Bodybuilders have been at the forefront of dieting breakthroughs. The concept of strategic overfeeding to the dieting bodybuilder who, after a long pre-contest diet, goes on a post-contest binge and ends up looking better because of it.
The non-competitive lifter can do the same, get right back on the diet and notice a few days later that he’s even leaner than before and even having better workouts than before. How’s this possible?
The cheat meal is loaded with calories coming from macros: carbs, fat and protein. These calories will give your metabolism a temporary boost.
The additional carbs replenish muscle glycogen and the fat will fill out the muscle too. The elevated sodium will help with glycogen storage and water retention, both improve strength.
Add these together and you have a great diet and training boost, one that can take your progress to the next level.
Cheat meals prevent catabolism, boost metabolism, refill glycogen and give dieters a break to look forward to.
If you start feeling cold, hitting plateaus, losing weight in a short period of time and having poor workouts, these are signs a cheat meal is needed.
The difference between re-feed and a cheat meal, is that re-feed consists of a healthier high-carb foods, whereas the cheat meal is whatever you want it to be.
A proper re-feed or cheat meal one can:
- Stave off potential catabolism from prolonged dieting.
- Refill glycogen stores to support hard training.
- Recharge a stagnant metabolism.
Cheat Meal And Re-Feeds
When used incorrectly cheat meals can derail progress. Look for the following signs:
- Your workouts are lacking on a regular basis – no pump, poor strength, lack of focus.
- Your body temperature is starting to drop; you feel cold all of the time.
- Fat loss has plateaued and lowering calories isn’t helping.
- You dropped a lot of weight in a short amount of time.
If one or more of these apply, a cheat meal is warranted.
The term “re-feed” refers to a carbohydrate feeding designed to give similar results as a cheat meal. Quantities are high and the goals are to refill glycogen stores, stave off catabolism, recharge metabolism and provide some mental relief.
The main difference between a cheat meal and a re-feed is mental. Cheat meals are for those who need a break from their diet. Re-feed is to replace small amounts that have been isolated from the diet.
For some, eating junk sets off a feeding frenzy and end up binge eating for hours or even days, setting themselves back in the diet. A more controlled re-feed of healthy food in higher quantities would be a wiser option.
Some will also use a carb re-feed day, similar to a “high day” when carb cycling. It serves the same purposes as the cheat meal or re-feed meal, but is spread across an entire day rather than just one meal.
With a full day of carbing-up like this is that you lose a day’s worth of fat burning, rather than having just one meal, contained in just an hour.
There are times where full days are needed though, the leaner you are, the more often you will need to re-feed or cheat.
When you’re really lean, you see a fine line of potential catabolism, so more frequent re-feeds are necessary to maintain as much muscle as possible.
Three Cheat Meal Rules
It’s a little more sophisticated than just “eat a bunch of whatever,”. When implementing a cheat meal – as opposed to a carbohydrate re-feed, use the following guidelines:
- Have the cheat meal replace the last meal of that day. This keeps you from extending the cheat and ruining a whole day of eating.
- Keep it around 45 to 60 minutes. This keeps you from making it an all-out binge that will set back your progress rather than accelerating it.
- Have your cheat meal the night before you train a large (or weak) body part.
The additional glycogen and fullness will ensure that you have an great, powerful training session.
If you have a re-feed, then start the next day, reduce calories by 10% on all days going forward. You can also add another ten minutes of cardio daily.
This is a one-two punch of metabolic trickery. You increase the metabolism (and caloric expenditure) via the cheat meal, then you decrease caloric intake. This hits fat loss from both sides.
Muscles swell from glycogen. So the cheat meal will fill you out, which will help immensely with training. Your weight will rise, as much as 5 to 8 pounds in some instances and it may take up to a week to return to your previous baseline weight.
You might not gain much weight at all depending on how depleted you are and how big the cheat is. This is normal and not something to be concerned about. The cheat meal is still working.
Because of the nature of the hormone aldosterone, sometimes it may take longer than a day for the increase in weight to show up.
Re-feed is cleaner than a cheat meal:
A sample, carb-filled re-feed for a 200-pound male might look like this:
- 2 cups cooked rice.
- 2 large sweet potatoes.
- 3 pieces Ezekiel bread toast.
- A cooked chicken breast.
- 1 cup broccoli.
- 1 piece of fruit.
Cheat meals and re-feeds are misunderstood and misapplied. Use the guidelines here and you’ll be able to wisely harness the power of carbs in your next fat loss diet!