Cheat meals are a way of allowing ourselves to indulge a little bit and get a break from our strict diets.
When we have cheat meals, not only do we get a chance to consume more calories, but we also get to have delicious foods that we generally avoid on a daily basis (e.g., pizza, alcohol, fried foods, ice cream, etc.)
For many years, breaking from your typical diet was simply known as “cheating” – in the negative sense.
Nowadays, the term “cheat meal” has taken over and it’s garnered more positivity. It’s looked as a victory prize, a metabolism booster, a mental reliever … like the MacGyver of dieting tools.
It’s even achieved the status of a fad. Have you seen how many “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Legendary Cheat Meal Challenge” videos there are on the internet? (Have no idea what I’m talking about? It’s an attempt at eating 12 pancakes, 4 pizzas, and 21 brownies in one sitting. People love it!)
As popular as they’ve become, cheat meals aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sure, they’re enjoyable (who doesn’t like food?) but have some drawbacks.
If you prioritize steady fat loss and want to avoid regaining weight, I’d consider cheat meals bad for you.
Here’s 4 Reasons Why Cheat Meals Are Bad For You:
1. Currently/Formerly Skinnyfat or Overweight? You Lack the Self-Control to Handle Cheat Meals
If your cheat meals are once a week and just an extra couple hundred calories, have no fear. Cheat meals will serve their intended purpose and help you during your fat loss.
And if you have that much self-control, then more power to you.
But there’s a good chance that you’re part of the population that has or once had excess bodyfat. And that excess bodyfat was probably a result of lack of self-control with eating.
Many people – myself included – go HARD when having a cheat meal. Hell, I can easily put down 3000 or 4000 calories in a sitting and still want more food.
Do that every week, and you’re basically going to never lose bodyfat.
I, as well as others I’ve worked with, have gone through this scenario while trying to cut bodyfat.
Here’s what it’s like: You go hungry for 6 out of 7 days of the week, for months on-end. Weight loss takes forever, and you end up spinning your wheels.
Plain and simple, it sucks and is not ideal for fat loss.
2. Cheat Meals Increase the Likelihood of “Rebound Weight Gain”
Regularly having huge cheat meals trains your brain to become accustomed to stuffing your face.
This almost guarantees that your appetite is going to slowly but surely become massive. And why is this bad?
By the time you finally lean out, you’ll start bumping up your calories to transition to bulking/maintenance. But as this happens, you will feel still feel the urge to “let loose” and have a cheat meal.
Sure, we all know the guys who say “I can have this whole pizza – I’m bulking” and we laugh at them. But when it’s your turn to pack on some mass and you’re appetite is raging like a shark in an underwater blood sausage factory, you’ll be the guy eating whole pizzas like it’s going out of style.
Your bulk will inevitably turn into fat-gain-mode. You’ll be back at square one and your long cut would’ve been a waste of time.
3. Cheat Meals Reinforce Impulsive Behavior and other Destructive Habits (e.g., Binge/Purging)
There’s another guarantee to the aforementioned cheat-meal brain-training: impulsive behavior and destructive habits.
So, we know that regularly partaking in cheat meals will make you more likely to want more cheat meals.
This kind of behavior is called binging – you know, when you stuff yourself with food beyond sensible limits.
But there’s another behavior that you might develop, too, and that’s purging.
Now by “purge,” I mean it in both the figurative and literal sense.
Figuratively: When you go overboard and stuff your face, you’ll probably feel guilty about it and go super-duper strict with your diet for a while, or possibly go on a fast the next day. This is quite common for many people and seems harmless (although, it probably isn’t).
Literally: You voluntarily regurgitate your cheat meal to feel better about yourself. This is a part of the disorder known as bulimia – and if you start doing this, you’ve hit rock bottom and need to see a medical professional.
In either sense, you’re playing with fire. There’s absolutely no reason for a sane, healthy person to have to put their bodies through such extremes.
You want to get jacked and tan, not mentally-screwed and sickly.
4. Never-Ending Dieting & Weight Gain Can Wreck Your Hormones (& Your Body)
If cheat meals prolong your cut and potentially cause rebound weight gain, then they also can destroy your metabolism.
Long periods of caloric deficits will have a negative effect on your thyroid hormone – the master controller of your metabolic rate.
Low thyroid hormone means slower metabolism, less calories burned, lower body temperature and heart rate, lower testosterone, slower healing joints, and etc.
If you’re poverty-stricken and can’t afford food, then you’d benefit from low thyroid.
If you care about your health, appearance, and performance in the gym, you do not want your thyroid hormone to tank.
On the other hand, fat gain usually results in a greater number of fat cells in your body (even after fat loss, too, for some time).
Fun fact: fat cells are responsible for part of your body’s creation of estrogen. So, more fat cells mean more estrogen and less testosterone.
So, Are Cheat Meals Bad? Yes … Here’s an Alternative Solution
Your body and brain will operate at better with greater calories on-hand.
Why tease yourself with cheat meals, only to have to then starve yourself after? You’re just making yourself suffer physically and mentally.
Train your mind to be okay without having cheat meal – this will allow you to have more calories than usual, whether you’re cutting, bulking, or maintaining.
By eating more calories day-to-day instead of having regular cheat meals, you will:
1. … lose more weight in less time while cutting (because you’ll have a faster metabolism and won’t have set-backs),
2. … bulk for longer and with less fat gain (because you won’t go overboard with eating),
3. … maintain a stronger, healthier, better-looking body (once again from a better metabolism and hormonal profile),
4. … and have more control of your life while no longer dealing with crazy swings in your diet.
It’s a no-brainer. Why have a cheat meal when you can be more awesome in life with more calories in your daily diet?