This weekend, my wife and I cheated!
Yup, you read it right, we cheated and it was soooooo good!
We both agree to it every weekend too! A little bit of naughtiness to spice up our lives. Whoah, get your mind out of the gutter there! I am talking about cheating on our diets!
During the week, ,as a family, we are very concious about eating heallty, lean foods without too much if any processed crap however, on the weekend, we do like to enjoy ourselves a bit and have what we call a "Cheat meal"… this usually consists of us going to a restaurant as a family and ordering whatever we feel like eating really (and actually, we sometimes do opt for the healthier options still!) including desert of we still have room.
We find it's a great way for us to stay bonded as a family and allow us to let our hair down and treat ourselves after a tough week of slogging it in the gym.
Not only do cheat or treat meals give you a chance to indulge in your favourite foods that you may deprive yourself of from trying to lead a healthier lifestyle but they also provide other benefits too including a sanity check, allowing you to be sociable with your friends and family and more scientifically, when we don't really bother to check what we're eating, we tend to eat extra calories. If you're watching your calories all week and creating a calorie defecit, then one day a week where you force your body to eat more calrories than it is expecting it shocks the system and gets your metabolism boosted. This, in the fitness world, is known as a refeed!
So what about the actual scientific benefits of a cheat meal? Well, you see, when you are controlling your diet the chances are, you're probably creating a caloric defecit and will find that if you're exercising too, your glycogen levels in your body get depleted (carbohydrates are converted into a fuel source called glycogen and stored in the muscles). As your glycogen levels drop, energy levels tend to drop too as well as your levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone in your body that is stored in fat cells that tell your body that you have enough energy stored in your fat cells to work. When you diet and lose fat, your leptin levels drop which trigger your body to go into starvation mode. You'll feel hungrier, more lethargic and also your cortisol levels increase. Now, cortisol is the nasty stress hormone that inhibits muscle production and stimulates fat storage. Precisely the opposite effect we want! Recent research has shown that eating a meal high in carbohydrates can generally raise the leptin levels due to the insulin spike caused by the carbohydrates. And it's not only a decrease in leptin. There's a correlation with calorie and carbohydrate restricted diets and levels of T3, Testosterone and Estrogen production in men and women respectively. In fact, when leptin levels drop significantly, some women even reported that their menstural cycles stopped!
So just how do you cheat? Well, there are different schools of thoughts but my recommendation is to have one planned cheat meal per week where you can indulge in whatever takes your fancy! Don't over do it or stuff yourself, just enjoy a burger with fries and a dessert at your favourite restaurant if you like. Some people have a whole cheat day too. For me, I usually have a weekend where I am slightly more relaxed on my diet. I don't over do it but will have a bit more carbohydrates than normal and I will usually have one meal where by I eat whatever I want without stuffing myself.
So, if you're trying to be strict on your diet and really missing your favourie meal or restaurant, go ahead and enjoy it once every week or every other week, trust me, it's not going to kill you or make you fat, if anything, it will help you more. carbohydonly does it help you psychologically by giving you one bit of indulgence per week, but it also has some scientific benefits too.