How’s that diet going? Feeling lethargic? Are you hungry? Well, there’s a cure for both of these dieting symptoms, and it might be tastier than you think. Read more to find out how eating a burger or some ice cream as a cheat meal is beneficial to your fat loss progress.
The beach may have closed up for the season, but you may still find yourself trying to shed a few extra pounds.
Dieting is a delicate and tricky process that messes with your mind and your body in good and bad ways. There will be those mornings that you wake up and feel lighter than ever, but that may be coupled with lower energy and a feeling of starvation by the time the day is done. There’s also the inevitable plateau that you hit where no matter how much you reduce your calories or how hard you hit the gym, your weight and physique just won’t budge.
In a perfect world, you could lose some weight while still keeping your energy levels high and consuming the food that you love. As it turns out, that perfect world is one that you can actually experience, but in moderation. You can’t have ice cream and pizza every day of the week and still expect those abs to pop or those biceps to bulge. You can, however, enjoy such treats every once in awhile to silence your hunger and spike your energy levels.
“But how? I thought the only way to lose those last five pounds was through sacrificing my soul and eating way less than I’m used to.”
Not at all! Incorporating a cheat meal into your weekly nutrition protocols once or twice a week can give you amazing results all while letting your taste buds do a little happy dance.
What is a cheat meal?
A cheat meal is simply reserving a meal or two a week to go completely off script. If you’re dieting, you probably have a certain calorie threshold that you’re staying under, macros that you’re balancing, and a minimum amount of water you’re drinking. When you commit to a cheat meal, you ignore those guidelines for a glorious hour or so and just eat what your heart desires. You don’t stress about the calories, the macros, or any other number that might stop you from eating that plate of Chinese food.
BUT (and this is a big but, hence the capitalization), it’s called a cheat meal for a reason. Some people turn a cheat meal into a cheat weekend, which parlays into a cheat week. Then before they know it, they’re back to their starting weight and have forgotten what their diet plan looked like. It’s a slippery slope, so it’s important that you only apply this tactic to a singular meal.
How does this cheat meal help your diet?
The benefits of the cheat meal are both physical and psychological. Let’s begin with how it helps your body continue to metabolize and burn fat, then transition to how it helps your mindset in the middle of your diet.
The physical component of benefits essentially circles around leptin, a hormone in your body that performs the task of telling your brain how much fat is stored in the body. Once the brain gets this information, it will inform your metabolism and the rest of your body about how many calories need to be burned to keep the body at homeostasis. As you diet, you’re naturally going to be eating less food for an extended period of time. As your calorie intake decreases, the amount of fat that gets stored will also decrease. Over time, this decrease in fat that’s stored causes your leptin levels to decrease as well. With less leptin telling your brain to give the cue for fat burning, you will experience a stagnation in your weight loss. By incorporating a cheat meal in your weekly plans, you will signal alarm bells in your body and brain to fire up the leptin producers, which will lend itself to higher levels of fat being burned. This surge of calories and fat will introduce more leptin and therefore wake up your metabolism in the process.
Psychologically, a well-planned cheat meal can make the burden of eating less food throughout the week more bearable. Discipline and willpower are finite resources, so by sticking to a diet plan without a reprieve, you are tempting your taste buds to deceive the diet. A cheat meal makes the week-long calorie deficit worth it, because you have that indulgent moment waiting for you as a reward.
Having a cheat meal incorporated into your dieting regimen can also make the diet life not as lonely. Going out for dinner and drinks while dieting is no walk in the park, but the cheat meal allows you to merge both worlds. If you save your cheat meal for an extravagant date night or a happy hour with the guys, you’ll be able to enjoy them guilt-free because you know that this is your chance to step outside the restrictions of your diet.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.