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Cheating your way thin


I have a confession to make.

Over the weekend, Angela and I ventured across town and engaged in what can only be called a full on sweet-tooth attack.

I had a Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

It was full of chocolate and marshmallow and sugar and everything that is holy in ice cream goodness.

Alright … I exaggerate a bit on the scope of this cheat meal. But, we really did have a nice big ol’ helping of the classic frozen treat with all sorts of fixins.

I’m not ashamed about it, either. I’ll tell you why.

Cheating on the diet can actually beneficial to help us approach our goals. And even though this may sound contradictory, cheat meals can assist in our fat loss goals, too.

But, word of caution: this does not give free reign to just go nuts on a bunch of chocolates and cakes and pizza. There’s some science to the cheat meal approach that, when well-planned and executed properly, will help bust any plateau.

The first benefit of a cheat meal is the psychological aspect. We just feel better when we know that we can break the rules a bit and eat some of the forbidden fruit. It’s like that chocolate-covered carrot dangling there in front of us.

We want to prevent the urge for us to fall into a rage of all out bingeing. And to break free of the plan to enjoy a guilty pleasure every few days should be enough to do just that. But, beyond psychological benefits, there are real physiological benefits to breaking our diet.

Cheat meals that are higher in carbohydrates can help our bodies load up on glycogen – that’s the stuff that the body uses to essentially fuel our workouts … and it comes primarily from the breakdown of carb sources. While this fuel can be developed in other systems through the body, the preferred source of heavy training is glycogen (which is why peeps engaging in sound training and lifting weights should include carbs in their diet – more on that HERE).

In addition to the replenished fuel sources, the big dose of cookies can also boost your metabolism. Especially for those that have been restricting carbs and calories for an extended period of time. It’s like a shock to the system that kicks the body back into fat-burning mode.

Ever get the meat sweats?

Meat Sweats

That’s your metabolism kicking into overdrive.

We mentioned above that this needs to be well-thought-out and planned. I’m not talking strategic war council down to the letter type planning here. But, we do want to take into consideration a few factors that will prevent the cheat meal from turning into a cheat day … and the cheat day turning into a complete stumble off the wagon.

For example: if you are seeing great progress in your fat loss goals, a cheat meal may not be for you. And if you are just getting started and have a large amount of body fat to lose, I’d recommend limiting your cheat meals to just 1-2 every 2-3 weeks.

It sounds cruel, but it’s the cold-hard truth that the leaner your body gets, the more tolerant it will become to cheat meals and high carb intakes.

Remember, the goal with the cheat meal is to make us feel all sorts of awesome again, but to also prime our body for some more metabolic fat demolition.

Here are a few tips to make the cheat meal work for you and not against you:

  • Plan your cheat meal for a certain day of the week (I like weekends, but whatever works for you)
  • Eat until satisfied, not until overly stuff to where we’ll need to roll you out of the dining room
  • Enjoy the cheat meal away from home – it’s a great opportunity to try a new restaurant and indulge with family and friends … meanwhile it keeps the junk food away from your cabinet to prevent any urges post-cheat
  • Aim for higher carb cheats, especially if you are eating primarily lower-carb the rest of the week
  • Workout beforehand – even a 10-15 minute workout will stimulate muscle enough to allow for the muscles to try and soak up some of that cheat meal for muscle-building benefits
  • Focus on eating a healthy meal beforehand – if planning a dessert, try to load up on protein and veggies the rest of the day, which will help with satiety and prevent going overboard on the cheat meal
  • Understand a cheat meal versus an all-out Game of Thrones style feast – a cheat meal is a couple of slices of pizza with a beer or two … NOT an entire pizza with half a dozen wings and a six-pack of PBR

As for the frequency of the cheat meal, there are a few things to take into consideration. First of all, how lean are you? The leaner you are, the more cheats we can incorporate. Things like activity level and physique goals also come into play.

For most of us, we can get away with the following rule that I provide to my clients, think 90/10. Eat healthy 90-percent of the time and you can afford to spend 10-percent of your diet in the cheat meal category.

Ex: If you are eating three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), that’s 21 meals per week. So, if you were to eat healthy for 90-percent of those meals, that leaves two cheat meals per week to enjoy whatever you’d like.

This is usually enough to still see great results in fat loss while providing enough of a mental benefit to keep us from hating life during the diet.

The journey to drop pants sizes, or fit in that bikini for summer time or just look great naked can be a long and arduous process. I want you to enjoy that process as much as you can. So, from time to time, let loose … forget about the calorie tracker … and literally have your cake and eat it, too.

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Pete Cataldo is a former television sports anchor that has taken his passion for fitness and turned it into his career. As a Certified Fitness Trainer, Certified Turbulence Trainer and Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Pete is an expert in helping clients burn fat, lose weight and get in the best shape of their lives.
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