I’ve heard I won’t meet my fitness goals if I eat cheat meals, is that true?
Cheat meals will neither prevent you from getting ripped nor losing fat! In fact, most nutrition experts – like Alan Aragon and John Berardi – have advocated what’s known as the 90%-10% rule.
The 90/10 rule means that 90% of the time you should eat according to your specific goal-based nutrition plan, and 10% of time you can indulge in something that is not on the diet. If you consume cheat meals this way, you won’t derail your fat loss or fitness goals.
Of course, there are even more tips and tricks. According to Alan Aragon, the post-workout period is your best time to cheat. During the post-workout window, the cheat meal stands a greater chance of being utilized by your muscles instead of being stored as fat.
Even when you do a low-intensity workout, your muscles can sponge up a lot of extra carbs, preventing them from being converted to fat.
Cheat to Win
There is no single research study that says cheat meals can speed up your metabolism, but eating them can help you psychologically. It is difficult for someone to be on a diet 7 days per week without cheating.
You may go crazy trying to do that, particularly if you are dieting for 12 weeks or longer. In other words, a little junk food might go a long way to help your mental game.
There’s a difference between a re-feed and a cheat meal, though the two are often confused. A cheat meal is eating something that is not part of your diet plan and is typically junk food like pizza, hamburgers or french fries. A re-feed is a planned increase in caloric intake that lasts about 8-to-12 hours and usually consists of a large amount of complex carbohydrates.
Let’s say you are on a strict 1700-calorie diet 5 days per week, and then you re-feed for one day on a 2700-calorie diet. The re-feed is still healthy, but you’re ingesting more complex carbs and calories for a specific purpose.
Re-feeds are particularly important to low-calorie (and low-carb) dieters who need to replenish muscle glycogen and spike the metabolism (by kicking up leptin levels).
Cheat Meal, Not Day
As long as you are following 90 percent of your diet plan, you can include 1-2 cheat meals per week to stay sane. Cheat meals are meant to satisfy your taste buds, not to fill your belly at some all-you-can-eat buffet.
A cheat meal is exactly that: a meal. A cheat meal does not constitute a whole day of cheating. If you follow the 90/10 rule, then the 10 percent spent cheating will never derail you from losing fat and getting ripped.
Duane De Jager M.Ed., B.Ed., BPE