If you want to get leaner, you are going to have to clean up your diet. This may involve making some challenging changes to your diet that may be hard to stick to, this is where ‘cheat meals’ come in. So what is a cheat meal? A cheat meal refers to a planned meal that falls in to one of the following:

1. It falls within your macro goals but does not have to be made up of ‘healthy’ food.

2. It does not fall within your macros, but it does fall within your daily Caloric allowance.

3. It neither falls within your macros or your Calories, and is simply a meal where you eat whatever your heart desires.

4. It is not just one meal, but a whole day of mindless indulgence.

It may be obvious, but when you have a goal of fat loss and muscle gain, you will have a fairly specific Calorie budget to work with. In addition, healthier foods are going to help you get closer to your goal (by improving recovery etc) and unhealthy foods will not. So options 1 and 2 from the above list are ideal and options 3 and 4 are not so beneficial to improving your physique and reaching your goals.

Cheat meals can have several benefits including:

  • - Restocking of muscle glycogen stores

  • - Avoiding metabolic slowdown

  • - Increasing motivation by providing rewards

  • - Ensuring that no food is ever completely off the menu

Unfortunately, many people completely derail their nutritional and training efforts by abusing cheat meals. In my plans I don’t include cheat meals for this reason, however many of my clients have had great success, whilst carefully factoring cheat meals into their programs.

Cheat meals CAN be beneficial, but you need to exercise common sense if you want to avoid sabotaging your weight loss.


How to cheat and win – the cheat meal manifesto

The best option would be not to cheat on your diet at all – the idea of rewarding good nutritional behaviour with unhealthy food is flawed from the outset. Cheat meals can also make it hard to return to your diet as they are a stark reminder of what you are missing. However, as it’s such a common practice, if you are going to cheat, you might as well do it right!

1. The further you are from your goals, the less often you should cheat

If you have more than five kilos to lose, you should limit your cheats to once every ten days to two weeks. Harsh? You bet, but you still have some ways to go and to cheat on your diet too frequently will impair your progress. The leaner you are, the more flexibility you can afford with your diet.

2. Plan your cheat meal in advance

Decide when you are going to have your cheat meal and what it will consist of. Random cheat meals don’t work. You may say “I’m having my cheat meal early this week,” but all that’ll happen is that you end up having two cheat meals – or more. Choose the day, the time, and the menu and then stick to it. Cheat meals are not transferable!

3. Only buy enough food for a single cheat meal

The nutritional law of possession states that if you buy it, you will eat it. Yes, you may be able to avoid temptation for a day or a week but, eventually, you won’t, and you’ll eat that treat food you were saving for your next cheat meal. Buying smaller portions means you can only eat a limited amount and are therefore less likely to inadvertently overeat and derail your progress. When you are full, either dispose of the leftovers or, if you must keep them, seal them in an opaque container in the fridge, out of sight.

4. Never cheat alone  

While you might feel more comfortable scarfing down a ton of junk food alone, you are less likely to go junk food crazy in the company of others. Use this peer pressure phenomenon to help you control the size of your cheat meal. Choose who you cheat with carefully - you don’t want to be around an unhealthy friend that will encourage you to overindulge!

5. Schedule your cheat meal for the last meal of the day

If you cheat early in the day, you’ve then got the rest of the day to keep on cheating; it can be hard to stop once you have started. In contrast, if your last meal of the day is a cheat, you’ll be off to bed in a couple of hours, and that makes it harder to continue eating. Don’t worry about the whole “eating before bed turns food to fat” mindset; even if that were true, this strategy will still stop you from eating too much and eliminate the damage of overeating.

6. Workout first, cheat after

Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and depletes glycogen and may also reduce your appetite. This combination of events means that the best time to cheat is right after a strenuous workout. Precede your cheat meal with some high-intensity interval training or a full-body strength workout to maximize insulin sensitivity, use a lot of muscle glycogen, and minimize the damage of your cheat meal.

7. Eat your Greens

Make sure your either have a serve of veggies before your cheat meal, or with it. This will increase your feelings of fullness so you are less likely to go overboard on the naughty stuff. It will also give your body a good amount of nutrient dense food to help keep it on the recovery path, even though the rest of your meal may not be so nutritionally valuable.

8. Make your next meal nutritionally perfect

Once your cheat meal is over and done, make sure your next meal is nutritionally perfect and conforms to whatever diet you are currently following. Don’t skip a meal, don’t have a semi-cheating second meal – get right back on the horse and comply with your diet exactly.

Diet cheating is not compulsory. In fact, every cheat meal you DON’T have will take you a step closer to your weight loss goal. You will see that in my LSF meal plans, I don’t include a cheat meal, as cheating is a very individual choice. However, if you must cheat, use this guide to help you make smart choices and avoid completely derailing your efforts.

If you’ve used my Cheat Meals Guide to cheat successfully share your pics with me! Tag me @LaurenSimpsonFitness or use the hashtag #LSFbabes.

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