27 Mar Cheat Meal Versus a Refeed
You’ve probably heard both terms, and you may believe these to be synonymous, but the truth is, they are actually very different.
One of the biggest mistakes a see and hear people making is that they “do good” all week and then have a cheat meal, or cheat day on the weekend. This is SO wrong.
First of all, what in the world does “do good” mean? This is big reason why I don’t believe in diets. If you go “on” a diet, you eventually have to go “off” a diet, and then what?! Will you go back to eating the way you did before going “on” the diet. The same eating plan that got you to want to start a diet in the first place? Will you magically retain all your hard work and results? Sorry to rain on your parade, but fitness and health doesn’t work that way. It’s a lifestyle change that gets you to your goals, and that same lifestyle that allows you to sustain and maintain the results of your hard work.
The five days “on” and two days “off” plan doesn’t work. The weekend is 28.8% of of your week, so if you are consistently overindulging 28.8% of every week, your progress may be limited or even non existent. Not to mentioned, you spend almost all week trying to recover from the weekend choices, only to arrive at yet another weekend, and the cycle continues.
So what is “cheating”? Well, cheating would be consuming more calories than you normally would, or that you even need, and disregarding nutrition. I like to say there are two “layers” to cheating. The first layer is eating too much food, over and above your calories and macronutrients. This erases the caloric deficit you need to lose weight, and/or creates a surplus, which can cause weight gain. Cheating 28.8% of your week basically erases any deficit you may have had during the week.
I’ve heard some people say they only have one “cheat meal” a week, so is that bad? The problem with this is that mentally people believe they only get one free meal a week and thus tend to overindulge in one sitting. They try to cram so much food in because they know they will not get another cheat meal for a week. Not to mention that cheat meals are usually eaten at a restaurant which can pack in upwards of 1500 calories in a meal! Not to mentioned the high amounts of carb and fats in these cheat meals. Remember, that what your body can’t use, is stored as fat.
The second layer of cheat meals “fitting” calorically dense foods that lack nutrition into your macros. So while you haven’t created a caloric surplus or offset the deficit, you have introduced refined sugars, and processed foods back into your diet. Let me preface this by saying, I am all for balance in foods, but too much can be bad. I wrote a blog on the sugar addiction and this is exactly what happens. When you are trying to change your lifestyle, your body needs time to adapt to whole foods and nutrition. If you continuously introduce refined sugars into your diet, that metabolic adaption will never take place. You will never allow your body to experience the same satisfaction it gets from sugar laden foods with whole, complex, nutrient dense foods. Furthermore, it takes a while for your body to rid itself of these sugars, trans fats, and oils, so by filling your body with these ingredients every 5 days, you never truly allow them to leave your body. You are setting yourself up for a cyclical relationship with food and thus the “yo-yo” dieter is born.
Well what is the alternative? I am a huge fan of refeeds. Refeeds are basically a tracked day with a higher intake goal. So you will have higher macros and thus higher calories. Usually these refeeds are anywhere from 300-500 more calories per day than a “normal” day of eating. The goal is to feed your metabolism so that it doesn’t believe it is starving. Refeeds are not assigned every week, but on an as needed basis. If you have been dieting for a long time on low macros, a refeed could be beneficial so that your body gets more fuel and more nutrients. Yes, I said nutrients. So that means, a refeed isn’t an excuse to pig out on calorically dense foods with zero nutrition. Refeeds are higher macros that should still be filled with predominately whole foods. However, I do recommend fitting in some treats here as well to prevent binging on these foods later. BUT if you have been fitting your daily macros with whole foods, you may find you don’t even crave these sugar laden goodies and that you actually want to fill your refeed macros with more whole foods! See how this works now?
Once you break yourself of the mental hold of refined sugars and processed garbage, your body actually craves whole foods the same way you crave crap now!
I personally get asked all the time if I have cheat meals and the answer is no. I do have periodic refeeds, but I choose to fill my day with whole foods. My body actually craves these foods now.
If you’re just starting out on your healthy and fitness journey, the best advice I can give is to stay CONSISTENT. With TIME and CONSISTENCY, you will reach your goals. Again, the biggest hold up is the cyclical “good” week and “bad” weekend. You never allow your body to adapt and you continuously fluctuate between nutrient dense foods at a caloric deficit and calorically dense, nutrient absent foods at a surplus. You are basically spinning your wheels and never really covering any ground.
Refeeds are great for a metabolism and mentally sanity! BUT remember, food is fuel so even on these refeed days, be sure and utilize it! Get in that gym and bust out an amazing lift. Your muscles will benefit from the excess carbs and I guarantee you’ll have a killer workout!