The Cheat Meal… regardless of whether you are in the fitness industry, a recreational/professional bodybuilder or even a client of a knowledgeable trainer, you will be on some sort of nutrition plan. The idea is generally to eat as clean as a whistle for 5-7 days, followed by a ‘permissive meal’. In fact I actually like to call it a ‘Top-up meal’, which I will explain later in this article.
The ‘cheat meal’ as it is commonly known is what most people wait for at the end of the week, the chance to let their hair down and enjoy some lashings of cream over a gluten free apple pie because that is exactly what you saw someone eating on the TV in an advert through the week – and thus that is what you shall eat!
Fitness bunnies are the most notorious for hitting the OTT button on this, creating whole menus for weeks on end as they head towards their competition only to gorge themselves on every calorie dense food in sight once they step off the stage. To a certain extent it can be good for them. As someone who has competed in over 14 competitions I can understand why they crave so much when they have denied themselves for so long on in the name of fat loss… but on the other hand what happens on the flip side to the cheat meal?
Once you have devoured and satisfied your food fantasies, do you in fact wake up, look in the mirror and all of a sudden realize your impeccably shredded six-pack is long gone? Or you can’t quite fit into the jeans the way you did a day or two ago?
For many this can be the time to panic and what usually happens with these particular characters are hours of intense training in an effort to ‘burn off’ the damage that has been done. One of the first things I do when I get new clients in during their initial BioSignature consultation is that I make them aware of how a ‘top-up meal’ can actually increase their fat loss long term. Doing it strategically though it the key.
I know a lot of fitness junkies can relate to these thoughts and feelings and to some extent we can argue that this rules their life, they are governed by their body fat percentage and how big a cheat meal you should actually have. But you need to remember one important thing… and that is that when it comes time to have your cheat or permissive meal, not having enough is not necessarily a good thing.
If you have depleted your glycogen stores (carbohydrates stored in the body) for 7 days, 14 days or more you will need a good calorie surplus to refuel not only your body but your metabolism as well. It will also allow you to fulfill your cravings enough to carry through another week or two. Leaving it longer or not having enough and you run the risk of tipping yourself over the edge and blowing out.
I’ve had many conversations with fitness fanatics about the same thing… ‘I’ve blown out… I ate chocolate twice! I can’t stand it, I don’t know what to do’!’ However, what if the negative pendulum swing of the proverbial cheat meal was all in our head?
What if one’s mind was having thoughts of so much guilt whilst they were eating the cheat meal that they actually adopted the symptoms of an eating disorder, illness or physical adaptations (a blow out)?
The Placebo effect is Latin for ‘I will please’ and is the theory of patients taking a ‘dummy’ or an inactive substance thinking it is a medication and feeling relief of symptoms from it. The underlying mechanisms are a mystery, however you can adopt the Placebo effect to almost anything, diets, exercise and physical therapy you name it, so why can’t we adopt the same for our erratic thoughts some of us very cautious dieters have through a cheat meal?
It would be safe to assume right now, that those who inherently ‘blow out’ during a cheat meal must have imagined this whole thing and it’s all in their own head? Not the case, medical research shows that a personal’s psychological state plays a vital role. When stressed (i.e. when you eat your cheat and feel guilty during and immediately afterwards) the body increases blood pressure thus stress is elevated which can lead to a subsequent increase in cortisol. So while the mind can contribute to negative physical effects, it can also be the answer to the cure as well.
A person’s attitude and thought patterns will play a crucial role for the placebo effect to work with cheat meals.
You MUST reduce all anxiety from the meal making it an ORGASMIC experience from start to finish. Research indicates that the brain responds to imaginary scenes of a wonderful nature, making your meal a guilt free cheat with no repercussions in the aftermath. The person is left with only happy thoughts and is in an almost meditative, blissful-like mind state.
The placebo effect may also release the body’s own natural chemicals (neurotransmitters) known as endorphins – releasing a flood of serotonin (one’s happy neurotransmitter) while eating the cheat.
Also always remembering that the cheat is there to make you feel happy, restore vitality and kick-start your metabolism all in a positive way, if one thinks negatively about the cheat meal – i.e. it is killing you like rat poison – the effect of the mind will be that the body is eating rat poison and so you will fall ill from the cheat.
So the moral of the story is, free your mind from the burden of the cheat, in fact ‘cheat’ is such a vulgar word for it – thus I have renamed it to a ‘top up’ meal, and use it for your benefit. If you suffer from cheat meal guilt and aftermath ‘blow out’ why not try this recommendation and take the guilt out of your permissive meal, it could be the wall standing in the way of total peace of mind and optimal fat loss results.
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