So you’ve decided to get into shape by living a healthy lifestyle and eating clean. You are already a week into your diet and you’ve noticed that you’re now starting to crave those things that you used to allow yourself to have on a daily basis. So what do you do now? Do you cave and give in? Or do you hold strong and avoid those foods because they say “cheaters never prosper”?

Cheat Meals Are OK? For Reals??

You would be surprised to learn that many nutrition specialists say it’s ok to have a cheat meal every now and then! Now that doesn’t mean to go crazy and indulge in everything that crosses your path and think that you’re not going to have some sort of repercussion! There is a right and a wrong way to have a cheat meal.

Why Should You Have a Cheat Meal?

You have to think of a cheat meal as a beneficial break in routine and NOT a means of sabotage. Your body has become accustomed to the decrease in calories and has started to slow your metabolism down in hopes of preserving what is now left of our fat stores. Our bodies are highly sensitive and need to be reprogrammed every now and then [2].

To do this our thyroid levels, mainly T3,[3] and the liver enzyme IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor, an enzyme that studies have shown to be a major component in building muscle mass [4]) are drastically lowered and your hunger level has in turn skyrocketed. Your muscles are then sacrificed as a quick source of energy.

I know what you’re thinking! You’ve just worked your tail off in the gym to gain this muscle and now your body is using it as fuel. To reverse this cruel process, we’ll need to trick our body into thinking its sources for nutrients are being replenished so that it will give up our fat stores and we can resume the process of losing weight. Maik Wiedenbach, NASM, BSA, AFPA certified trainer and author, suggests that “by having a cheat meal we’re helping boost our metabolism and lowering the risk of hitting a plateau” [1]. He states that by incorporating a cheat meal into our diet, we’re allowing our body to gain access to a different calorie load which will in turn help boost our metabolism.

How Else Can Cheat Meals Help Us?

Cheat meals not only help us physically but mentally as well. Diets are boring, I’ve been there. Hell, I’m there so I know how you feel. You’ve been good for so long that the thought of eating your chicken and rice one more time bores you and leaves you feeling frustrated and sometimes defeated. Don’t give up! If you have a cheat meal you now have something to look forward to! Whether it is a night out with family or friends or you’ve had your eye on that new restaurant down the street, there is still a sense of normalcy within your grasp!

Cheat Meal or Cheat Day?

First things first, it’s called a cheat meal, not a cheat day. Jim White, registered Dietician and spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association, states “It’s (a cheat meal) not a license to binge. We’re not trying to get drunk on food.” Don’t think you can have anything and everything you want in place of eating your nutritional meals. This not only will cause an unsafe rise in your blood glucose but can cause problems with bloating, indigestion and either diarrhea or constipation [5]. So although it will taste good for the first little bit, the end results are not worth it! Just ask anybody who has dieted down for a bodybuilding, physique, figure or bikini competition! You go out and binge and the bloat and indigestion is ridiculous!

The “Right Way” to Cheat

The right way to incorporate a cheat meal into our diet plan is to set it aside for special occasions or a specific day. Jim White also suggests that cheat meals work when planned for. Knowing that you’re going out with friends on Friday or Saturday will help you stay on track with your diet until then. So choose a day during the week where you allow yourself to have that one cheat meal and look forward to it!

Cheat Meal Tips and Secrets

Now that you’ve established when you’ll be having your cheat meal, here are some tips to make it enjoyable and not miserable!

Avoid deep fried foods or foods high in fat. You’ve been eating clean for a while now and your body has become used to not having this type of food. Eating foods that are fried or high in fat can lead to bloating, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, and an all-around feeling of the blah’s [6].

  • Go easy on the dairy. Sure a bowl of ice cream or a shake sounds really good but getting an “above the rim” shake may not be in your best interest. Sometimes after eating clean, the bacteria in dairy products can have an ill effect on our gut. Usually the symptoms include cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. So choose a smart alternative when it comes to dairy treats such as frozen yogurt, ice creams that are all natural or even a fruit smoothie.
  • If it’s been sweets that you’ve been craving, try a healthy alternative instead of having the entire box of your favorite chewy candy. Natural sugars can be just as satisfying and are far more nutritionally dense then those processed with high fructose corn syrup. Berries and melons of some sort are generally in season year round. Grab a handful or two for a quick cure to those sugar cravings.

Enjoy Your Cheat Meal

Eating out for your cheat meal is sometimes just what you need to end the week. Grabbing a quick bite with family and friends doesn’t need to be a chore or something you can’t enjoy anymore. Many restaurants nowadays are cleaning up their menu items to include meals for those trying to eat healthier. It’s no longer an embarrassment for you anymore to have the waiter opt out half of your meal in order to eat clean.

Hopefully now you don’t feel like you’re doing wrong by having a cheat meal. You’ve been good and deserve a reward of some sort. I promise too, that as time wears on, and you stick to your meal plan, your desire for a sinful cheat meal will become less desirable. You’ll find yourself craving the healthy alternatives rather than that bowl of cake and ice cream. So enjoy the social aspect of eating out once again! You deserve it!


[1] Wiedenbach, Maik. 2013. What is a cheat meal and can it help you lose fat. Muscle and Strength.

[2] WebMD. 2009.

[3] G., Elizabeth. 2013. Thyroid T-3 Review. Green Bracket LLC.

[4] Sacheck, J.M.; Ohtsuka, A.; Mclary, S.C.; Goldberg, A. Oct 2004. IGF-1 Stimulates Muscle Growth By Suppressing Protein Breakdown and Expression of Atrophy-Related Ubiquiton Ligases, Atrogin-1 and MuRF1. American Journal Of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism. Vol. 287 No. 4.

[5] Wynn, Adam. 2011. The Art and Science of Cheat Meals. Livestrong.

[6] Sanders, April. 2011. How Does Greasy Food Affect Your Health? Ehow.

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