What Is a Cheat Meal and Why Is It Important for You?

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know better than anyone that maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet is the most challenging part of the process. Of course, going on your first run or visiting the gym for the first time aren’t the most straightforward and pleasant experiences either. However, when it comes to weight loss, it’s the diet that can be considered public enemy number one, especially in the long run.

That’s mainly because there are so many delicious temptations around. Foods like burgers, pizza, or donuts don’t make sticking to your new dietary habits overly easy, even for true fitness veterans. Sometimes, the craving is too powerful to resist, causing many to break their dietary regimes and have their much-desired cheat day. If you’ve ever had one (and let’s face it, you have), then you probably recall that feeling of guilt afterward.

Well, what if we told you that cheat meals aren’t necessarily a bad thing? Moreover, they can significantly benefit your weight loss when implemented into your diet correctly. It may sound too good to be true, but as we’ll explain in a brief moment, everybody should be entitled to their cheat day. Read on, and learn that achieving your weight goals doesn’t have to mean ditching your favorite foods.

What Is a Cheat Meal?

First things first, let’s clarify what a cheat meal even is, shall we? In a nutshell, a cheat meal (or day) is a temporary break from one’s strict diet rules. For instance, imagine that after five days of managing your calorie intake and sticking to your dietary plan, you decide to treat yourself to a hot and delicious pizza for dinner. That’s what a cheat meal essentially is.

A cheat day takes things even further, referring to a full day of not giving a hoot about your dietary rules. And while it may not sound like something that would benefit your weight loss efforts, implementing a cheat meal or day into your fitness strategy can be an excellent idea.

The theory behind cheat meals is simple yet incredibly logical. In essence, by allowing yourself days or brief periods of indulgence, you’ll be motivated to stick to your prescribed diet in the long run. The idea is based on a reward-based strategy, where you reward yourself with an award for achieving your goals. In this case, the reward is your favorite meal (or meals when talking about cheat days).

What Are the Advantages of Cheat Meals?

To understand why a cheat meal is important when discussing weight-loss strategies, we need to look at some of its most significant advantages.

Improved Metabolic Function

The most common claim among cheat meal strategy advocates is that it can improve metabolism by influencing the fluctuations in the hunger hormone – leptin. In short, leptin is responsible for suppressing the feeling of hunger. It regulates appetite and energy balance within the body.

We won’t go into much detail about leptin. That’s not the point of this guide. What you need to know is that leptin production depends on calorie intake. When you consume fewer calories than usual to lose weight, your body will produce less leptin. On the other hand, your leptin production will increase if you exceed your calorie intake.

How does it impact your weight? A decreased level of leptin in the body may cause you to overeat, as there isn’t enough hormone to send signals to your brain that you’re full. This might lead to rebound weight gain. The problem here is that to lose weight, you should consume fewer calories than you’d normally do. And as covered, lower calorie intake results in decreased leptin production.

Here’s where a cheat meal strategy comes in. By temporarily changing your dietary habits and consuming high-calorie foods, you trick your hormone cycle and stimulate leptin production. Those fluctuations help control weight loss, helping you maintain your goals. However, more research is needed to support this theory.

Motivation Boost

Weight management is a long-term and complex process. And whether you like it or not, sticking to your prescribed diet can become monotonous in the long run. That’s one of the many reasons why people aren’t able to stick to their healthy diet strategy, especially if they can’t see significant changes in their bodies fast.

If you find it challenging to stay motivated, cheat meals can provide help. After all, we all love being rewarded for achieving our goals. Rewards have a strong physiological impact on the human brain, and that’s exactly how you should treat a cheat meal – as a reward for going through your dietary plan, which should boost motivation to stick to your diet most of the time.

Mental Break

Trying to resist the temptation to eat your favorite, not necessarily low-calorie food can be exhausting. By allowing yourself a moment of indulgence every once in a while, you will give yourself a much-needed mental break. Forget about your diet for a moment and lose yourself in food. Treat cheat meals as a break from your routine that will help you keep going the next day.

What About Cheat Meal Pitfalls?

Although implementing a cheat meal strategy into your diet can be beneficial, it also comes with several pitfalls that may ruin your fitness efforts. If you aren’t careful, cheat meals can soon become cheat days, which can become more frequent. When that happens, sooner or later, you will find yourself with the same unhealthy dietary habits you wanted to ditch to keep your body weight healthy.

It all comes down to knowing how to keep your temptations at bay and understanding the basic rules of a cheat meal strategy. Otherwise, you might end up ruining your efforts. The next part of this article will focus on the correct implementation of cheat meals into your weight-loss dietary strategy.

How to Make a Cheat Meal Strategy Work?

Cheat meals or days can play an essential and beneficial part in your diet plan. However, to ensure they don’t cause more harm than good, you need to know how to implement them correctly. When used right, a cheat meal strategy can provide you with a huge boost in your weight loss efforts. Here are a few guidelines on using cheat meals to your advantage.

Don’t Go Overboard

It’s easy to go overboard during your cheat day. Indeed, many people tend to have the ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude when it comes to cheat meals, trying to incorporate as many cheat treats as possible. Needless to say, that’s not the best approach to have, especially if your cheat meals include fatty foods.

If you try to fit all your cheat treats in one day, you are more likely to ruin your entire week’s work. What’s more, it can make going back on track with your meal plan much more difficult, tipping the scales in your old unhealthy dietary habits. Instead, focus on one cheat treat.

For instance, you can treat yourself to a cheeseburger but might skip the fries and milkshake you’d usually have with it. This way, you’ll be able to satisfy your cravings without overconsuming. It will also make the entire day more special and ensure your cheat meal feels like a real reward for the hard work you’ve put into achieving your fitness goals.

Schedule Your Cheat Meals

If you want to succeed in your weight loss, you need to plan ahead. And since cheat meals are about to become a part of your diet plan, you need to support this change with the right plan. By scheduling when and what kinds of cheat meals you want to eat, you’ll be able to stay on track with your goals and ensure you don’t go overboard with your cheating.

First, decide how often you want to organize yourself a cheat day. Plan when to take a break and take into consideration your upcoming events, such as birthday parties. Then, think about your portion control and what foods you are going to consume that day. It will help you adjust your fitness plans accordingly, and ensure you maintain control over your diet. For instance, you can schedule a different cheat threat each week to keep things more interesting.

Eat Quality Food

Although cheat days are about, well, cheating, you should still think about the quality of ingredients in your cheat meal. For instance, instead of going to a fast-food chain restaurant and ordering a cheeseburger that is one big pile of processed food, opt for making one yourself from nutritious and healthy ingredients.

In general, apply such an approach to all your cheat treats. Whether you crave a pizza or cheesecake, it’s much better to make it yourself. First, it will make things more fun. Secondly, it will allow you to control what you eat and how many calories you eat during your cheat day. This way, you’ll be able to combine business with pleasure and stay on track with your body fat and weight goals.

Cheat Meals and Weight Loss: Key Takeaways

As you can see, despite having a negative connotation, a cheat meal can be an integral part of a weight-loss dietary regime. When implemented correctly, cheat meals can boost your metabolism by stimulating the leptin hormone, which is responsible for regulating your appetite. What’s more, a cheat meal can help motivate you to maintain your healthy lifestyle, working as a reward for achieving your fitness and nutrition goals.

Of course, the key here is to know how to correctly incorporate cheat meals into your diet. Essentially, it all comes down to planning. By scheduling your cheat days, you’ll be able to control what kind of foods you eat and when allowing you to adjust your weekly fitness goals accordingly. It will also ensure you don’t overconsume, ruining your efforts in the process.

However, the most important thing to remember here is that cheat meals may not be the answer to your weight loss struggles. While they might work for others, this may not be the case for you. As with any other changes in your diet, the best idea is to consult with a professional, be it a dietician or an experienced personal trainer.

Are you interested in more dietary and fitness tips? Check out the Lucas James blog where you’ll find articles written by trusted experts in the fitness and nutrition field.

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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