Cheat Meals

cheat mealsCheat meals are a topic I haven’t talked about for a little while.  But I think it’s something that’s important to address.  If you’re on my team, you know how much I talk about the importance of nutrition.  It’s going to account for roughly 80% of your results.  So your nutrition is a big deal!  One of the first things I ask most people is if they’re following their nutrition plan if they are doing a Beachbody workout program.  I know someone is going to be successful when they say, “Yeah, I’m following it to a T”.  But when someone tells me they’re just “trying to eat healthy” or “I eat healthy 80-90% of the time” that tells me they might struggle to see results and are likely having more cheat meals than they should.

How Bad Is a Cheat Meal?

So a great question is, “how bad is a cheat meal?”  Well that totally depends.  Typically an average cheat meal can take 2-3 days of working out and following your nutrition plan to make up for.  Doesn’t that stink?  If you have one cheat meal, you’re going to spend nearly half a week working that off!  When it gets down to the numbers it makes a lot of sense.  A pound is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories.  So if you’re eating at a 500 calorie deficit, you’ll roughly lose 1 lb a week.  So lets look at a few common cheat meals.  I pulled this info right from myfitnesspal.

  • 4 slices of Papa John’s pepperoni pizza and 1 bud light = 1430 calories (3491 mg of sodium!)
  • 1 quarter pounder w/cheese meal from McDonalds = 1110 calories (68 grams of sugar!)
  • 2 dorito’s locos tacos from Taco Bell, beef burrito and a large pop = 1100 calories (82 grams of sugar!)
  • 10 bbq chicken wings and french fries = 1498 calories (5,514 mg of sodium, yikes!)

Do you see my point here?  If a typical dinner should only be 500-700 calories, you could be doubling that up at least with some of these meals.  Plus the sodium, saturated fat and sugar are through the roof!  If you go over your calorie budget by a 1000 calories and you normally eat at a 500 calorie deficit, that’s 2 says of super clean eating and hitting your workout to burn off those calories.  And notice I didn’t include any desert and was relatively conservative on the drinks!  I think you can see how this adds up fast.

Can I have a Cheat Meal and Still Get Good Results?

This is another super common question I get.  So can you still get good results if you eat cheat meals?  Well again, that depends.  It depends on how often you’re cheating on your nutrition plan and how bad the cheats are.  Can you allow yourself just one cheat meal a week?  Or does one cheat meal, turn into a cheat day, which turns into a cheat weekend?  That’s where the real trouble lies.  If you don’t control it and let it spiral, then you can really go off the deep end.  That’s when cheat meals can really nullify any progress you’ve made.

On the other hand, if you can give yourself one cheat meal a week and not go overboard, then yes, you can still get good results.  But I would say that from personal experience, if you want the absolute best results, you don’t want to have cheat meals.  I think people see the infomercials and look at people who have had amazing results through 1 round of P90X or Insanity.  The people who have the absolute best results don’t cheat on their nutrition.  I know that because I know a number of people in the infomercials!

So the short answer is yes, you can still have good results, but if you want infomercial type results or if you have trouble controlling a cheat meal and let it knock you completely off your plan then you should stay away from the cheat meals.

When Is a Cheat Meal OK?

So when is a cheat meal ok, then?  There are some circumstances that would make it ok for a cheat meal.  Lets be honest, you’re probably not going to go through the rest of your life and not have a cheat meal, it’s going to happen.  And Shaun T said something recently that I think makes a lot of sense.  Instead of having a “cheat meal” look at it as treating yourself.  That means:

1. It’s planned

2. It’s contained to that one meal

If you plan for it and know it’s coming, etc. that is a much better situation than having an unplanned cheat meal that just comes up.  And like I’ve already mentioned, you have to make sure it doesn’t spiral into more bad eating.  But when you treat yourself you can still maintain some sanity if it’s really bugging you to not eat some of those foods.

One thing I would say is that I personally would wait until I’ve reached my overall goal.  For me, I started out with one round of Insanity and then moved on to P90X.  During the first month of Insanity, I didn’t follow the nutrition plan and did not see any results.  I was having cheat meals too often.  So during the second month, I didn’t allow myself to cheat and I followed my nutrition plan to a T.  The results?  I lost 17 lbs.  I did the same for my entire round of P90X next and lost another 10 lbs.

That’s what got me to my goal weight.  At that point, it was much easier to add in one cheat meal a week and maintain my results.  So for those of you starting out, I wouldn’t really recommend cheat meals in your first round or two.  But once you’ve reached your goal, you’ll be able to add a cheat meal in without affecting your results as much.

So that’s just my take on cheat meals.  It’s a common topic that comes up and I think one that needed to be addressed.  Cheat meals can really make it hard to see good results, but after you’ve reached your goal, treating yourself once in a while is definitely ok.

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