Monday, April 13, 2015

Should You Have a Cheat Meal?

One of the topics I will get asked frequently is on cheat meals. People wanna know, should I or shouldn't I?

If you would have asked pre-pregnancy Sia about cheat meals, her answer would have been HELL NO! Bad idea!

However, times have changed and so has my thinking when it comes to cheating on your diet. Both has their pros and cons, just as with any situation. The main factor here will be YOU and your WILLPOWER.

But first, your personal questions:
  • Do I have cheat meals? Yes.
  • How often do I have cheat meals? 1-2 times per week.
  • What do they usually consist of? Pizza, pasta, donuts, beer.
  • Do I make up for a cheat meal? Usually...
For example, this past weekend I went to a friends' BBQ. I drank beers (yup, plural) and ate a ton of steak and potatoes. 

SO, to make up for it, I gave myself a literal ass beating in the best way: an hour of incline training burning over 1,000 calories. I used a heart rate monitor and kept my rate up in the 185 range nearly the entire time. 

Afterwards? I feel a lot better. It's not that I'm "punishing" myself, per say. I truly believe that to indulge, you must work for it and vice versa. However one bad meal won't make you fat just like one good meal won't make you skinny. It's all about balance 

I truly have adopted the 80/20 diet-eating clean 80% off the time while leaving some room (20%) for indulging and, well, being human! The truth is that it is HARD to eat clean non-stop. I have done it and I did it for a couple of years. I remember, at one point, I had my nose so turned up that I wouldn't even look at a donut-much less think about eating one. The funny thing is that though I will eat one today and not think twice about it, I have a better body now, with this new 80/20 attitude than I did when I ate no cheat meals.

Here are some pros and cons to cheating:

  • Cheats can be a motivation. Have you ever eaten so well and were doing great, but then you decided to go have that greasy burger and now you feel like shit? Use this as positive reinforcement or reminder of why you eat the clean ways that you do.
  • Spikes muscle glycogen levels.  Glycogen is the main way the body stores glucose for later use. Most weightloss diets deplete glycogen storage which could lead to the breakdown of muscle or atrophy and muscular breakdown leads to a slowed metabolism. Also, low glycogen levels can make you feel highly fatigued very easily which is no bueno for a workout.
  • Positive effects on Leptin Levels. Leptin is a master hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety. Low levels of body fat can bring a halt to your leptin levels and create what we call a weightloss plateau effect. A cheat meal-especially ones that are higher in carbs-can help kickstart your leptin levels again.
  • Regulates thyroid levels. Caloric restriction has also been shown to have an effect on thyroid hormones, specifically T3. Limiting your calories can decrease the amount of the hormone T3 in your system which eventually decreases your metabolic rate, slowing down your metabolism basiclaly.

  • You could regress in your hard worked progress. If you think of all of the progress you have made in your journey, a cheat meal could be a setback for you. Setbacks make it harder for you to reach your final goal. Is it worth it?
  • It can feed an addicition-literally. Food is an addiction-a real life addiction-for some people. What seems to be one harmless cheat meal could turn into a binge, leaving you eating way too much and then feeling bad about yourself. But, what usually happens is this mindset: "Well, I have already screwed up now. I might as well give up and try again on Monday." The vicious cycle continues...
  • Guilt. This is so common and sometimes even I think, "Now, why the hell did I just eat that?" Guilt sucks. Avoiding junk food is the best way to avoid guilt. I wouldn't suggest a cheat meal if you are just going to tear yourself up over it afterwards. Have no guilt, but don't take things overboard.
  • Junk food is still junk food. At the end of the day, junk is still junk-no matter how you want to sugarcoat it, fry it, or throw some bacon on it. 

The biggest thing to realize here is that cheat meals are a very slippery slope. If you don't have the willpower to control your cheat meals-don't do it. Stay far away.

My advice? 

If you are going to cheat, have a cheat MEAL and NOT a cheat DAY. One meal is better than a whole day worth of junk. 

Also, try to not do it so frequently. 

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