How Should One Incorporate Cheat Meals?

How should one incorporate cheat meals into their diets? For those dieting down, reduced caloric intake means cutting out a lot of happiness... Cheat meals are often incorporated for several reasons. Here's more.

TOPIC: How Should One Incorporate Cheat Meals?

The Question:

Many diet plans include a "cheat meal" placed somewhere in the schedule.

How should one incorporate cheat meals into their diets?

Are some cheat meals better than others? Which ones?

Which cheat meals should people try to avoid?

Bonus Question: What is your favorite cheat meal?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:


        1st place - 75 in store credit.

        2nd place - 50 in store credit.

      3rd place - 25 in store credit.

1st Place - soundcheck129
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Whether you're looking to hit the stage or just trying to get into better shape for the beach, dieting is an essential part of the process. Proper nutrition can make or break any attempt to transform your body, regardless of whether you're trying to pack on muscle or shed fat.

For those dieting down, reduced caloric intake means a focus on nutrient-dense foods, and usually a not-so-fond farewell to favorite indulgences and desserts. This can be especially difficult for those coming out of a bulking cycle, in which seemingly nothing was off limits. For this reason, cheat (or free) meals are often incorporated.

These are meals in which the regular dietary rules don't apply and one is encouraged to eat a surplus of calories and not worry about the nutritional value of the meal.

How Should One Incorporate Cheat Meals Into Their Diets?

Because excess is encouraged during cheat meals, they cannot be overused, or you'd never be in a caloric deficit, and thus defeat the purpose of the diet. If you're one of those incredibly rare human beings with absolutely no desire to cheat, more power to you. But others should incorporate them to provide relief in three ways: psychological, physical and social.

In a society that strives to provide instant gratification, depriving oneself is hard to do. Staying on a restricted calorie diet with boring, plain, repetitive meals can wear down even the toughest psyche. After a while, you may have unbearable cravings and just snap, going on a buffet-style binge and indulging yourself in everything you've been missing.

Obviously, this isn't healthy, and it's clearly not going to be an effective way to lose weight. Therefore, inserting one meal each week in which you can have a few slices of pizza or a piece of cake can keep you sane. This will serve as an incentive to stay on your diet during the rest of the week, because you know you have a reward coming. When cravings arise, just know that they will be satisfied soon.

In addition to wearing on the mind, dieting can have detrimental physical effects. Often, you'll feel run down after an extended period on a restricted calorie diet. This is primarily caused by low glycogen levels in your muscles. In addition to fatigue, this can cause decreased strength.

Luckily, cheat meals can replenish the glycogen levels and fuel some great workouts. The other downside of dieting is that it can slow down your metabolism. Your body may adapt to a lower level of calories, which can stall your fat loss. Cheat meals, though, throw your body a curveball and shocks your metabolism into high gear.

Another important concern is your social life. Dieting takes dedication, but it shouldn't mean you can't go out and enjoy yourself. Looking good is one thing, but if you're all by yourself eating tuna and rice on Saturday night, what's the point? And it's not just your nightlife that can suffer.

You want to be flexible in case you run into an old friend and they want to grab lunch and catch up, or spend time with family and friends, or watch a movie without having to smuggle in a protein shake. You get the picture. Social events often revolve around food, so you don't want to segregate yourself.

How often you decide to have cheat meals is ultimately your choice, but I would not have them more frequently than once per week. Cheating too much can severely compromise your results and encourage poor eating habits in the future.

I would definitely have them more often than once per month, though; going too long can lead to a cave-in. If you're concerned about cheat meals damaging your progress, plan them for after a tough workout.

How much, too, is a personal preference, but a general guideline is to eat until you are satisfied, not until you are sick. A couple of donuts is fine, a couple dozen is not. You shouldn't feel like you must go all-out. Stay sensible and try to keep in mind what a reasonable person would eat.

If you're in a restaurant, you shouldn't be eating so much that other diners are pausing to take pictures of your gorge-fest. The point here is not to undo all the dieting you've done. Another point is not to let the cheat meal turn into a cheat day. Self-control is key. Limit the cheat to one feeding and then return to your normal schedule.

Are Some Cheat Meals Better Than Others?

There's really no hierarchy of cheat meals, because people have different preferences. The only bad cheat meals are those that make you sick or leave you unsatisfied.

Indulging to the point of illness isn't a good idea, and eating an extra-large volume of 'clean' food or only nibbling on a cookie because you're afraid of potential damage is only going to leave you wanting more. The best cheat meal is one in which you enjoy a favorite treat and know that you'll be able to stay on track afterward.

If you're on a Keto diet, then your ideal cheat would be high-carb and low-fat, so something like a hot dog wouldn't really be the best choice. In the end, though, you're the judge, so eat what you crave - that makes the best cheat meal of all.

Which Cheat Meals Should People Try To Avoid?

The point of a cheat meal is to break all the rules, so technically nothing is off limits. But as I mentioned above, it would be a good idea to avoid cheat meals that are either too large or too small. Also, if you have a pre-existing medical condition you should avoid eating something that will aggravate it.

You may want to avoid eating things that are already part of your regular diet, because that can take away from the psychological aspect, and you might not realize you're cheating at all. If you have issues with self-control, you may want to avoid a buffet setting, though.

What Is Your Favorite Cheat Meal?

I'm not on a particularly strict diet - I eat sensibly, but I do include things that I like to eat every day. For this reason, most of my cheats are more in terms of volume of food rather than what the food happens to be. My main weakness is cereal - I'll go through boxes at a time of Reese's Puffs, Honey Bunches of Oats, Honey Comb, Rice Krispie Treats, etc. I'm also a big fan of cookies and cookie dough, as well as cupcakes. And, having spent a lot of my childhood in Buffalo, I love wings.

But most of those are things that I can have on a semi-regular basis. My absolute favorites are foreign foods - Chinese, Japanese, and Indian especially. Nothing beats Orange Chicken, Hibachi Steak, or Chicken Tikka Masala. Preferably in massive quantities. If I know I'm not going to get the opportunity to have it again for a long time, I like to load up.

2nd Place - LayzieBone085
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Cheat Meal... it's a word that is thrown around on these boards left and right, and it seems like everyone overlooks it because they dread what it can bring, and what it actually does to the body. A cheat meal can be defined in two ways: something that will be beneficial towards the body or something that could bring stress and agony towards the individual's goals when the wheels are falling off the wagon.

When the body takes in a surplus of calories in a given meal, out to eat for a meal and you decide to splurge, or you can't resist that late night Friday pizza are just some instances of what people will refer to as "Cheat Meals". The way they should incorporate them on the other hand is something that can be discussed to aid their progress in dieting.

How Should One Incorporate Cheat Meals Into Their Diets?

There are a few ways to go about this. First and foremost you need to see the individual and acquire their overall goal.

Many people that live life don't really have set goals, they just want to workout, be happy, and go on with their life. For that reason having 1-2 cheat meals per week would be perfectly fine.

A date on a Friday night with a loved one would be a great example at a nice restaurant. Another good time to consume a cheat meal would be after a big workout. For instance leg day is known as the hardest day of the week, it would be good to hit up that Chinese buffet after wards and stuff yourself with a lot of chicken and rice to help refuel the body when nutrients are needed most even though they may not be the "Cleanest" calories.

On the other hand someone who is dieting may choose their cheat meals more wisely. Some people that use a cutting diet such as the Dave Palumbo Cutting diet, will have one cheat meal per week to help restore glycogen, leptin, and try to stabilize already normal hormone levels after going low carb the entire week and having a capped limit of carbohydrates to attain in that given meal.

Doing this will help speed up the metabolism, make the body work harder to process that food, and actually aid towards fat loss/weight loss, given time and consistency on their diet.

The limit of how much is going to depend on the individual and their body weight. Someone weighing 250lbs compared to someone weighing 150lbs having a cheat meal may vary due to how much that person can eat without feeling sicker than a dog. A good indication to call it quits is when you feel a bit over satisfied, or if you are starting not to enjoy eating so much and you know your going to regret what your doing the next day.

Are Some Cheat Meals Better Than Others?

In my opinion no. The main reason behind this, and what it comes down to at the end of the day, is overall calories. Regardless of how you get those calories the body needs a certain amount to gain and lose weight, so even if you did consume a cheat meal and you were still under your maintenance level calories for the day, the damage would be minimal.

Individuals who do low-carb diets such as the Palumbo diet, as I suggested above, will implement a high-carb/low-fat cheat meal. The reasoning again is to help restore glycogen, leptin, and support normal healthy hormone levels due to what they are doing to their bodies throughout the week on such a low carb/calorie diet.

Which Cheat Meals Should People Try To Avoid?

Cheat meals to avoid are foods that do not settle well with them. Some people are lactose intolerant therefore they should stay away from digging into ice cream or any dairy product. Others can have serious problems with too much sugar and should stay away from anything that is dense in sugar such as ice cream, or having a cake. This would really put them in a bind and make them feel very uncomfortable and may cause some damage to not only their mind but also their overall body.

Besides certain instances like anything you desire you should have. Moderation is the key to success in anything you do. So if you are craving a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger and you have worked hard all week, stuck to your diet, then you have deserved it. The damage you would receive of having one meal off your diet would be minimal and the bloat/weight retention from that meal will go away in a day or two after resuming your diet again.

What Is Your Favorite Cheat Meal?

To be honest a cheat, like I have explained, is something out of the ordinary that would put you in an excess of calories. Being in college I rarely get to see my family, so when I do get the opportunity to go home and see them, anything my mom cooks to me is fair game. From homemade cooking, to homemade desserts, to family gatherings. These are the times I cherish most and cannot pass up. My favorite of all time from home would be beef tips over noodles, and the homemade cutout cookies on holidays.