Since we were young we have probably been told that cheating is wrong, but what if it could help?
If used correctly, allowing yourself a ‘cheat meal’ once a week or so could help you stay on track and hit your goals.
So, what exactly is a cheat meal?
A ‘cheat meal’ or ‘treat meal’ is where you break from your otherwise healthy eating plan and indulge in something a little more calorific in order to boost your metabolism and keep your cravings at bay.
It can be effective for some, however, this method must be used correctly in order to see the benefits. You cannot have a cheat meal often and expect to lose weight.
Sticking to the 90/10 rule ensures you can ‘cheat’ without it preventing you from reaching your goals. This means that you eat healthily and stick to your plan 90% of the time and 10% of the time you can treat yourself to something a little bit ‘guiltier!’
How can it help?
Having a cheat meal can block leptin or the “starvation hormone” which regulates your hunger and your energy levels. This boosts your metabolism and helps to keep those cravings at bay.
It can also have an improved physiological effect on those who schedule their cheat meals as something to motivate them through the week. Just knowing that you have a cheat meal in the next few days can fuel you to stay away from unhealthy food.
How best to cheat
One way of making sure your body can deal with the impending carb fest is to plan a work out before you eat – that way you will feel better before and after.
Another way is to ‘create a calorie buffer’ which is where you minimise the damage of a cheat meal by consciously eating less and earlier. For example, if your dinner tomorrow night will be your cheat meal, try eating a smaller breakfast and lunch as well as eating a little earlier in the day than you normally would.
Don’t forget to eat slow, chew often and stay hydrated. This will maximise how your body reacts and will help you to recognise when you are full.
What to cheat with and what not to cheat with
The idea of a cheat meal is to eat something that you like, but not eat all you can. So, if you want to stay on track there are still some basic ground rules.
When you are choosing your cheat meal you should keep in mind not to choose empty calories. To make sure you are still getting a high nutritional value from your meal you could opt for a protein-heavy meal instead of a ‘fat’ heavy meal. For example, aim for a nice steak and potatoes over a burger or any junk food. And don’t forget that portion control is also still important.
Bottom line: cheat meals can work for some to keep cravings at bay and boost metabolism. However, they must be used in moderation, planned ahead of time and consciously chosen. Aim to get right back on the wagon after a cheat day and you may reap the nice benefits of being naughty.