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Are you making these 5 mistakes with cheat meals?

Machst Du diese 5 Fehler bei Schummelmahlzeiten?

If you want to know the 5 biggest cheat meal mistakes and 5 rules for cheat meals without getting fat, then you should read this article.

Sometimes it feels good to let yourself go - stop striving for goals and trying to control everything and just give in to your impulses.

You know, just being human once in a while.

When it comes to dieting, we all know what that means: ignoring the plan and "cheating".

No counting calories, no estimating macronutrients and no worrying about what you should and shouldn't eat.

There are different options when it comes to cheating.

Some people believe that even small deviations from the diet plan will prevent them from reaching their goals.

Others believe that you can deviate from the plan as long as you stay away from certain foods.

Still others throw caution to the wind and stuff themselves with whatever they feel like.

And all these people are misguided.

You can certainly enjoy cheat meals without ruining your progress and you don't have to rely on a short list of "approved" foods, but you can't eat yourself into a coma every week without paying a price.

And that's what this article will be about:

How can you get the maximum pleasure out of your cheat meals while minimizing the downside?

Ultimately, cheating done correctly can actually make it easier for you to stick to your diet and see results.

Let's find out how...

The truth about cheat meals

When I talk about cheat meals, I'm not talking about eating sugar or dairy or other foods that have been declared "unclean" by one "guru" or another.

I am not even talking about eating anything that is not part of your diet. All I care about is calorie and micronutrient intake, because when it comes to body composition, how much you eat is much more important than what you eat.

"Cheating" means eating more calories than you planned, regardless of what you eat, and not worrying about the nutritional content of the food.

Cheating consists of eating a lot more food than you would normally eat and/or ignoring the nutritional value.

For example, if you've been eating on plan all day, but end the day with a high-calorie meal at your favorite restaurant, that's cheating. No surprises so far. This is the kind of cheating that gets most people into trouble. Another form of cheating, however, is more or less sticking to your calories and macronutrients but ignoring the nutritional value.

For example, if you skip fruit, vegetables and whole grains for a day to fit fast food into your day, that's cheating too.

If you do this occasionally then it won't cause you any problems of any kind, but if you do it too often then it can lead to nutrient deficiencies. (And your goal shouldn't be to gain muscle and lose fat in the most unhealthy way possible).

The 5 biggest mistakes you can make with cheat meals

Cheating in itself is not a mistake. In fact, I believe you should cheat. It makes your diet as a whole much more enjoyable and improves long-term diet adherence and therefore long-term success more easily.

However, the important thing is how you cheat.

The biggest mistakes I see people make when cheating are...

  • Cheating too often
  • Eating too much food at a cheat meal
  • Scheduling cheat days instead of cheat meals
  • Consuming too much dietary fat
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

Let's look at each of these mistakes in detail and learn why the consequences are so devastating.

1. you indulge in too many cheat meals

This mistake is actually self-explanatory. Cheating involves overeating, so cheating too often negates much of the calorie deficit needed for sustained fat loss.

2. you eat too much during a cheat meal

Many people don't realize how many calories are in the food they eat during their cheat meals. And many are shocked when they research the amount of calories in their cheat meals.

One of the biggest problems is restaurants, as their job is to produce delicious meals, which usually means generous amounts of oil, butter and sugar.

This helps explain research conducted by scientists at Tufts University, which included an analysis of 360 dinner orders at 123 restaurants in San Francisco, Boston and Little Rock between 2011 and 2014 (1).

The researchers found that restaurant meals averaged 1,200 calories and that American, Italian and Chinese restaurants were the worst, averaging nearly 1,500 calories per meal.

This agrees with a study by scientists at the University of Illinois, which concluded that there is not much difference between restaurant food and fast food in terms of calories (2).

All this means that if you eat out regularly, you're likely to struggle to lose weight.

3. you use cheat days instead of cheat meals

Many people believe that if they've stuck strictly to their diet plan throughout the week, they can let loose nutritionally at the weekend. Here, however, the wish is more likely to be the father of the thought.

If you stuff several thousand calories into yourself on a trip to your favorite restaurant, you can imagine how deep you can dig your dietary grave in just a few days.

4. you eat too much fat

Many people believe that eating large amounts of carbohydrates is the safest way to get fat, but they are wrong.

If you want to build fat as quickly and efficiently as possible by eating too much, then you should eat large amounts of dietary fat. (And you should add alcohol, but we'll talk about that in a moment).

To understand this, we need to look at the physiology of how our bodies increase fat stores.

From a chemical perspective, carbohydrates are very different from the type of molecule stored in the body's fat cells and the process of converting carbohydrates into body fat is known as de novo lipogenesis (DNL).

The first thing you should know is that DNL rarely occurs under normal dietary conditions.

If you look at studies that have looked at excess food intake, you will see that carbohydrate intake needs to be very high (700 to 900 grams per day over several days) for DNL to contribute significantly to fat gain (3).

There are of course exceptions, such as a large infusion of pure glucose (150% of daily calorie needs) (4) and people with hyperinsulinemia (5), but the above applies to healthy people following a normal diet.

This is not to say that you can't get fat by eating too many carbohydrates.

The primary reason for this is that eating carbohydrates reduces fat oxidation (6). In other words, carbohydrates tell your body to stop burning fat for energy and start burning carbohydrates instead.

This means that when you eat carbohydrates and are in a state of caloric surplus, more or less all of your dietary fat is stored as body fat instead of being at least partially burned for energy.

And since your body fat mass is regulated by energy balance, you can probably see the role that carbohydrates play:

Eat a lot of carbs and you'll store most of the fat you eat and burn very little body fat throughout the day.

And if you've now got a flash of inspiration about how you could "hack" your metabolism by eating a lot of carbohydrates and very, very little fat, then I have to disappoint you.

Not only would this be bad for your health - scientific research also shows that when your fat intake is too low, the DNL is ramped up to supply the body with vital triglycerides.

Our bodies are far smarter than we think.

And remember, none of this overrides the laws of energy balance. If you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose body fat regardless of how many carbohydrates you eat. And if you are in a calorie surplus, you will gain fat.

What I was getting at was simply to show how these macronutrients directly affect the physiology of fat burning and storage and how you can apply this knowledge to your cheat meals.

5. you drink too much alcohol

According to some people, you will get and stay fat even if you sporadically drink little alcohol.

This is a strange statement considering the fact that moderate alcohol consumption is actually associated with lower body weight (7).

I know this may sound blasphemous, but just like in the case of carbohydrate vs. fat consumption, it starts to make sense when you dig a little deeper and look at the physiological processes involved here.

Let's start with a study that involved an analysis of the diets of 1,944 adults aged 18 to 74 and concluded that an increase in the amount of calories in the form of alcohol did not result in the weight gain that would normally be expected when that increase in calorie intake is in the form of carbohydrate, protein or fat (8).

In fact, people who drank alcohol regularly consumed on average 16% more calories than people who did not drink alcohol and had the same level of physical activity. Despite this, they were no fatter than those who did not drink alcohol.

It's almost as if the calories from alcohol didn't count.

A similar effect was seen in a study of obese women on a fat loss diet, where one group consumed 10% of their calories in the form of white wine and another group consumed 10% of their calories in the form of grape juice (9).

After three months, the white wine group had lost about 2 pounds more than the grape juice group.

There are several likely explanations for these results.

It is known that alcohol can reduce appetite, which is conducive to weight loss (10). In addition, alcohol can improve insulin sensitivity, which has positive effects on fat oxidation (11).

More importantly, however, is the fact that alcohol cannot be stored as body fat. In other words, there is basically no way your body can convert ethanol (alcohol) into a lipid that can be stored.

So why do I say it's a mistake to drink alcohol with a cheat meal? Well, much like carbohydrates, alcohol blocks fat oxidation, which in turn speeds up the rate at which fats you've eaten are stored as fat (12).

In short, it's not the calories from alcohol that can make you fat, it's the junk you eat with alcohol that you find hard to resist as your alcohol levels rise.

How to enjoy your cheat meals without ruining your diet

Now that you know what not to do when you cheat, let's take a look at how to do it right.

Here's what I would recommend you do:

Cheat once a week and try not to exceed 150% of your current daily calorie intake on that day

This will allow you to let yourself go a little and enjoy your food without undoing most of your weekly diet progress. (and please note that I said 150% of your current calorie intake and not your daily requirement). How you distribute these calories throughout the day is up to you, with most people preferring to eat the extra calories during a meal as this helps them avoid passive overeating throughout the day.

In other words, they eat more or less normally on this day and indulge in one meal that is more substantial than usual (usually dinner).

Try to keep your intake of dietary fat below 100 grams on cheat day

Not only will this help you keep your calories under control (remember that one gram of fat provides 9 calories), but it will also help minimize fat storage.

Eat a high-carb diet on cheat day instead of stuffing yourself with your favorite high-fat foods

Scientific research clearly shows that a high-carb meal causes less immediate body fat gain than a high-fat meal (13).

For this reason, I recommend a high-carb diet instead of a high-fat diet when cheating, which results in less immediate fat gain and has other benefits.

One of the downsides of keeping your body in a calorie deficit is that it reduces plasma levels of a hormone called leptin, which is produced in fat tissue (14).

Simply put, leptin tells your brain that your body has enough energy stored in its fat cells and that your body can use energy at a normal rate, which includes metabolically "expensive" functions such as muscle growth or pregnancy, and that it can eat normal amounts of food and maintain normal levels of physical activity.

When you restrict your calorie intake to lose fat, energy production decreases, which tells your body that it is in a state of energy deficit and therefore needs to use less energy and consume more energy.

Your body accomplishes this through several mechanisms (15): a reduction in resting metabolic rate, a reduction in unconscious physical activity, and a stimulation of hunger, to name a few.

Increasing your leptin levels reverses these effects, which is the reason you feel better when you stop restricting your calorie intake.

This is why some people recommend cycling your calorie intake with periods of high and low calorie intake throughout the week, where you are in deficit on some days and eat your maintenance calorie intake on other days.

This is a way to deal with some of the negative effects associated with dieting, although I don't like that this can greatly slow down the fat loss process.

If you eat your maintenance calories 3 days a week then it will take you twice as long to reach your goals.

I prefer the refeed strategy, which involves eating large amounts of carbohydrates once a week on the cheat day.

The reason this works well is that carbohydrates do not greatly affect fat storage and they also increase leptin levels - much more than proteins and fats.

Save calories if you want to eat a lot

If you're like me and many others and you like to eat several thousand calories during a cheat meal, then I have a simple tip for you:

Save yourself calories by eating nothing but protein in the time leading up to that cheat meal. For example, my cheat meals are almost always in the evening and I balance them out by eating some protein every few hours on those days, but avoiding the carbs and fats I would normally eat.

Then when dinner time comes around, I have a big buffer of carbs and fats (and therefore calories) before I even reach my maintenance calorie count for the day.

If I cheat at breakfast, the strategy is the same: I eat my daily total of carbs and fats at breakfast and just protein the rest of the day.

Expect the worst when you eat out

A palm-sized piece of prepared meat at a restaurant has at least 120 to 150 extra calories from fat absorbed during preparation.

A cup of pasta or potatoes has between 180 and 200 calories, but if a sauce or other source of fat is added, this can easily double. Even vegetable dishes can contain large amounts of hidden calories in the form of added butter, oil or cheese.

And as for dessert, 25 to 50 calories per tablespoon is a good rule of thumb. The point is that you need to pay close attention to what you order when you eat out. It's not hard to eat a few thousand calories in just one meal.

The first step is to familiarize yourself with the types of foods you like to eat in restaurants.

There are a number of sites on the internet that can help you make a rough estimate of calories. If you eat in larger chain restaurants, you may be able to find more accurate calorie counts online. In this case, I would advise you to add 20% to these values, as many restaurants embellish their calorie information.

The point here is not to track every calorie of your cheat meal, but simply to prevent you from undoing all the progress you've made during the week.

If you want to be able to drink alcohol and still lose weight efficiently, then on cheat day you should...

  1. Have no more than one drink a day.
  2. Limit your fat intake.
  3. Don't combine high-fat foods with alcohol.
  4. Stay away from carbohydrate-packed drinks such as beer and fruity alcoholic drinks (stick to dry wine and hard liquor).


Incorrect cheating is one of the main reasons why so many people "inexplicably can't lose weight no matter what they do."

They simply don't realize that you can starve yourself to near death all week long and then make up for it in a weekend.

If you cheat correctly, on the other hand, you can have the best of both worlds: the satisfaction of indulgence without the penalty of major weight gain.




From: Michael Matthews

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