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Strength Training – Sports Nutrition – Using Cheat Meals, Not Days, to Keep Your Cravings in Check
In correspondence with many gym goers and fitness enthusiasts, I have found that there is a huge discrepancy in what they say and what they do depending on the day of the week.
They are people who train hard, eat right, and do all the things they are supposed to do, to the point where they are on autopilot and flying towards their goal. Then something strange happens. One day, usually on the weekend, all of these habits seem to walk into the back of the plane, kick open the emergency exit door, and jump out without a second thought.
The particular day I’m talking about is better known as their “cheat day”.
Why do people do this?
Because many magazines, writers, and even experts tell us that it’s okay to have a complete snack one day a week. There is no mention of whether this will have a lasting effect on the progress you have worked so hard to make
The idea of eating junk food all day is very attractive to many people. Many complain about having to eat 5 or 6 healthy meals a day, but on a cheat day you’d be hard-pressed to catch them without food in their mouths.
The reality is that cheat days, also known as stuffing your face with garbage one day a week, are a great way to gain weight. The following text will clarify what I am saying.
Many junk foods contain ridiculous amounts of calories. One Burger King Double Whopper with cheese has 1020 calories and Boston Pizza’s Spicy Italian Penne has 1350 calories! You get about 250 calories for every 21 Doritos chips. If you think you can get away with the “healthy option,” think again, Boston Pizza’s Thai Chicken Salad will set you back just 1,000 calories.
Let’s look at the “activity cost” of those extra calories.
A 200 pound person needs to run at 5.2 miles per hour for 2 hours straight to burn 1473 calories! Cycling at 5.5 mph would take him 4 hours to burn 1396 calories. Brace yourself, the same person would need 5 hours of walking at 2 mph to burn those calories. 5 hours!! That’s like one week worth of walking on a treadmill and eating one of the above foods!
If, depending on your weight, it takes 5 hours of walking to burn an excess of 1400 calories, and one of the above meals easily provides more than 1000 calories, what do you think would happen if you had all day to eat junk food? ? What would happen is that you would have to spend the next few weeks burning off the calories from your food fest to get back to where you were before the Food Fest.
If you have a cheat day every week and some do it over the weekend, like two days of binge eating, you’d never be able to burn off the excess calories. Every week you would start so far behind the ball that there was no chance in hell of catching up with a snowball.
People in this situation eventually give up and stop training. They say, “That workout isn’t working. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to, even trying to work out every day, and I’ve still gained weight!” They may even believe it’s their genes, “it runs in the family” or “I’m supposed to be thin or fat.”
When you look at the amount of time you need to spend exercising, it’s easy to see how a day full of meals like this will completely undo the progress you made last week. Knowing all this, it’s hard to believe that some so-called experts recommend “taking the weekend off”. Good advice if you want your belt to be useless and prefer suspenders.
Don’t let that scare you. You can still eat the foods you love and even eat some high calorie foods once in a while.
The whole idea of eating some “junk food” to keep your cravings at bay is another good idea gone wrong. The thing is, if junk foods have been a regular part of your diet in the past, simply cutting them out in bulk can cause some to have uncontrollable cravings. If these cravings are not attended to, they will eventually cause the person to go into a blind eating frenzy, only to emerge days later with an ice cream bucket over their head and piles of empty food containers – or something similar. All jokes aside, it has some value. But the point is to keep your cravings at bay while you gradually minimize unhealthy foods from your diet
The good thing is, if you’re trying to trim and burn fat off your body, the occasional day where you eat a little more calories than usual will get your metabolism burning faster. It helps minimize the chance of your metabolism adjusting to your lower caloric intake, meaning continued fat loss. However, let me say it again, do this and you will start to get chubby. I believe that if you’re going to eat high calorie foods like this, you should stick to, like, one to two, max, cheat meals per week.
The point is not to over-indulge in all the crap that’s on offer today, and instead get into the habit of living healthy and incorporating a full-time nutrition plan into your diet.
Just because it’s called a cheat meal doesn’t mean you automatically stop using your head. You can minimize the “caloric impact” by dividing the meal into a quarter portion of your favorite “healthy meal” and the rest of the meal is your favorite “cheat meal.”
This also works to change the “basics” in your diet. You can go from a fattier, unhealthier type of hamburger, such as medium ground beef, and slowly mix it in with extra lean ground beef until you’re only eating extra lean.
You can mix the salad dressing with the healthier olive oil bit by bit until you are using only olive oil.
You can also start adding vegetables to the eggs, basically making an omelet, adding a few pieces of whatever vegetables you want until you have the desired amount. Over time, you can slowly increase the ratio of healthy to unhealthy, and before you know it, you’ll be eating less and less of the unhealthy.
Don’t limit yourself by thinking you have to eat junk food to stay sane, that’s a load of bull. Your taste buds will eventually adjust to the new foods and dishes you eat, and the truth is that you will eventually start craving healthier foods, especially when you feel the difference they make, in and out of the gym.
Also, if you’re not currently eating a lot of junk food, that’s great. You don’t have to eat junk food if you’ve never eaten it or cared to stay on track nutritionally. In fact, the longer you eat a certain type of food, the more and more your taste buds become accustomed to it, regardless of whether it is junk food or healthy food.
Time to eat!
Remember it’s a “Cheat Meal” not a “Cheat Day” – Limit indulgences to no more than once or twice a week.
Slowly reduce and preferably eliminate processed foods. If your current diet is full of unhealthy foods, don’t try to eliminate them all at once. Phase out unhealthy foods with healthier options using the mixing method above.
Junk foods are not limited to unhealthy processed foods, fried foods, sweets, etc. One of the keys to a healthy eating plan is balance. Eating too much of any of the three macronutrients results in an unbalanced diet. Olive oil is great for you when used properly; using a cup at once is not so healthy. The same goes for most “healthy” foods. Stick to healthy amounts and eat balanced meals.
© 2008 Raymond Toulany
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