The debate revolving around cheat meals has been around for some time. Some claim that by having a cheat day, it helps you from overeating later while others feel that just one bite of something naughty will increase temptation and lead to more and more.
Personally, when eating strict, I do not like cheat days whatsoever. In my opinion, you can always find a healthier substitute or alternative to just about any sweet or fatty meal. I do, however, have my "higher calorie" days.
Here are some pros & cons to having or not having a cheat day:
Reasons to cheat:
- Less likely to binge later.
- Makes clean eating less of a "chore" and gives you something to look forward to.
- Helps you develop a most positive relationship with food.
- Refill glycogen stores to support hard training
- Increased 24 hour energy expenditure.
- Recharge a stagnant metabolism
- Increased serum Leptin levels.
- Increased thyroid hormone output.
Reasons not to cheat:
- You might feel guilty.
- Likely to binge or take it too far.
- Your body might not completely adapt to a clean diet.
- It can feed the addiction.
- Junk food is bad for you.
If you are going to cheat, do it right.
If your idea of a cheat meal is a pint of Ben and Jerry's with a spoon, rethink your weekly reward. When it comes to choosing a cheat, be realistic. Even though you're allowed to break from your day-to-day diet, don't use a cheat meal as an excuse to overindulge. While you can indulge in a small, sugary treat from time to time, I recommend trying to avoid sugar-laden, nutrient-poor foods that can quickly ruin a week's worth of progress.
Instead, eat a cheat meal that is still well-balanced and higher in both calories and carbohydrates than your normal meal. Examples of cheat meals I typically incorporate are a cheeseburger with the bun (foreign concept, I know), two slices of pizza, a pasta dish with a protein source, chicken or shrimp fajitas with two tortillas, chicken stir fry with rice or noodles, or a filet mignon with baked potato and vegetables.