The ever exhilarating, ever captivating, ever allusive cheat day. It sits at the end of the week like a beacon, drawing and tempting you in. Waiting for the day to arrive feels like waiting for Christmas to come when your eight years old and you're sure you received the new easy bake oven that you begged and pleaded for.
If you've ever been on a serious cutting plan you are all too familiar with the cheat meal. It gets us through the week, through emotional breakdowns, and encourages us when we feel like having one of the doughnuts Sandra brought into work today, (doesn't she realize that we're cutting!)
Depending on who you talk to cheating may or may not be something that is encouraged, and to those people I tell you to give them a high five .... in the face ... with a chair.
When done properly cheating can be beneficial for a couple of reasons:
1. It gives you the mental break needed to relax and re-motivate for the next 6 days of clean eats
2. It refuels your body leaving you feeling energized, re-enthused, and raring to go
3. It can actually help you lose weight
In order for the above to actually be beneficial, here are the 5 rules for "acceptable cheating"
1. Your body needs to be in a caloric deficit to warrant a cheat meal
2. You need to be busting your but in the gym for your body to deserve it
3. How close you are to your goals will decide how much of a cheat meal you can get away with
4. When you do have a cheat meal, stick to whole unprocessed GOOD food
5. Having a cheat meal does not mean getting painfully full
1. Deficit = cutting = your body needs a certain amount of calories and you're eating less than that.
When you're in a "deficit" your body is not getting the calories it would like to support everything going on in your day. One of the easiest ways to get lean is to maintain a lower caloric intake while having some fantastic workouts. That being said, don't go over the top; you want to be eating less than required but enough that you still feel good and have the energy needed to get through your day.
Keep in mind that maintaining a state of lower calorie intake for too long can become a bit of a danger if your body starts to get the impression that it's going into starvation mode. (Remember - your body will start eating your muscle for energy if it believes it's in starvation.) So, we incorporate a cheat meal because it not only reboots your mental energy levels but it gives your body the extra fuel needed to keep energized and away from those "starvation warning bells". Lastly, when you're eating the same amount every day your metabolism is used to processing that amount; if all of a sudden you load up on extra calories your metabolism goes into shock and begins working double time to digest everything you've put in. The result: by shocking your metabolism and forcing it to work overtime your body actually winds up burning calories!
2. If you aren't eating whole healthy foods and busting your but in the gym than don't even think about cheating. A cheat meal is something that is earned from dedication and hard work - not from partial attempts. Be honest with yourself, you know when you've earned it.
3. Think about your overall goal and asses where you currently stand: how close to your goal are you? Do you still have a long way to go? Keep in mind that being awarded a cheat meal is a reflection of your current progress. In other words, if you have another 30+ lbs. to lose you should not be contemplating a cheat meal. Having a meal while still being a far distance away from your goals will only result in you cheating yourself and your progress. You may be able to get away with a bigger dinner portion, or a desert now and again, but cheating should not enter your mind until you get closer to your goals.
4. When you are given a day off work do you go the beach and spend it working on your laptop? Not unless you're a workaholic. Having a meal each week to enjoy the foods you love is a gift that shouldn't come with any restrictions. And it doesn't.
If you want to hit your goals faster and leave your body with an easier recovery time, cheat with whole, unrefined, unprocessed foods. Feel like pizza? Spend the extra bit and go somewhere with whole ingredients or make it yourself. Sweets? Eat dark chocolate or something homemade that incorporates healthier ingredients. Pasta? Be your own chef. Your body will thank you.
5. When you've earned a cheat meal, do not overdue it. The rule of thumb is to eat until satisfied. If you feel that taking a few more bites would leave you feeling uncomfortable - stop. Passing from satisfaction into uncomfortable belt loosening full, will slow your progress and expand your stomach. These days are meant to be enjoyed, not taken for granted. Satisfaction - not gluttony.
We're all going to have days where we eat more than we should or sneak in an extra cheat meal. Shake yourself off, learn from it, and use that extra energy in the gym. It is going to be a long haul and sometimes falling off the wagon can leave you with more motivation than you started with.
Have a Strong(her) Day!