Strength Training – Sports Nutrition – Using Cheat Meals, Not Days, to Keep Your Cravings in Check

I have found when corresponding with many gym goers and fitness enthusiasts, that there is a massive disconnect in what they say and practice depending on the day of the week

These are people who train hard, eat right and do all things they’re supposed to do to the point that they’re on auto pilot, soaring towards their goal. Then, something strange happens. One day, usually on the weekend, all of these habits seem to walk to the back of the plane, kick open the emergency exit door, and jump out without a second thought.

The specific day I’m talking about is better known as their “cheat day.”

Why do people do this?

Because many magazine, writers, and even experts, tell us that it’s OK to have a complete snack attack one day of the week. There is no mention of whether or not it will cause a lasting effect on the progress that you worked so hard for

The idea of eating a whole days worth of junk food is very attractive to many people. Many complain about having to eat 5 or 6 healthy meals a day, but on cheat day you’d be hard-pressed to catch them without food in their mouth.

The reality is that cheat days, also known as stuffing your face with garbage one day of the week, is a great way to get fat. The following will make what I’m saying very clear.

Many junk foods contain a ridiculous amount of calories. One Burger King Double Whopper with cheese has 1020cal, and Boston Pizza’s Spicy Italian Penne has 1350 calories! For every 21 Doritos chips you’ll be receiving about 250 calories. If you think you can get away with “healthy choices” think again, The Thai Chicken salad at Boston Pizza will only set you back an even 1000 calories.

Let’s take a look at the “Activity cost” of these extra calories.

A 200 pound person has to run at 5.2 miles per hour for 2 straight hours to burn up 1473 calories! Cycling at 5.5 mph would take him 4 hours to burn up 1396 calories. Get ready for this, that same person would need 5 hours of walking at 2mph to burn those calories up. 5 hours!! That’s like one weeks worth of walking on the treadmill for eating one of meals mentioned above!

If, depending on your weight, it requires 5 hours of walking to burn off an excess 1400 calories, and one of the meals above easily provides over 1000 calories, what do you think would happen if you had an entire day’s worth of eating junk food? What would happen is you’d need to spend the next few weeks burning up the calories from your food fest just to get back to where you were before the Food Fest.

If you have a cheat day every week, and some do this over the weekend, as in two days of unbridled mastication, you would never be able to burn up the excess calories. You would start each week so far behind the ball that there wouldn’t be a snowball’s chance in hell of catching up.

People in this situation eventually give up and stop training. They say “that training stuff doesn’t work. I did everything I was supposed to, I even tried working out everyday, and I still put on weight!” They may even believe that it’s their genes,”it runs in the family,” or “I’m supposed to be weak or fat. “

Looking at the amount of time you need to spend exercising and you can easily see how a day filled with meals like this will totally nullify the progress you made the week before. Knowing all of this makes it hard to believe that some so called experts recommend “taking the weekend off.” Good advice if you’re looking to make your belt useless and would prefer suspenders.

Don’t let this scare you. You can still eat the foods you love, and even eat some foods that are high in calories once in a while.

The whole idea of eating some “junk food” to keep your cravings in check is another good idea gone bad. The whole point is if junk foods were a regular part of your diet in the past, simply cutting them out wholesale can cause some to have uncontrollable cravings. If these cravings aren’t attended to, they’ll eventually cause the person to go into a blind eating frenzy, only to come to days later with an ice cream bucket over their head and mounds of empty food packaging everywhere – or something similar. All joking aside, there is some merit to this. However, the point is to keep cravings under control while you gradually minimize junk from your diet

The good thing is if you’re trying to trim up and burn fat off your body, an occasional day that has you eating a little more calories than usual will trick your metabolism into burning faster. It helps minimize the chance of your metabolism adapting to your lower caloric intake, which means continued fat loss. However, let me say it again, over do it and you start to plump up. I believe if you’re going to eat calorie dense foods like this, you should keep it to a, as in one to a max of two, cheat meals a week.

The idea is not to over indulge in all the crap food that is offered today, and instead to start getting used to living healthy and adopting a full time nutritional plan into your diet.

Just because it’s called a cheat meal, it doesn’t mean you automatically stop using your head. You can minimize the “caloric impact” by splitting the meal up into a quarter serving of your favorite “healthy food,” and the rest of your dish made up of your favorite “cheat meal.”

This also works for switching the “staples” in your diet. You can go from a fattier and unhealthier type of hamburger, like medium ground beef, and slowly mix it with extra lean ground beef until you’re eating only extra lean.

You can mix your salad dressing with healthier olive oil bit by bit until you’re only using olive oil.

You can also start adding vegetables to your eggs, essentially making an omelet, by adding a few pieces of whatever veggies you want, until you get the desired serving amount. As time goes by you can slowly increase the ratio of healthy to junky, and before you know it you’ll be eating less and less junk.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking you need to keep eating junk foods to stay sane, it’s a load of bull. Your taste buds will eventually adapt to the new foods and dishes you eat, and the truth is you’ll eventually start to crave the healthier foods, especially when you feel the difference they make, inside and outside the gym.

Also, if you currently don’t eat much junk food that’s great. You don’t have to eat junk food if you’ve never ate it or cared for it to stay on track nutrition wise. As a matter of fact, the longer you eat a certain type of food the more and more your taste buds will become used to it, regardless of whether or not it’s junk food or health food.

Eating Time!

Remember it’s “Cheat Meal”, not “Cheat Day”- Limit indulgences to once or twice per week max.

Slowly reduce, and preferably eliminate, processed foods. If your current diet is loaded with unhealthy foods, don’t try to eliminate them all at one time. Gradually phase out the junk foods with healthier choices by using the mixing method mentioned above.

Junk foods aren’t limited to unhealthy processed foods, fried foods, candy etc. One of the keys to a healthy nutrition plan is balance. Over consumption of any of the three macro nutrients results in an unbalanced meal. Olive oil is great for you when used appropriately; using a cupful at a time, not so healthy. Same thing goes for most “healthy” foods. Keep to a healthy amount and eat balanced meals.

© 2008 Raymond Toulany

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