The cheat meal trend is growing ever popular! Here is more information about the damage it does to your progress and when and why to cheat! 
Week-day warriors who occasionally grace the gym with their presence love to share ‘how epic their last cheat meal was’ using their social media pages. This trend is becoming ever more popular with people almost seeing it as a competition as to who can upload the best cheat meal picture.  
In today’s article I’m going to outline how these cheat meals actually kill your progress and when, and why, you should use a cheat meal. 
 
Before we start let’s get some definitions sorted out. 
Cheat meal – A planned increase in calories over a single meal. This is typically NOT calculated.  
Its main benefit is psychological, as the cheat meal is just a mental ease of not having to track anything.  
Cheat meals normally consist of going to a restaurant and ordering the biggest burger you can find, with all the trimmings, extra fries and a milkshake.  
Cheat meals almost always lead to you feeling guilty as you probably over indulged. 
 
Re-feed – Is a planned increase in calorific intake, either over an entire day or over a specific period of time.  
Re-feeds usually occur on calorie-restricted fat loss diets and the excess calories are usually in the form of carbohydrates.  
Normally during a re-feed, the goal is to be very aggressive with carbohydrate consumption to really take full advantage of the metabolic power carbohydrates possess.  
A re-feed is calculated and controlled. There is a specific calorie as well as macronutrient goal needed to be achieved. 
Straight away that should have made you realise that maybe you aren’t quite doing things optimally for fat loss. I need to point out that this article is aimed at the average Joe trying to get in shape, not for bodybuilders or physique competitors – who go months without going off-plan. 
 
So the big question is should you be having a cheat meal?  
The answer is probably no. You need to be honest with yourself here, are you actually happy with the progress you see in the mirror? Most people bust their asses in the gym all week, only to then undo all their hard work in one Saturday evening, just because they ‘have to go out with their friends’.  
If this is you, you really need to ask yourself if you are serious about getting yourself in shape and actually changing your body. If you aren’t, then, by all means, carry on. 
 
Also consider that if you are seriously out of shape and overweight then the chances are the last ‘x’ number of years of your life have been one big cheat meal. It’s time to get real and I’m not going to mince my words here – If you think you need a cheat meal every week, or every other week, then you aren’t seriously in a place where you want to change.  
If you want something badly enough, then you will be willing to do whatever it takes to get there, and not be looking for the first opportunity to ‘cheat’ and go off track. I’ve had clients that I have had to FORCE to have a cheat meal! They were so focused on their goal that I had to give them a reality check, and re-assure them that their progress was going exactly to plan and that going out for a family meal on their birthday wasn’t going to hurt them – they were that focused and determined that they didn’t want to stop until they had reached their goal. 
 
This may seem obsessive, but as I’ve said before if you want something badly enough, then you will do whatever it takes. This reminds me of a fantastic quote by coach Eric Thomas. I suggest you read it carefully as it’s a transcript from one of his talks: 
 
“When you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breathe then you will be successful.” 
 
I don’t know how many of you all got asthma here today? 
If you ever had an asthma attack before and you’re short of breath S.O.B shortness of breath, 
you’re wheezing (breath sound), the only thing you trying to do is get some air. 
You don’t care about no basketball game, 
you don’t care about what’s on T.V., 
you don’t care about nobody calling you, 
you don’t care about a party. 
The only thing you care about when you’re trying to breathe is to get some fresh air. 
That’s it! 
And when you get to the point where all you wanna do is be as successful as bad as 
you wanna breathe then you will be successful. 
And I’m here to tell you that number one, 
most of you say you wanna be successful but you don’t want it bad, you just kind of want it. 
You don’t want it as bad as you wanna party. 
You don’t want it as much as you want to be cool. 
Most of you say you wanna be successful but you don’t want it bad, you just kind of want it.” 
 
This may have been a bit of a wake-up call for some of you. 
 
So is this forever? 
 
Absolutely not. 
Once you are in a place that you are happy you can start to enjoy all the foods life has to offer. But what most of you will probably find is that you enjoy having more energy, clear skin, better memory and waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. And once you have that illusive cheat meal you used to frequently enjoy and feel like crap afterwards, you won’t want it again. Most people don’t realise how bad they feel until they start eating healthy and go back to how they used to eat and notice how good the healthy food had actually made them feel. 
 
Refeeds are my preferred option to give a client a mental break from their food plan, particularly if they feel they need one. Refeeds are great, as they allow you to overindulge on carbohydrates in a controlled manner!  
Due to the mental aspects, refeeds will actually benefit you on your fat loss journey and help keep the metabolic fire roaring while helping you keep hormonal changes intact. It’s important that you are working with someone who understands the difference between Cheat-Meals and Refeeds, and can implement them at the right time. 
 
If your coach lets you have a cheat meal every week, you really need to ask yourself if he has your best interest at heart or if you are just another £20 in his pocket each week. 
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