase leptin. We recommend incorporating IF in on two non-consecutive days per week to avoid hormonal adaptation.
3) GETTING BETTER SLEEP
This is by far the most important. Research shows that sleep deprivation can result in a dip of leptin, giving your constant feeling of hunger.
Increase your sleep health by cutting out all stimulants 12 hours before bed, exercising in the morning rather than evening, and considering a wind-down routine before bedtime. This might consist of stretching, meditation, Epsom salt baths, or listening to Binaural Beats.
In conclusion, cheat meals can undoubtedly work to your advantage. Bear in mind, and it is a cheat meal, not a cheat day. If you find eating a cheat meal every couple of weeks pushes you off the rails, consider avoiding it altogether. Remember, it is all about balance.
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