Cheat Your Way to a Fit Body
By: Robert Maalouf BS, CSCS, FMSC, CPT, CF-L1
Before most people even start a diet, the first question that comes to mind is, “How many cheat meals/days do I get?”. While cheat meals do have their place, we need to understand what cheats meals are and why we have them. Cheat meal is the term used when someone on a diet or meal plan decides to go off track and splurge on something that isn’t “allowed” as a treat. After the meal they would get back on track to their routine diet. So, what purpose does a cheat meal serve? In my opinion, there are a few reasons we need cheat meals:
- First and foremost, sometimes we just want to eat whatever we want. I think that is reason enough to justify a cheat meal. Your body might be telling you that it’s worn down from intense workouts and you need to refuel.
- Cheat meals provide a psychological break for those on strict diets. If you are on a strict diet, chances are you feel deprived and underfed. From time to time it’s alright to go out and eat something that’s not on your diet plan. I have noticed with most of my clients, and myself included, that after the cheat meal, we are more likely to successfully go back to eating healthy. You need to give yourself a mental break and your body needs to know that you are not always going to deprive yourself.
- For those who are carbohydrate deprived or following a very low calorie diet, a cheat meal can provide a good boost in metabolism which can aid in continued weight loss efforts. During periods of intense dieting our bodies can sometimes go into “starvation mode”. This happens when the body is deprived of enough calories and nutrients and slows down the metabolism. This is why people sometimes stop losing weight even while maintaining a calorie deficit.
The list goes on of course, but that are some of the main reasons for having a cheat meal. What’s important to keep in mind, is how to properly implement cheats meals. To determine that, you need to decide on your goals. For a person seeking a very fit body, I will be a little more strict and suggest a 90/10 eating plan, meaning that 90% of what you eat should be considered clean and healthy and in proper portions, and that other 10% can be whatever you want it to be. For the average person, typically an 80/20 plan works well. With the 80/20 plan keep in mind that although you have a bit more freedom you won’t get super lean-which is more than fine for the average person, but just something to keep in mind.
The biggest mistake when eating 80/20 or 90/10, is that with most people the 80 or 90 portion isn’t the good quality portioned food it should be. For you to cheat your way to a good body and truly let loose on your cheat meals, you need to be eating extremely clean for that 80% or 90% of the meals. Only then can you have cheat meals and further your progress. Just last night I was out with some friends and ate endless amounts of delicious Lebanese food, probably enough to feed 5 men. Today, however, I started my day with a veggie omelet with salsa on the side. For lunch and dinner I will probably eat more veggies (raw and cooked) with some lean proteins. I may also add 2 pieces of fruit and/or a Quest bar in between meals for snacks.
Eating this way allows for freedom when you need/want it. It does mean sacrificing some small snacks you might ordinarily sneak in during the day like doughnuts at the office or candy after lunch or ice cream after dinner to maintain that clean eating for 80%-90%!
I hope this clears some misconceptions about cheat meals and how they should be properly be implemented. As always, make sure to keep following us for all the latest tips on exercise and nutrition. Feel free to comment and ask questions!!!