What is a cheat meal?
You may or may not have heard the term ‘cheat meal’ when it comes to healthy eating plans. Cheat meals are the name given for an ‘off plan meal’. Some people say cheat meals boost your metabolism, this is false information. A ‘cheat meal’ is in place to enable you to enjoy those foods you’re not eating daily and to allow time with friends / family / partners, and an opportunity to be social and go out for a meal or cook something of your choice which is outside of your usual plan. This isn’t because any foods are forbidden or bad but it can help you mentally feel replenished ready for another week on plan! I feel the term ‘cheat meal’ portrays a conception that you must eat “junk foods” in large quantities, but that really is not the case.
It is not recommended to have a ‘cheat day’, we will consume excessive calories and this will not benefit our goals or our mind set towards over indulging for a full day.
The way fat loss works, is by creating a calorie deficit. This means, eating less / burning more than your BMR (basal metabolic rate), the amount of calories your body burns without you doing anything, let’s call it maintenance calories.
In order to lose 1 lb of fat per week you need to create a deficit of 3500 calories over the course of the week, whether that comes from eating less or burning more or a combination of both.
So if you’ve burnt off those 3500 calories for that week, then have a cheat day consuming 3500+ calories which is very easily done in calorie dense foods, then you will essentially maintain your weight that week, which if you’re following the ab-salute guide, your goal is weight/fat loss.
Recommended cheat meals
Always try to choose a protein focused cheat meal, this will help fill you up more and prevent overeating on the more calorie dense foods, for example, chicken fajitas over pizza. I’d recommend avoiding creamy sauces, take-aways such as Chinese which are extremely calorie dense. As much as a “cheat meal” is there for you to be social, there are things which you can apply to help prevent over-doing it on the calories where it’s not needed by making smarter choices and still enjoying yourself! Such as sharing a dessert when you go out, avoiding the starter and enjoying your main meal, stop eating when you are full, drinking water before and during your meal.
You might be someone who doesn’t enjoy eating “junk foods” and that’s ok you do not HAVE to have a cheat meal, you can always make a twist on your normal food, switch it up a little, perhaps having sweet potato chips instead or your usual plain sweet potato! Cheat meals are not compulsory!
Home-made cheat meals
- Chicken / steak / tuna fajitas
- Chicken or steak and sweet potato or regular chips
- Home-made “fake-aways” such as Thai Curry / any curry for example with your own ingredients rather than takeaway ingredients, this will reduce your calorie intake dramatically.
- Small pot of ice cream (portion control)
- Halo top (healthy ice cream)
- Small pack of sweets
- Small chocolate bar
- Nandos – Chicken pitta / wrap
- Butterfly chicken (remove the skin), side order of choice, chips/rice/mash/sweet potato mash/wedges
- Any protein source with a side order of your choice (chips/jacket potato etc)
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do enjoy yourself
- Do have something you enjoy
- Portion control is essential, if you’re craving ice cream, have some, but buy a small pot rather than a pint and have the attitude of eating it all to get rid of it before being back on plan tomorrow.
- Do replace 1 meal and 1 snack instead of your cheat meal (for example if you have an allocated mid afternoon snack and evening meal – replace this with your cheat meal).
- Plan ahead, if you know where you’re eating out if it’s an event or an organised meal out, check the menu in advance and plan what you’re having rather than letting hunger determine your meal, this can lead to over eating.
- If you want you can train prior to your cheat meal, this is great if you have a muscle group you want to improve, the increased calories will really help!
- If you do not have time before your cheat meal, you can train the said muscle group the following day, the higher calories should help with your strength / energy and performance for the following day! Put the calories to good use!
- Continue eating after you’ve had a cheat meal
- Don’t see it as a ‘free for all’
- Don’t see it as it’s the last time you ever get to eat junk food and overeat with the attitude “back to plan tomorrow”
- Avoid buying things in large quantities, such as large chocolate bars, packs of biscuits, big bags of sweets, bags of cookies etc. This will only increase your temptation to continue eating even once you’ve the amount you say you’d have. This is really important if you’re having a cheat meal at home.
- Don’t have a cheat meal alone, if you do not have any plans with friends or family that week, then please leave out your cheat meal for that week. Eating alone will only encourage guilty feelings and turn into potentially over eating.
- Don’t feel guilty for having your allocated off plan meal.
- Don’t starve yourself all day to save calories for your cheat meal.
- Don’t starve yourself the following day as this will promote a binge restrict cycle which we do not want!
- Don’t overdo the cardio to “burn it off”.