What is a Cheat Meal?
Cheat meals are a planned overindulgence to help undo some of the side effects of being in a calorie deficit. Sounds great, doesn’t it? In reality, however, they’re more akin to getting drunk after a stressful day.
You feel great when you’re doing it, but you wake up the next day feeling like crap and with more problems than before. All the supposed benefits are becoming problems and you’re stuck in this cycle of good during the week and cheating at the weekend.
You see, the cheat meal promises that for one meal or day you can eat whatever you want. Anything goes; pizza, burgers, chocolate, sweets, pancakes, and more. In return for eating this you’ll;
- Reset your metabolism
- Stay out of starvation mode
- Get a mental break from the rigours of dieting
Although this sounds great, it reads less like a break from dieting and more like a break from reality.
You see, cheat meals aren’t resetting your metabolism (as if it were a computer you can turn off and on again) instead they’re restoring hormonal balance, which would be great if they were any good at it.
What are Cheat Meals Meant to Do?
Ok, whilst you’re getting over the fact that I used a swear word I’m going to continue. You with me? Good, let’s get down to business.
To understand why people recommend you have a cheat meal I first need to introduce you to Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin and Ghrelin are hormones found in the body that work together to bring about hunger harmony;
- Leptin makes you feel full after meals
- Ghrelin makes you feel hungry when you haven’t eaten
When eating around your maintenance calories these hormones help you maintain your weight and stop you from eating either too much or too little. However, when you’re eating in a calorie deficit and losing weight your body responds by reducing the amount of Leptin you produce. When this happens, Ghrelin runs wild and there’s nothing Leptin can do to stop it.
This means you feel hungrier more often, and when you do eat you feel less satisfied afterwards.
Pretty shitty right. Your body is literally conspiring against you. But wait, cheat meals isn’t this where they come to the rescue? Well, yeah, kinda but the only problem is they’re about as effective as the Avengers against Thanos in Infinity War.
That’s right, we all know how that ended. Sure, cheat meals are sold as the key to;
- Restoring Leptin levels
- Reducing hunger
- Increasing your metabolic rate
The problem is, not only are cheat meals a detrimental way to diet but they’re also not the most effective way to raise your Leptin levels. I know you might love cheat meals but they’re no good for you.