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A cheat meal could be categorized as a meal that doesn’t fit within our dietary framework but can be used to assist us in our dietary goals. Cheat meals were first used by bodybuilders as a respite from strict dieting. Nowadays, cheat meals are mainstream, used by seemingly everyone who is dieting and exercising. In the process, it’s become a common excuse to become excessive to the point where it’s causing our bodies more harm than good. Here are a few common mistakes that people make with cheat meals.

Mistake 1: Turning a cheat meal into a cheat day

It’s a common way of thinking that a cheat meal should naturally turn into a cheat day, eating whatever we want for every meal that day. 

If this does become the case, a cheat day can easily lead you to double or even triple the number of calories you’d normally consume, easily eliminating a week of your hard work. If you eat unhealthy foods or ones that your body doesn’t tolerate well, you can end up affecting your energy levels and training quality for many days after.

Solution: Actively work on restricting cheating to a single meal. When you leave the table, be firm and accept the cheat meal is over and done!

Mistake 2: Keeping multiple cheat foods in the house

Having too many snacks or easily accessible cheat foods at home is a recipe for temptation where a quick bite can snowball into an all-out eating binge. 

Snack foods that are high in sugar, fat, and chemicals, are unhealthy and can also affect your willpower. The simple act of eating them impulsively causes you to crave them in the future. Even with the best intentions, this makes it nearly impossible to avoid getting that cheat meal out of year head, and you will end up snacking again.

SolutionInstead of keeping multiple cheat foods at your fingertips, limit your exposure by purchasing only enough for your cheat meal or go out to have a cheat meal, leaving nothing at home.

Mistake 3: Choosing junk food

Regardless of the fact that you are eating a cheat meal, the quality of food you put in your body still matters. There is a big difference between processed junk food made with high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and artificial flavourings and quality foods that just happen to be higher in carbs or fat.

It’s especially important to also stay away from foods that your body doesn’t handle well. For a lot of us this might be wheat or gluten or dairy. Try to avoid any choices that will mess with your metabolic hormones and trigger an inflammatory response in the body.

Solution: Regardless of the fact that you are eating a cheat meal, the quality of food you put in your body still matters. There is a big difference between processed junk food made with high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and artificial flavourings and quality foods that just happen to be higher in carbs or fat.

Mistake 4: Drinking too much alcohol

A couple of drinks may be what you need to take the edge off after a week of healthy eating and intense training, but alcohol lowers inhibitions, especially when it comes to food.

Studies have shown that after a few drinks, people will eat more unhealthy foods, which will ultimately lead to excess caloric intake. Foods that should normally be off limits become tempting, and studies have shown that even vegetarians are more likely to eat meat after they have been drinking.

Solution: If you are new to cheat meals, it’s wise to make an active decision to pick either alcohol or food for your cheat meal. Start to understand yourself better by seeing what works for you, whether it be limiting the amount you drink gradually or finding ways not to overindulge in your food of choice.

Mistake 5: Binging instead of cheating

This is similar to point number one. Cheating means making a calculated decision to alter what you should be eating for a meal to something that will satisfy your needs without fully compromising your healthy, regular meal plan. It doesn’t mean you should be eating as much crappy food as you want. A cheat meal is there to provide mental and physical relief from the rigors of dieting.

When you’re on a low carb diet, for instance, your body’s stores of glycogen get depleted, which makes exercise feel much harder because your muscles don’t have the quick source of fuel available. On the upside, this is good because it allows the body to burn more fat for fuel, but it also limits exercise performance. 

Eating a high-carb cheat meal once a week or so replenishes glycogen stores and can help prevent the metabolic slowdown that often comes with dieting. It may also improve levels of key hormones like thyroid, insulin, and leptin that get reduced on lower-carb diets.

Often people are looking for any excuse or something to blame so that they don’t have to adhere to the strict diet needed for their training goals. In this way, cheat meals are used as a crutch to binge. You don’t have to limit portions in the same way you might while dieting, but you still want to be sensible and minimise the damage where possible.

Solution: This is similar to point number one. Cheating means making a calculated decision to alter what you should be eating for a meal to something that will satisfy your needs without fully compromising your healthy, regular meal plan. It doesn’t mean you should be eating as much crappy food as you want. A cheat meal is there to provide mental and physical relief from the rigors of dieting.

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