Having a cheat meal once or twice per week sounds like a guilty pleasure but there’s a method to the madness. An influx of calories, during calorie restriction, can help normalize hormones and reduce mental stress.
When done correctly, a cheat meal can help you avoid a weight loss plateau and reduce the likelihood of quitting your diet.
Why Use A Cheat Meal?
Losing body fat is more involved than just calories and exercise. Your hormones are a powerful, and incredibly influential element to losing weight. The longer you’re on a diet, the more likely you are to experience a change in hormone balance.
When it comes to losing body fat, leptin is at the top of most lists. Dieting and extreme calorie restriction can significantly reduce your leptin levels. This influences hunger, satiety, and how your body utilizes calories.
A cheat meal can help normalize leptin and other hormones, so you don’t get stuck in a weight loss plateau.
Staying on a diet with a high degree of discipline is mentally draining. After several weeks or months every morsel of food can feel like a severe test of willpower.
A cheat meal will help you relieve some of the mental stress, and give you the satisfaction of a big meal every once in a while.
The type and amount of calories you eat each week can influence how efficiently you utilize calories. A long calorie restrictive diet, without breaks, can negatively influence your metabolism and slow the rate of calories you burn each day.
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Best Cheat Meals
When people think of cheat meals, they start thinking of their favorite foods, and what they miss the most. But there’s a bit of strategy to using a cheat meal correctly. You want to address the three primary reasons for using a cheat meal described above.
You’re looking for food that addresses leptin, mental fatigue, and metabolism. For leptin you want high carb, low protein meals. For mental fatigue, you want something satisfying.
Your metabolism will get a boost from a large influx of calories.
Here’s some of the best cheat meals you can choose.
One of the first things you’re asked to give up while dieting is pasta. It’s so carb dense that very few diets allow pasta. But it’s perfect for a cheat meal, because of the high carb low protein/low fat composition.
Pizza with extra cheese and lots of vegetable toppings is another great choice. It’s also at the top of the list for most satisfying cheat meals.
Sugar is your friend on a cheat meal. This includes cake, donuts, chocolate and all the other goodies.
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Cheat Meals To Skip
High Protein Meals
You might be a steak person, but it’s not ideal for a cheat meal. Protein will have little to no effect on leptin, regardless of how much you eat. High protein meals are best used during the calorie restrictive phase, instead of during a cheat meal.
High Fat Meals
Meals with a lot of fat are pretty satisfying, with loads of calories, but some studies show a negative influence on leptin. You’re trying to spike and elevate your leptin with a high influx of calories, but if those calories are mostly fat your leptin levels will not have a noticeable change.
Keys To Success
You Can’t Cheat Everyday
It’s not really a cheat meal, if you do it everyday. All you’re doing is overeating. How often should you use a cheat meal? It depends on how strict your diet is.
For most people, eating a cheat meal once per week is usually all that’s needed.
You Have To Be On A Diet
Cheat meals within the context of a calorie deficit are helpful for continued weight loss. If you follow a diet for six straight days, and stay in a calorie deficit, cheat meals are very useful.
If you aren’t on a diet, and you aren’t restricting calories, it isn’t a cheat meal. It’s just a big meal that will probably cause you to gain weight.
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