The Truth About Cheat Meals
The best embodiment of a cheat meal I have ever seen was an Instagram picture of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson leaning over a stack of three huge pizzas with an equally huge grin on his face. We know Dwayne Johnson best for his lean, muscular body, and when it comes to diet an exercise, he’s one of the few celebrities out there who actually lives what he preaches. For him, cheat meals are a splurge, but they only happen once in a while. And he does this with a specific reason in mind.
The Cheat Meal Myth
Because of their popularity, cheat meals have garnered a certain mythos around them. Some say that they can help boost metabolism and lead to a leaner future. Others say they help muscle gains. What should you believe? It all starts with why they became a thing in the first place. Once you understand their original purpose, it becomes clear that the fitness industry has made up a whole lot of malarky about them (what else is new???).
The Origin of Cheat Meals
Nearly every personal trainer out there includes cheat meals as part of their repertoire of tactics to help their clients stay on track. Making the transition to a new diet and exercise routine, or even sticking with a long-standing one, is extremely difficult. To help keep clients on track, personal trainers developed cheat meals as a reward day for sticking with the program for a certain length of time. Bodybuilders and high level athletes have also seen the benefit of the practice as it gives them a small break from their rigorous routines (like Dwayne Johnson).
What Cheat Meals Are NOT
Cheat meals are NOT a magic pill. Remember, weight loss and weight gain is a simple formula of energy in versus energy out. A cheat meal cannot magically boost your metabolism and make you leaner. The extra calories are more likely to pack on as fat depending on how severely you have been fasting. To some extent, cheat meals can help with short term muscle gain, but the body cannot gain more than one thimble full of muscle per day, so one cheat meal won’t turn you into the hulk, either.
How You Can Use Cheat Meals to Your Advantage
What cheat meals are supposed to accomplish is to reward someone who is participating in a new diet and exercise program for good behavior. The goal is two-fold by giving people one day every two or three weeks to splurge, and also by giving them something to look forward to. Telling someone that they can never do something they enjoy ever again is completely unreasonable and absolutely untenable.
The Struggle is REAL
The struggle is real. I LOVE pizza, and cookies, and Blizzards…I digress. I love all of these things, but I know that I can’t have them all the time. So, on my calendar I set aside one day every two weeks where I can go hog wild (within reason). Pizza and ice cream (not alcohol)! And the best part? I get to keep my fitness gains AND have my pizza and ice cream because one meal is not enough to ruin two whole weeks of progress.
Motivation is all about incentives. Cheat meals are a great way to give yourself an incentive to keep up the hard work at the gym.