Cheat Your Way Thin
Would you believe me if I told you that you can eat whatever you want, effectively cheat and still achieve the body of your dreams? I envisage a sceptical face and rightly so because that goes against everything you’ve ever heard right? Well science doesn’t lie and the truth is YOU CAN!
This Sunday it will be two weeks since I have had a proper “cheat meal”. I have to be extremely careful when using the words “cheat meal” and not “cheat day” around clients as they then think it’s a whole day of gorging from the moment they open their eyes until they hit the hay again that night.
Anyway, apart from having some sugar free chocolate and a quest bar on Sunday gone, I have been on protein only for nearly 10 days, with no carbs, and no sugar, in order to regulate my blood sugars and send my body into ketosis, effectively using my own fat stores to fuel my body but I will continue to take in a small amount of EFA’s (essential fatty acids) which will help with digestion and fibrous carbs such as supergreens which include the likes of brocolli, asparagus, spinach and kale etc.
Suffice to say it has been a tough two weeks and I am really looking forward to a nice cheat meal on Sunday after the stress of pre competition weight cutting and the hype of the actual competition day.
My lifestyle doesn’t change, I adhere to my regimen but having been on a strict diet, stabilizing my insulin levels throughout, it is essential that I have a cheat meal or ‘re-feed’ in order to re fuel my body and reboot my metabolism. This goes for anyone who trains hard and is on a restricted eating regime, particularly those on low-carbs. To fuel your gains, keep your body fat levels low, and drop more fat, a cheat meal or re feed day is highly recommended and has immense benefits. Here’s why….
When training hard, dieting, lowering your carb intake and putting your body into a caloric deficit, your leptin hormone levels will drop dramatically. For those that don’t know, leptin is your ‘hunger hormone’ and is produced by the fat cells in your body. It is the ‘gatekeeper’ of fat as it controls your metabolism, hunger, and energy expenditure. It is the way that your fat cells tell your brain if you are hungry or not. Being the master of all hormones, it regulates your appetite and therefore controls how your body stores fat and uses up energy and therefore burns calories (kcals).
When on a low carb, high protein and high fat diet, it is so important to re feed your body every 7 to 10 days to boost your leptin levels and put your metabolism into overdrive. Having this structured and scheduled cheat meal will trigger your metabolism back into action, will stop your body from producing more cortisol and entering ‘super stress mode’, therefore preventing you from entering into ‘fat storage’ keeping on track with your fitness journey, fatloss goals and aspirations.
So how do you go about having a cheat meal or refeed day? I usually have one every Sunday, as it’s the end of the week and Monday is the beginning of a new, fresh week. I find it’s a nice way to reward for working so hard throughout Monday to Saturday. But that’s just me! Find what day suits you most. Pick a day that fits into your training structure or schedule and your lifestyle but make sure to have it every 7-10 days.
Having your cheat meal on a training day can be quite beneficial as you’ve depleted your glycogen stores when training and by having your cheat preceding your training session will replenish your glycogen stores in your muscles, promote IGF1 (insulin growth factor) and will also create a protein synthesis once you have consumed protein as part of your cheat meal. If you are on a fatloss programme I would recommend having a cheat meal within one sitting, as previously stated, no gorging from morning until night. You sit down to one cheat meal, eat it and stop, that’s it. Believe me, it is very easy to get carried away once that sugar crosses your lips, but you need to control how much you eat. Too much and you will defeat the purpose intended.
The Rock loves when his cheat meal comes around! 🙂
What you need to do is increase your carb intake by about 100%, increasing your calories (kcals) up to maintenance levels or even slightly above so that you are in a caloric surplus for the day (but you may still be in a weekly deficit if following a fatloss programme). As I said, a cheat meal or refeed is designed to boost your metabolism, so make every bite count. My personal favourite cheat meal is domino’s pizza, chocolate and Ben & Jerry’s Reese’s peanut butter cup one is awesome. The whole point of the meal is to have anything that is HIGH IN CARBS, SUGAR AND FAT! Pizza is a perfect cheat as it contains nearly 200g carbs is high in fat and is loaded with calories.
Simply, you need a high carb day every 7-10 days to help you burn fat and use fat for fuel. If you cheat on Sunday, you will wake up on Monday with muscle and liver glycogen levels (that’s your stored carb reserve) full, fuelling your training and stabilizing your leptin levels until your next scheduled cheat or refeed meal. Speaking from experience, and having followed a low calorie diet for years and never achieving my dream physique, if you don’t refeed you will store fat and throw away all your hard earned work in the gym. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen, glutes are made in the gym! So treat yourself, and see the benefits!
Danielle Hayes CPT
CMB Personal Trainer | Strength & Conditioning Coach