Eating the same “healthy” food is so BORING! And I can tell you with great conviction that it is not easy giving up or resisting delicious (mostly unhealthy) foods. But with cheat meals, you will not feel deprived anymore!
On a weekly cheat meal, you may consume any food of your choice (and NOT feel guilty). Fitness gurus believe that anyone on a weight loss journey should enjoy a cheat meal day – because the caloric shock helps break weight loss plateaus. But there’s a flipside.
One wrong turn, and you can slip back to your old eating habits. So, the best way to enjoy a cheat meal is to play by the rules. I did it and lost 16 pounds. And you can too!
Read on to know how to use your cheat meals smartly and shed the extra pounds. Let’s begin!
Highlights Of The Article
- What Is A Cheat Meal?
- Difference Between Cheat Meal And Cheat Meal Day
- When To Go For A Cheat Meal?
- How Does A Cheat Meal Work For Weight Loss?
- 10 Best Cheat Meal Strategies For Weight Loss
- Which Days Are Best For Cheat Meals?
- How Will You Feel Post A Cheat Meal?
- How Often Should You Have A Cheat Meal?
What Is A Cheat Meal?
A cheat meal is a meal that contains at least 500 calories more than your designated daily calorie intake.
For example, if you are on a 1500 calorie diet, add 500 calories more, i.e., you may consume a total of 2000 calories. A cheat meal is also high in macronutrients. You may consume pizza, burger, pastries, fries, or any other favorite food (can be healthy too!).
Now, “cheat meals” and “cheat meal days” – aren’t they the same? No. Here’s the difference.
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Difference Between Cheat Meal And Cheat Meal Day
- A cheat meal is a high-calorie meal while a cheat meal day is a 12-hour window in which you can literally binge on anything you want.
- A cheat meal is ideal for people who exercise a minimum of 3 hours a week and consume healthy, calorie-dense foods. A cheat meal day is for athletes and bodybuilders who are highly active.
We recommend that you take a break from the daily healthy eating by having a good cheat meal. But there are a few prerequisites.
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When To Go For A Cheat Meal?
You can go for a cheat meal when:
- You have followed the healthy eating plan diligently.
- You have worked out for at least 3 hours a week.
- You have burned at least 2500 calories a week.
Yes, the biggest prerequisite of enjoying a cheat meal is – you have to earn it. So, what happens to the body when you consume a high-calorie meal? And how does that help weight loss? Find out next.
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How Does A Cheat Meal Work For Weight Loss?
The cheat meal works on a few simple principles. Let me break them down for you:
- The 90/10 Rule
According to John Berardi, Ph.D., a top exercise nutritionist, and Alan Aragon, an expert nutritionist, the 90/10 rule is – 90% of the time, eat according to your weight loss goals. And 10% of the time, indulge in food that’s not on the weight loss diet plan.
Alan Aragon recommends having a cheat meal post-workout because that’s when your body will burn the extra calories you consume.
- Prevents Weight Loss Plateau
Cheat meals are best for breaking weight loss plateaus. And by weight loss plateaus, I mean when you consume fewer calories, workout regularly, and still don’t lose the flab.
Your body gets used to the healthy, low-cal foods, and over a period, it stops responding. All your body needs is a little waking up.
When you consume a high-calorie meal, your body experiences a much-needed caloric shock. Your cells resume working as they have to burn those extra calories. In the process, your metabolism gets boosted, and you start to burn the fat again.
- Balances The Hormones
Leptin, the hunger inhibiting hormone, and Ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone, are balanced when you consume high-calorie cheat meals. Weekly cheat meals help raise leptin and reduce ghrelin, thereby reducing your hunger pangs. In fact, your thyroid function also improves, and your energy levels increase.
- Breaks Boredom
One of the major setbacks of weight loss diets is that we tend to get bored of eating the same food. But cheat meals help break that boredom. You will feel refreshed and continue being on the diet, which will show great results over a period.
I can tell it from first-hand experience that it works. But you have to know How to make it work. Here are the 10 best cheat meal strategies that will help you lose weight, and you won’t even have to starve! Take a look.
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10 Best Cheat Meal Strategies For Weight Loss
1. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead will prevent you from getting derailed from your weight loss. When you know that you are going to enjoy a cheat meal later that week, you will not give in to your cravings in the middle of the week.
2. Earn Your Cheat Meal
Stick to your weight loss meals and workout plan and then have a cheat meal. In other words, earn your cheat meal.
It also means that you must follow the 90/10 rule, where 90% of the time, you follow your weight loss diet, and 10% of the time (or the week), you may go all out and enjoy a cheat meal day.
When you earn your cheat meal, you can consume the extra calories guilt-free and feel good about yourself for adhering to your diet plan.
3. Know Your Max Calorie Intake
Weight loss is not easy. But you can make it a little easier by knowing how many extra calories you are allowed to consume on the day of your cheat meal.
Typically, you may consume 500 extra calories. And not exceed the limit. Within the 500-calorie limit, you may choose delicious foods and even give your weakness for sweets a leeway.
4. Choose Cheat Meals Mindfully
Mindful eating is the best for weight loss. Keep that in mind (no pun intended) when you enjoy a cheat meal. Choose high-calorie foods that are also nutrient-dense.
Foods like brown rice, sushi, falafel, homemade cake, and baked tortilla chips with guacamole are high in calories and carbs, but they are also delicious and nutritious.
5. Don’t Cheat When Famished
Consuming a cheat meal when you are starving may cause you to consume more. Before you have a cheat meal, have a cup of green tea with a digestive biscuit. You can also have a banana or a glass of freshly pressed juice as a snack.
6. Blast The Fat
No, I am not talking about another “fat blasting potion” that will magically burn your fat away. Working out is crucial when you are trying to lose weight. So, I highly recommend that you blast the fat at the gym by doing cardio and strength training every alternate day.
Or if that’s not your cup of tea, go swimming, dancing, Pilates, yoga, running, etc. The added benefit of working out regularly is that you will feel good, enjoy undisturbed sleep, and feel stress-free.
7. Push It To The Weekend
Weekends are best for a high-calorie cheat meal because we generally tend to eat more on the weekends. So, better take advantage of the opportunity and use it. It’s fine as long as you are careful about your caloric intake.
8. Customize Your Restaurant Food
Going out for dinner or brunch? And plan to have a cheat meal? Well, then it’s best that you request the chef to make a dish that adheres with your plan.
You want 500 calories extra – use them mindfully. Choose your favorite food, but be careful with the portion size. Also, be aware that sauces and dressings contain hidden calories. So, if you want a salad dripping in mayo, do consider the number of calories in mayo as well.
9. Pay Attention To The Food
Paying attention to your food is important. When you don’t look at the food and eat, your brain doesn’t get the visual cue about what and how much you are eating.
That’s precisely why we tend to finish a large tub of cheese popcorn halfway through a movie and still want to chow down more. And as a result, we consume more calories without even realizing it. So, it is best that you switch off all the distractions (TV, laptop, mobile, etc.) and look at your food and eat.
10. Don’t Consume Junk
Yup! A cheat meal may give you the leeway to consume 500 calories extra, but that also means that you must consume foods that are nutrient dense.
Avoid consuming trans fats and refined carbs like burgers, wafers, diet soda, candy, cheese balls, potato chips, store-bought sausage and salami, and frozen foods like chicken nuggets, potato wedges, and veggie-cheese sticks (best to make them at home).
There you have it – 10 best strategies to enjoy a cheat meal and lose weight. Does that mean you can have a cheat meal every single day? Let’s find out in the next section.
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Which Days Are Best For Cheat Meals?
The best days to enjoy a cheat meal are either Friday night or Saturday brunch. Because these are the days when most of us tend to let go of the food inhibitions and enjoy.
Having said that, you should also be mindful if you are going out with friends, your date, or your family. Sticking to “extra 500 calories and not more” will help you lose weight. Consuming about 1000 calories extra and then over-exercising may cause injury and muscle fatigue.
The next and most common question is, “Won’t I feel guilty after consuming so much?” Well, here’s how you are actually going to feel.
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How Will You Feel Post A Cheat Meal?
You will feel satisfied, happy, and more determined than ever to stick to your weight loss diet plan and exercise routine. And that’s because your hard work (eating well, avoiding junk, and exercising regularly) has paid off. And the reward of an extra 500 calories is well-deserved.
But will enjoying more than one cheat meal in a week throw you off the track? Find out in the following section.
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How Often Should You Have A Cheat Meal?
It is best to enjoy one cheat per week in the initial stages. Have one cheat meal per week for at least 3-4 weeks. When your weight loss plateaus again, have one cheat meal in the middle of the week (say, Wednesday), and one on the weekend (say, Saturday brunch).
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Cheat meals are a great way to break weight loss plateaus and push your body to burn more fat. Allowing yourself to consume a few extra calories will also uplift your mood and keep you focused all week long. So, go ahead, use these strategies and get slimmer in no time.