Updated: Mar 1, 2019
We all love food… come on, admit it! You love eating as much as I do, and as much as any other person in this planet. Food is the greatest pleasure of life (if you want to change my mind about that, good luck…). As fitness/bodybuilding practitioners, our food choices are most likely to be the same every day (except if you do IIFYM…and even if you do, you probably eat basically the same almost every day) and it can end up being really stressful and annoying.
That’s why cheat meals/days were created. They are meant to give us a break from our regular eating schedule and to allow us to consume foods that we normally don’t eat because they are not the best options in order to achieve our goals.
There are 2 main different ways to approach this “diet break”: cheat meals and refeed days.
A cheat meal, by definition, is a meal in which you consume foods you are not on your every-day eating style. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re junk food (most of the times they are though), it just means that you are eating something you normally don’t eat. If you don’t usually eat cod and spinach, consuming that on your cheat meal would be considered an actual cheat meal (honestly, if your ideal cheat meal is cod and spinach… either you’ve never eaten pizza or you are not form this planet…)
Cheat meals are calculated meals in which you consume foods you normally avoid for different reasons.
This is the regular “I’m going to eat what I want” meal.
A refeed day is another story. They are a planned period of carbohydrates overconsumption that surpasses your current daily calorie intake.
The idea behind refeed days is raising back up your leptin levels. Leptin is the hormone that controls satiety and energy intake. This can be very useful while cutting, since as your body fat percentage gets lower and lower when you cut, your leptin levels decrease with it and as a consequence you start experiencing hunger 24/7 and feel more tired.With leptin levels raising after a refeed day you are able to reduce that hunger feeling and you will have a more energy, at least until your next refeed day.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO THEN?
The main difference between them both is that, while cheat meals are supposed to give you a little break from your diet and provide you with temporary freedom to eat whatever you want, refeed days, in the other hand, have a more precise purpose. Don’t get me wrong, one of the goals of having a cheat meal is also to raise your leptin levels, but on a cheat meal you are most likely to overconsume fats and proteins too, which leads to an excessive calorie intake for the same purpose.
So, what should you do? It depends. If you are cutting, I would stick to refeed days since a refeed day is a more controlled approach in terms of your calorie intake and your total macronutrient intake for that day. Depending on how fast/slow your metabolism is, how many days a week you train, how much cardio you do, etc. I would raise your calorie intake to your maintenance levels, or even slightly above, during your refeed days, consuming all those extra calories from carbohydrates.
If you are bulking, you just won’t to do refeed days since you already are consuming enough carbohydrates on a daily basis. However, since you already are on a calorie surplus on a daily basis too, a cheat meal could be dangerous if it’s not controlled. If you are bulking a would stick to cheat meals but very occasionally, two or three times a month is a good starting point. Depending on how slow or how fast you gain weight, you could have more, or you would need to have less. Adjust it depending on your results.
Now, whether you are cutting, bulking, or whatever, the best tip I can give you on this topic is this: balance. Life is all about balance, and this is no exception. You need to stick to your “diet” on a daily basis and just have little breaks every now and then.
And the best way to stick to your “diet” is to actually enjoy what you eat on a daily basis. Maybe not 100% of it, but at least 80%. If you hate chicken and rice, don’t eat chicken and rice 4 times a day just because “is what they always say right? If you want to be muscular you need to eat chicken and rice…” yeah if we were in 2002 I would pass that, but we are not, it is almost 2019. What you need to do is to create an eating style/nutritional habits that you can actually enjoy and sustain for the rest of your life, considering that: 1, you will need to make sacrifices and 2, you are doing this for a bigger purpose than eating, you are doing this to live a healthier and better life and to achieve the body you want.
If you are constantly thinking in that cheat meal you are going to have this next weekend, it is time for you to rethink your “diet”.
That’s it for today’s post!! If you have any doubt, question, suggestion or constructive critic, please do not hesitate to let it in the comments section or using my social media.
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See you in the next one! :)