With summer already here for a lot of us, many people are starting their crash diets and cutting back on everything good in the world like doughnuts and burgers. While I'm an advocate for conscience eating, I think it's important to give your mind and willpower a break every once in a while and have a good cheat meal.
There are a lot of different ways to look at a diet, from the IIFYM “system," to carb cycling, to carb back loading, to ketogenic. Whatever method you choose, it's always good to follow an 80/20 or even 90/10 rule. 80% of the time you stick to your preplanned diet and meals, and the other 20% you can cheat a little bit. This 10%-20% is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth or cravings, but not a large enough deviation from your diet to cause any major derailments.
Losing weight by cutting your calorie intake always comes at a cost. The leaner you get the more severe you have to cut back on your food intake, particularly carbohydrates which are in almost everything. There is a difference between trying to see some abs for watershed and depriving your body of the nutrients it needs. It's important to systematically decrease your caloric intake as your body adapts, and also cheat occasionally to refuel your body and mind.
A high carb cheat meal can help raise leptin levels in the body and lower ghrelin levels. By balancing these hormones you can help normalize your metabolism, hunger and energy. This metabolic increase from a cheat meal can last for days which will help the overall fat loss during a diet.
The most important thing about cheat meals is that it's not an excuse to go crazy and eat a dozen doughnuts and a cake. The worst thing you can eat to ruin all the progress from the previous week before the cheat meal is foods high in sugar. A proper cheat meal should be balanced in calories and carbs. Pizza, burgers, or pasta are great options for a cheat meal that is high in carbs but also contains some fats and protein.
Cheat meals should be scheduled into your diet plan weekly or bi-weekly just like the rest of your meals. It should be planned in such a way that you feel like you have deserved it and won't feel guilty about breaking from your normal diet plan. If you have cheated here and there on your diet all week, you don't get a cheat meal; those little deviations here and there were your cheat meal. Weekends are usually the best time to plan a cheat meal, just make sure your cheat meal doesn't turn into a cheat day.
Here is an example of a great cheat meal:
- ¼ cup raw oats
- ¼ cup cottage cheese
- ½ scoop protein powder
- ½ cup egg whites
Mix it all together, pour it in a pan, and you've got pancakes with 3 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbs, and 35g of protein with less than 300 calories.
There are a lot of great ways to keep yourself going during a diet and strive for the body that you want. Simple, planned, and healthy (somewhat) cheat meals are the best way to keep your body and mind strong during a cut. With the internet you are only a few clicks away from endless recipes and resources that you can use to your advantage to become the best version of yourself.