The Cheat Meal
You’ve probably seen photos posted all over instagram, facebook and on bodybuilding websites of pros with meals comprised of thousands upon thousands of calories sitting infront of them.
A couple of years ago the rock cheat meal went viral, with hundreds upon thousands of reposts of what Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson himself eats on a cheat day.
But what’s the deal with these massive meals dismissed as a cheat? Is there any benefit to them? Here’s my take on the cheat meal over the last 5 years I’ve spent in bulking, cutting and maintenance phases.
Cheat meals are A OK.
A cheat meal isn’t going to debunk your diet if done correctly – yes, pizza, ice cream, hamburgers… you can have whatever you want BUT there’s a number of ways in which this is often misinterpreted, a cheat meal should not…
A Cheat Meal Should Not Be Every Other Day
A cheat meal is a reward for sticking to your diet and hitting your caloric intake correctly for a period of time, generally a week.
If you’re following a low carbohydrate diet the cheat meal is also a great way to replenish your glycogen stores which after a period of being low carbohydrate and training hard will become depleted… however there’s no such thing as a daily carbohydrate refeed or a daily cheat meal, that’s just a ruined diet.
A cheat meal can be scheduled however I recommend cheat meals being at minimum 5 to 7 days apart (the exception to this rule is if you’re in competition shape and low calorie you may need to perform calculated carbohydrate refeeds more frequently).
A Cheat Meal Should Not Turn Into A Cheat Day
A cheat meal is just that, a meal.
It may be 500, 1,000 or 2,000 calories… however it’s one meal.
A cheat meal should not turn into a cheat day, as multiple meals that’re calorically dense can easily see your pushing into the 8,000+ calorie mark for the day, resulting in many days of hard work sticking to your diet all for nothing.
A Cheat Meal Is Not 5 Meals Eaten At Once
Once again, although a cheat meal is your chance to eat the food you’ve been craving it shouldn’t turn into a rock cheat meal extravaganza, I’ll explain why shortly but cramming as many calories as humanly possible into one sitting does not make it a cheat meal.
A Cheat Meal Does Not Involve Copious Amounts Of Alcohol
Alcohol is the enemy of the bodybuilder.
Unlike a cheat meal which although is generally loaded with calories, those calories are macronutrients (a ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fats) which our body requires.
A big dose of carbohydrates will give you energy and assist restoring your glycogen stores provided you’ve been on a fairly low carbohydrate diet for the week.
Alcohol, on the other hand contains empty calories… there’s nothing there.
You’re adding numbers to your quota however you’re getting no benefit from them – when a cheat meal is combined with alcohol you’re sabotaging yourself as the amount of work required to take control and burn the calories you’ve consumed is huge.
If you do want to drink that alone should be your ‘cheat meal’, not calorically dense food paired with alcohol – that’s self sabotage.
The Rock Cheat Meal – Should You Go All Out?
“After 150 days of eating clean The Rock allowed himself a legendary cheat day, 12 pancakes, 4 double dough pizzas, and 21 brownies.”
So a 1,500 calorie cheat meal is beneficial from time to time, does that mean a 15,000 cheat meal is better? Will your glycogen stores be through the roof resulting in increased strength and size?
Well, not quite and here’s the thing…
Fat loss and mass gain are a game of number, calories in vs. calories out.
When we talk about calculating your calories on a daily basis that’s simply because it’s the easiest way to keep track of how you’re progressing in terms of your caloric surplus (for bulking) or caloric deficit (for cutting).
Our bodies don’t have a magic button that ‘resets’ our calories after every passing 24 hour period.
If you’re goal is 2,500 calories per day to cut down and get shredded and you turn a simple cheat meal into a the rock cheat meal style day you’re going to be consuming an additional 8,000~ calories. These 8,000 calories don’t just disappear at the days’ end – you’re essentially sabotaging an entire week of your cutting diet in order to have this cheat day.
When you’re bulking it’s not so bad…
But if you’re cutting you cannot afford to derail your diet to this extent.
Keep it simple and stay on-track with your goals – have ONE cheat meal per week comprising of whatever you want – keep in mind we’re only talking one meal here.
On your cheat meal day lower the calories you consume from other foods (e.g. reduce portion size of carbohydrates such as rice, sweet potato and pasta which may be a part of your diet).