Cheat Meals: Do They Work Or Not?
We’ ve all heard of the cheat meals and most of us are using them in our nutrition probably a little more than we should (hopefully that doesn’t apply to you, my faithful blog reader). Maybe we are using them in our diet without even knowing they are cheat meals! So let’s try and give a proper definition for them(or at least give it a shot!) before seeing whether there is indeed a place for them in a balanced nutrition plan.
What is a cheat meal?
This is a meal, which we know beforehand will not be the healthiest of options for us! Usually, we crave such a meal after a tough workout. Honestly, have you not heard or thought of the following phrase at least once?“Wow my workout was awesome today. I deserve to eat <…>
(insert your favorite meal or dessert)
If so, congrats! You are human! All of us have said the aforementioned phrase. I have done so many times in my life. Is it my fault these nasty burgers are so tasty?
This is exactly the issue with cheat meals. When they are unprogrammed and unpredictable, i.e., when we give in to everyday temptations, they can derail a by all means healthy diet. However, there are cases of such meals, which can prove to be a refreshing break from a very restrictive diet with lots of limitations. So let’s take a closer look at when the cheat meals can be truly beneficial or truly destructive to a balanced diet.
Cheat meal categories
- The ones we have programmed for and do not steer us away from our daily macro goals. They just do not consist of the healthiest ingredients…
- The ones we have programmed for and stay withing our daily caloric goals but not necessarily within our daily macro goals.
- The ones we have not programmed for and we just eat whatever we want
Obviously, someone with specific goals in the gym avoids meals that fall under the third category and if they feel they need to reward their progress with a cheat meal, will choose one of the first two categories. Obviously, the best case scenario would be to avoid them completely but this is extremely difficult for most of us.
So if we cannot avoid them completely, let’s see how we can make the cheat meals work for us.
- Schedule them beforehand
Decide on what and how much you will eat in this cheat meal before you actually start eating. Impulse cheat meals can not be beneficial for us, since they are decided at that particular moment in time without any limit or reason.
- Have your cheat meals inbetween two healthy meals
Doing so will allow you to stay focused on your goals and not lose control. Especially if your previous meal is for example a salad with green veggies, you will feel fuller and will not indulge in your favorite cheat meal as much.
- Avoid them after a workout
The sense of “I can eat whatever I want because I trained” is wrong and can make your next meal an extended cheat meal. So try to steer clear of them after training and schedule them at another time during the day. You will not only free yourself of this faulty thinking but you will also provide high-quality fuel to your body eating a meal with high nutritional value.
“Should I integrate the cheat meals in my diet?”
The answer to that is unfortunately not crystal clear. It depends on your current training level, your goals, your medical history and countless more factors.
For example, someone who absolutely has to lose weight for health reasons should remove the term “cheat meal” from their vocabulary for quite some time.
However, if such a meal allows them to remain consistent in their nutrition for the rest of the week, then it is better for themto indulge in a cheat meal once in a while in order to reach their goals faster instead of quitting because of their dietary restrictions.
An individual pleased with their progress, is a fitness addict and sticks to a healthy eating plan can add such meals more freely to their diet.
In the end, the frequency of those meals is something each and everyone of us should consider carefully for themselves and possibly consult their dietician!