Ahh the good old cheat meal. Fitness is great, it should absolutely enhance your life and make it better, but sometimes you just get to the point where you crave something. Now, I most certainly believe in balance and that it’s okay to enjoy a cheat meal from time to time, and you shouldn’t feel guilty at all for having something “bad.” You should enjoy your diet and your workout program, but sometimes you just gotta let go and eat something that most definitely won’t fit anyone’s macros. Sometimes you just gotta say “what the heck” and enjoy yourself from time to time, but did you know you can also stay lean in the process? Here’s how!
Tip #1 – Intermittent Fasting (and plan ahead)
This one actually works very well. When you know you’re going to have a cheat meal that day, try to intermittent fast for a couple hours in the morning. This way, you’ll save all of those calories for that cheat meal that you’ve been craving. Also, it’s a good idea to plan your cheat meal ahead of time and actually utilize intermittent fasting (Real quick: Intermittent fasting is when you eat the majority of your calories later in the day and skip breakfast. Meal timing doesn’t matter, so if you prefer to eat more later that is perfectly okay).
Tip #2 – Still Get In Your Protein
Whether you have a huge steak for your cheat meal, or just have some portions of protein throughout the day, you still need to make sure you get enough. Consistently getting enough protein each day is essential if you want to maintain or build muscle mass. Also, having some portions of protein throughout the day will help keep you full until your cheat meal.
Tip #3 – Have The Cheat Meal on the Day of Your Hardest Workout
Leg day anyone? In all seriousness, doing a workout that includes either squatting or deadlifting will burn the most calories because they use the most muscles (they also build the most muscle too). If you’re also feeling up to it, add in a cardio session to even out the cheat meal.
Tip #4 – Have A Cheat Meal, Not A Cheat Day
A lot of people think because they’ve been good during the week they can have an all-out day of cheating. A good way to look at dieting is “weekly calories.” That is, if you eat in a 500 calorie deficit 6 days a week and eat 3000 calories over your TDEE on the seventh day, you’re not gonna get very far in your diet. Don’t get me wrong, you can still eat more on some days and do just fine, just don’t go overboard.
Tip #5 – Keep It Low In Fat
Most people think that the surest way of becoming as fat as possible is to eat a large amount of carbs, but they’re wrong. You see, the process as to which carbohydrates are turned into fat is called de novo lipogenesis, and it rarely occurs under normal dietary conditions. Dietary fat is also the most calorie dense and is very effectively stored as fat (due to low energy cost during digestion). Now, you’re probably thinking that you can “hack” your metabolism by just eating an absurd amount of carbs every day and very little fat, but research shows that de novo lipogenesis ramps up to provide our body with the necessary triglycerides. Besides, we need dietary fat in order to survive, and it’s extremely bad for your health to have a diet extremely low in fat. That’s not to say you can’t get fat by eating too many carbs, because you can. Remember, our bodies all follow the same rule: energy balance. That is, calories in and calories out. But keeping your cheat meal low in fat can help.
Tip #6 – Stay Away From The Alcohol
Most people don’t really know this, but alcohol blocks dietary fat oxidation. It can’t directly make you fat, because alcohol itself basically cannot be stored as body fat, but it does block fat oxidation, so combine a high-fat cheat meal with a lot of alcohol consumed and you have a cheat meal disaster. A good cheat meal is one that’s high in carbs (Pancakes and pasta are great) and if you plan on having alcohol try to restrict your dietary fat for that day and get the majority of your calories from carbs and protein.
There you have it! Six tips to staying lean and having your indulgences at the same time. Give these a shot next time you have a cheat meal, and remember: enjoy your life. It’s okay to cheat here and there, just don’t go overboard. Fitness and nutrition is all about balance and sustainability, nobody is perfect in the fitness industry.