Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A little controversy: To cheat or not to cheat?

There is a pretty big debate in the fitness world regarding cheat meals, and I think it's really interesting!

Those who believe in cheat meals say that dieting or eating clean for an extended amount of time ultimately depletes your glycogen stores, making it harder for you to work out at 100% intensity. Your body also realizes that you may be consuming less calories, so it will use less energy throughout the day, which will slow down your metabolism and you will be burning less fat than when you first started dieting. So, you need a cheat meal to rev up your metabolism again and keep your body guessing. They say it is also good mentally to be able to allow yourself to indulge every so often (many people that believe in this method recommend cheat meals once a week). The other side of the story is that you should treat your body like a car. If your car typically runs on Premium gasoline, and one day you decide to put in the cheap stuff, what's going to happen? Your car will likely not perform to its highest potential and may even break down. It can also cause damage to your engine or other parts within the car. If you are putting bad food into your body, you are causing it to run differently than normal and potentially causing internal side effects you may not even realize.

When is the last time you had a cheeseburger?

So there are the two sides to the story... my thoughts? Personally, I'm very lucky in that I don't often crave unhealthy foods. I am very satisfied with my six meals a day so I'm not really longing for any cheat meals. My approach: if it happens, it happens, but I'm not a cheat meal planner. I think in the past 5-6 weeks I have had 2 cheat meals and they were both because we were out to dinner with friends. (Not saying you have to cheat every time you eat out) You have to find what works best for you, and I have found sticking to the plan a vast majority of the time is best for me.

Something that may be even more difficult for some of us to give up is alcohol, so I wanted to give a little background info on that as well. Although you can get into all the scientific details, alcohol's effect on the body when dieting/exercising is pretty simple. Whenever you consume alcohol, your body automatically stops using/burning whatever was already in your stomach as well as whatever is accompanying the alcohol (mixers) and burns the alcohol first. Your body starts exerting all its energy to break down the alcohol and it stops metabolizing fat, so it turn it just sits there and will ultimately be stored. In addition, it interferes with protein synthesis which means all the hard work you put in at the gym that day and for up to 48 hours after drinking can be put to waste. Alcohol often causes you to over eat and/or eat foods that are not on your clean diet. It causes dehydration and lowers testosterone levels. I know it's hard to hear, but if you are looking for real results, you have to cut the booze! I'm surprisingly doing very well with this, but let me tell you... when I'm having a rough day at work, I imagine myself sitting at a beach bar with a big, cold, blue moon in hand :) Can't wait until this is a reality-- only about 3 more weeks!

Remember: I'm not a doctor, scientist, nutritionist etc. but the above information is what I have gathered after tons of research. If you find any of it to be untrue, please do not hesitate to let me know :)


  1. So true. The liver stops processing everything to process the alcohol first. Alcohol should definitely be a once in a while treat, NOT a regular occurrence.

  2. I'm all about cheat meals! Comparing the human body to a car is like comparing Apples to Oranges. Sure, your car runs better when you put better fuel into it just like your body but your car doesn't adapt, it doesn't repair itself like the human body does.

    When the human body does something repetitively it adapts reducing the effect of that repetition on your body. I believe that throwing in a cheat meal shocks your metabolism, just like switching up your workout shocks your muscles, in a good way and you don't have to worry about it damaging your engine or any other internal parts because you're not a car.

    I'm not a doctor, scientist, or nutritionist and if I am wrong I would love to hear about it.

  3. I enlisted the help of a trusted source of mine to help respond to your point B. Here's what he had to say:

    To be completely blunt, cars do adapt to an extent. I personally have a Subaru Wrx STi. From the factory they are supposed to run on 93 octane, anything less can cause detonation. Detonation destroys motors and that comes from a lower quality fuel and/or too much timing advancement. All modern fuel injected cars are now setup with what is called a "knock sensor". This sensor is like a little microphone that listens for a certain frequency or detonation. When it hears too much noise, it then pulls timing (timing is where the crank is in rotation relative to the firing point. Timing is what gives the car power.)

    With higher octane fuels like a 100 or 104, you can advance timing and if it is turbo charged like my car is, you can increase boost pressures. This cleaner fuel allows for better performance and a safety margin against knock. If I were to put 87 or lower octane in it and tried to run even factory parameters, the knock sensor would freak out, pull tons of timing and I would still probably detonate and destroy pistons.

    Our bodies don't get "used" to clean foods and need garbage to shock it into positive gains. Like a car, if you dump poor quality food, it will use what it can and store all the trans-fats and genetically modified junk that come with it.

    Challenge your boyfriend! You eat clean and then have him eat an entire medium meat lovers pizza and buffalo wings with ranch or blue cheese. 30-45 minutes later go hit up a legs day with him. I'll even write you a workout and we'll see how his body handles it.

    You up for the challenge? :)

  4. interesting post! i don't like cheat meals, for psychological reasons right now. if i do a cheat meal, i definitely don't want processed garbage, i'll go for something real and delicious at a fancy restaurant. :)


Recent Posts