We’ve all heard of cheat meals and many of us incorporate them into our weekly eating plans. But is there really a benefit to having 1,2, or even 3 cheat meals per week? I’ll tell you the theory behind cheat meals and how you can make them much more effective in helping you achieve your ultimate physique.
Ask any health conscious person why they incorporate cheat meals into their eating plan and you’re going to usually get 1 of 2 answers:
1) “Because it offsets my metabolism by having a cheat meal.”
2) “I would go insane if I couldn’t eat ice-cream and pizza one night a week.”
Let’s address the first response of cheat meals offsetting your metabolism. The human body is the most complex “machine” on earth, and is smarter than even the highest advances in technology and medicine. This is why after billions of dollars spent on research, we still can’t find a cure for cancer or other incurable diseases. On the flip side, the human body also possesses the ability to heal itself of fatal diseases not understood by conventional medicine. With that being said, the human body will adapt to ANYTHING you do consistently over time. This refers to weight training, cardio conditioning, and nutrition. If you originally consumed 2,000 cal/day and decreased down to 1,200 cal/day, you would notice a significant change initially and then experience a plateau. Over time your body will adapt to the new caloric intake unless some type of adjustment has been made.
This is where the cheat meal comes into play. People have the idea that if they throw a cheat meal into their routine (1-3 times per week), they’ll constantly be offsetting their metabolism and won’t allow their body to adapt to the restricted caloric levels. Although this is true to a certain extent, don’t be fooled that this is going to happen in as short of a period as 4-7 days. Creator of P90X, Tony Horton, uses the term “muscle confusion” as a genius way to market the P90X system: “The success comes from keeping the body guessing with every workout.” Bullshit!!!! Although the body is incredibly amazing and very adaptable, it’s not so advanced that it’s going to adapt to a program in 1 or 2 days. So if you haven’t caught on yet, “muscle confusion” is B.S. (you do have to systematically adjust your programs over time, but not as frequent as P90X states).
It’s important to realize that the benefit from the cheat meal comes from the higher calorie intake on that day, not the usual shitty food that most people consume. Below is a list of what doesn’t qualify as a cheat meal:
If you’re still struggling with losing any amount of fat, I highly suggest you take a look at what you’re consuming as your cheat meals. There is absolutely no reason why your cheat meal can’t consist of healthy and nutrient-dense food. To increase your caloric intake on those cheat meal days, simply eat more nutritious food. This will not only offset your metabolism, but will also keep your digestion and metabolism working optimally, ensuring a greater amount of fat-loss.
My suggestion is that if you have 20 pounds of fat or more to lose, your cheat meals shouldn’t be unhealthy choices. Stick to healthy, higher-calorie meals to offset your metabolism. If you want to check out a great explanation of how to cycle your nutrition this way, click here. Celebrity trainer Billy Beck III, breaks down nutrition cycling to get optimal results.
Now, on to the discussion of cheat meals acting as a prevention from insanity. People fall into this category because their idea of healthy food is bland and tasteless. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Healthy food should be extremely enjoyable and have an abundance of taste. If you eat plain chicken and steamed broccoli (not micro-waved broccoli) for dinner four nights a week, you’re probably going to get some major cravings.
Eating a cheat meal is NOT going to keep you sane. The only thing cheat meals are going to keep you from is your final goal. People crave junk food and high fat meals the same way a drug addict craves drugs. I’ve never heard of a therapist tell a cocaine addict to snort a few lines every 7 days so they don’t go insane. Of course I’m being a little overdramatic, but there are certain foods that can be just as addicting for some individuals as drugs.
Researchers at Princeton University discovered that when large amounts of sugar are ingested, the brain experiences changes similar to the changes experienced by people who abuse cocaine and heroin. Bingeing releases a surge of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine, giving people a sense of well-being and satisfaction.
It takes 21 days to break a bad habit. If you eat bad foods every 4-7 days, you’ll continue to reintroduce yourself to every bad habit you’re trying to break. Whether it’s over-eating or any type of food addiction/craving, it’s nothing more than a mental barrier that’s preventing you from optimal health.
Planning and mental conditioning can help break through this obstacle. If you’re the type of person who falls off the wagon after one cheat meal, I suggest you only eat healthy meals. There are always healthy choices at EVERY restaurant you eat at….pick one! Stop thinking of food as enjoyment, and you will begin to break through the pleasure experienced by consuming certain foods. Food is energy, health, and life. It’s not a celebration, reward, or a drug! Cheat meals will either keep your progress rolling, or stop you dead in your tracks (sometimes literally)!
Who wants Ice-Cream?
This is a guest post from Bryan Francis at StupiGymShit.com