The cheat meal or cheat meal usually involves a psychological reward in a strict and healthy diet. But it must be done with common sense.
In recent years, simultaneously with the fitness boom, other nutritional methods have also been associated that, poorly understood, can be more of an obstacle on the way to that fit body or “fit body”, than a reward as such. I am talking about cheat meals or cheat meals, which are seen by many as the reward after all week consuming food in a healthy way, but which in many (too many) occasions can get out of hand.
Today we will talk about what exactly a cheat meal is, how it should be done correctly, and why it is a mistake to think that a cheat meal is only a psychological reward for eating healthy for the rest of the time. We underestimate the effects of a large and unhealthy binge on our body; human metabolism is wise, and we must have certain notions about how it works.
What is a cheat meal and how is it made?
Essentially, a cheat meal is eating what we want, in the amounts we want, without thinking about how many calories it will have or whether those calories are healthy or not. In fact, many what they do is a " cheat day " or cheat day, since really a great meal in a single day already affects the whole day globally (and the following, as we will explain later).
On many occasions, cheat meals tend to coincide with social events (lunches or dinners with friends) or simply as a psychological way to endure a time of caloric deficit. For example, when you follow an exercise routine to the letter and you want to lose fat strictly. On these occasions, a cheat meal helps to stick with the routine, as a form of reward.
However, there is a problem with the cheat meal: If you want to lose weight and still have a high percentage of fat, a cheat meal will not only delay the process, but can even make it worse. If, on the other hand, you are fortunate enough to be thin previously, it is possible that a cheat meal will be better supported, because the physiology and metabolism of an individual who has always been thin works differently. Therefore, if what we want is to become thin, we must avoid these types of uncontrolled meals, even if only once a week.
But suppose we cannot avoid the temptation (which will happen, it is something that happens to all of us, it is inevitable). In that case, how should we make a cheat meal?
It must be a prepared day. In fact, it should be prepared in advance, as it is recommended that the day before a cheat meal, we begin to moderate ourselves a little more if possible (no, it is not necessary to spend a day fasting, just reduce the caloric intake a little thinking about the day following).
On the same day as a cheat meal, it is advisable to have slept well, hydrate well, and if it can be strength training or high intensity training. All this will improve the metabolism in preparation for the cheat meal.
At the time of the cheat meal, although it is not usually thought that the food is healthy, it would be advisable to make some adjustments: better avoid refined flours, if we are going to eat pizza or hamburger and it is possible that it is homemade, although they are very caloric ingredients, better than their commercial versions. Also, if possible, it is better to combine proteins and unprocessed fats, which will be satisfying and, despite their caloric intake (as far as fats are concerned), food quality will not be renounced.
Finally, the day after the cheat meal, the main thing is not to have regrets, because psychological negativity does not help in any way to continue with the fat loss routine. Also, if we are capable of fasting, it is a recommended option. If not, as we have already done the day before, it would be advisable to moderate your caloric intake a little more than the rest of the days.
The objective of this cheat meal should be that 20% of weekly calories are not exceeded with this type of diet, and if we can be strict, that it does not exceed 10%.
The unknown effects of cheat meal on the body
Many individuals identify the cheat meal as a psychological reward for a job well done for the rest of the week, following a controlled and, in many cases, low-calorie diet with the goal of losing weight as fat.
However, it is not only something psychological, but also metabolic, since a cheat meal has effects beyond.
At the metabolic level, a cheat meal is capable of improving the functioning of the hormones responsible for appetite, ghrelin and leptin. During the rest of the week, on a restrictive, low-calorie diet, leptin levels drop and ghrelin levels rise. However, after a cheat meal, a meal rich in calories, the body is able to re-regulate the level of both hormones, thus keeping the appetite under control. In fact, a study from 2000 already showed that the day after a cheat meal, leptin can increase up to 30%, thus improving appetite regulation.
On a psychological level, the factor most associated with cheat meals, there is also scientific evidence. A study carried out in 2014 and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, after analyzing 12 different studies, concluded that in the short term, a cheat meal had great potential as an incentive to change behavior food. In other words, a cheat meal helps the diet to be followed correctly for the rest of the week.
Regarding relapses, there is the so-called " abstinence violation effect, " as described by Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behavior Research Center at the University of Washington in TIME magazine. According to Marlatt, this effect consists of thinking all or nothing, that is, in the fact of stopping eating healthy because in a certain season, cheat meals have become cheat days, or even cheat weeks. That is, you stop eating healthy every day because the cheat meals are chained, which implies that you have fallen.
Marlatt explains that this situation should not imply a complete surrender, and that it is not the end of the road, but only a miscalculation that can be corrected. He believes that in these cases one should not continue with the binges, but accept the mistake made and learn from it so as not to fall again the next times. If we had too much junk food at home, it is time to change shopping habits in order to finally change lifestyle habits. And if the problem is the excessive amount, the solution is to buy less and make more trips to the grocery stores (something that, in addition, will provide a little more weekly exercise).
Little by little you must learn to control the quantity and quality of a cheat meal. It shouldn't be a total and utter chaos of weekly bingeing. Even cheating must be planned and performed with common sense.