Let me ask you this: how would it feel to indulge in your favorite foods while destroying unwanted pounds of fat at the same time?
Sounds like a stretch? Well, we understand if you’re skeptical. After all, most trainers claim you must eat “clean” to shape a body that makes you proud when you look in the mirror. But don’t fall for that belief! In fact, if you approach it right, enjoying “naughty” foods on a weekly basis can actually spur your fat loss efforts.
So, in this article, you’ll discover exactly why you should add cheat meals to your diet plan, and how to do so in the most efficient way. Let’s get started!
WHAT ARE CHEAT MEALS
A cheat meal is one where you don’t have to stick to the “approved” foods list. So, rather than going for the chicken with brown rice and vegetables, you can indulge in stuffed-crust pizza, crunchy potato chips, or another favorite junk food of yours. Cheat meals usually go with an increase in calorie intake. An often-used guideline is raising calorie consumption by 30%.
So, let’s say you usually consume 2,000 daily. On the day of your cheat meal, your calorie intake will hit the 2,600 mark.
The most common approach is consuming those extra calories in one meal (cheat meal), but spreading them throughout the day works, too (cheat day). This concept of “cheating” might sound counterproductive, but guess what? Overeating once in a while can actually help you shed fat. There are five reasons why.
REASON #1: CHEAT MEALS INCREASE LEPTIN
Leptin – often called the “starvation hormone” or the “satiety hormone” – is a hormone produced by your body fat cells . Leptin plays a crucial role in regulating your body weight . It does so by controlling how many calories you eat and burn and how much fat you store . When you lose fat, leptin levels drop. This increases hunger, lowers your metabolic rate, and reduces your motivation for physical activities [4-5].
This feedback mechanism is why most people rebound to their previous weight after slimming down. Fortunately, adding a cheat meal to your diet boosts leptin. This, in turn, raises satiety, ups your metabolic rate, and helps you stay on track with your fat loss program [6-8].
REASON #2: CHEAT meals provide a diet break
Even those fully committed to losing fat can fall prey to the temptation of indulging in junk food. Yes, willpower can keep you on track, but being too strict with your diet puts you at high risk of eventually giving in to the urges. While a few extra calories don’t ruin your diet, there’s the following problem: satisfying those urges usually means binging on thousands of additional calories. As you can understand, this will undo all your fat loss progress of the last days, if not weeks.
The solution? Add a cheat meal to your diet plan. You’re less likely to fall prey to a binge if you have a structured time where you can consume your favorite foods without any guilt trips.
REASON #3: CHEAT MEALS boast your metabolic rate
Spiking your calorie intake boosts your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours . Of course, this rise in metabolic rate does not undo the extra calories you’ve consumed – it doesn’t even come close. But here’s the thing: a cheat meal can undo some of the dieting-induced drop in metabolic rate.
That’s great because a dieting body naturally lowers its metabolic rate to preserve energy. A cheat meal helps counterbalance this.
REASON #4: cheat meals restock your glycogen stores
When you’re on a fat loss plan, glycogen levels naturally decline . By adding a high-carb cheat meal to your diet, you replenish your glycogen reserves.This, in turn, boosts your gym performance. The reason is that glycogen serves as the primary energy source during high-intensity activities such as running and lifting weights .
REASON #5: Cheat Meals Boost Your Hormones
Dieting can take a toll on your hormonal health. The production of certain “good” hormones decrease because there is less energy available for your body to produce them. An example is testosterone, which drops in response to dieting. Fortunately, by spiking your calorie intake, testosterone levels – along with other important hormones – get restored .
Word of Warning
By now, you know why spiking your calorie intake while dieting can help you get lean. And in your nutrition plans, you’ll see exactly how to add cheat meals to your diet. But before you descend on your favorite foods, one important note: the number on the scale might show up higher the day after your cheat meal. That might be discouraging to see, but there’s no need to overreact. If you follow our instructions, the increase in weight will not come from fat. There are three other explanations for this rise in body weight. First off, most cheat meals are rich in salt. And salt, as you probably know, can cause water retention [13-14].
Secondly, cheat meals usually contain lots of carbs. This, in turn, refills your glycogen stores. That’s great because it improves your gym performance. But keep in mind that glycogen also attracts water. For every gram of glycogen you store, your body holds onto three milliliters of water . So, if your body stores 250 grams of glycogen, you’ll weigh (at least in theory) 2.2 pounds more. The third reason is that carbs spike insulin, which prevents your kidneys from shedding water. The carbs can thus cause you to hold onto extra fluids .
What’s the Bottom Line on Cheat Meals?
You don’t have to suffer a bland and boring “chicken, rice, and broccoli” diet to nuke unwanted pounds of fat. If you approach it right, eating your favorite “naughty” foods can even speed up your journey to a lean figure. In your nutrition plans, you’ll find how to add cheat meals to your diet. Good luck on your fat loss adventure!
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