With the holidays in full swing, you’re probably already having, or at least thinking about having, a few cheat meals. And you’ve probably heard that those meals can help you maintain your health and fitness lifestyle and may even help you achieve your goals.
Using cheat meals as a nutritional strategy has been common in bodybuilding for years. Many believe that scheduling these in regularly can maintain or increase your metabolic rate, ultimately resulting in fat loss. Following a strict diet for long periods of time, with the mindset of losing weight or body fat, can be difficult. One way to help maintain this long term? Including a cheat meal in your plan.
Let's start by clarifying that the word “cheat” has a negative connotation and using it can contribute to unhealthy mental associations with food. Food is food. And although some is better (healthier) than others, it is not wrong to occasionally indulge. In fact, these indulgences can help you maintain your healthy diet for the long-term. They can help to curb cravings and potentially re-initiate weight loss once a plateau has been reached.
Now, let's go over a few simple tips to help keep your cheat meals on track with your goals.
1. Plan your Meals in Advance
Use your cheat meals as motivation to stick to your healthy diet the rest of the week. However, do not use them as a reason to starve yourself. Skipping meals in preparation for a cheat meal will only make you more likely to overindulge. Stick to your regular, healthy diet and then reward yourself with your scheduled cheat meal.
Not only will planning your cheat meals in advance give you something to look forward to throughout the week while you are munching on yet another salad, or finishing off another chicken breast, it can also help to ensure that you choose the "right" cheat meal.
Let's look at what that might be for you.
2. Choose a Cheat Meal with Nutritional Value
Just because you are cheating, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be thinking about your goals and your health. Your body needs a certain amount of each micronutrient to function properly. Each meal you consume should be helping you to reach your daily requirements, even your cheat meals. Want to learn more about your micronutrient needs? Click here.
If your favourite way to indulge is with a slice of pizza, load it up with veggies, along with your favourite toppings of course.
Planning your meal in advance can help you to prepare ways to sneak in some veggies.
3. Don’t Forget about your Macros
The best cheat meals are delicious and yet can still help you work towards your goals. Choosing a cheat meal that is high in protein and carbs, rather than high in fat, can help you to replenish your muscles after a tough workout and may even help with your energy levels during your next workout. Need more information on macros? We’ve got you covered.
4. Don't go Overboard
Remember that a cheat meal is just that, a meal, one singular meal. Try not to let your cheat meals turn into cheats days. Enjoy the meal and then continue on with your healthy diet and active lifestyle.
This is the key to consistency. Having one "bad" meal doesn't mean that your whole day has been a waste and now you might as well just eat whatever you want. Accept that you ate something that wasn’t a part of your diet and then move on with your life.
5. Use the 80:20 Rule
A great rule of thumb when working to maintain a healthy diet for the long term is the 80:20 rule. Eat healthy and nutritious food 80% of the time and then let yourself indulge on some less healthy options 20% of the time. This will give your body and mind the break they need from a strict diet while still helping you to achieve your goals.
Enjoy the holidays, enjoy your cheat meals, and enjoy your long-term healthy living lifestyle.