Should You Have a Cheat Treat?

The weekend is upon us, and for many weightlifting enthusiasts, that means indulging in a cheat meal meant to fuel the metabolic fire. For others, a forbidden treat once a week staves off the possible lunacy brought on by continual squeaky-clean eating. But is a cheat meal a good idea for everyone? Not so, according to Dr. John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition.

“I think that a modest weekly cheat meal is just fine for some people while it’s a mistake for others,” Berardi says. On his website, JohnBerardi.com, he offers some advice on who should skip cheat meals altogether.

“Cheat meals should only be planned during periods of the year when you’re trying to gain mass,” Berardi explains. “But don’t force it. Calling the binge session a ‘cheat meal’ and using it as an excuse to eat a bunch of junk food is not the way to get big and muscular.”

What about the idea that a cheat meal revs up your metabolism, which could be stalled by constant dieting? Not so, says Berardi.

“One meal will not upregulate your sluggish dieter’s metabolism, despite what you’ve heard. Sure, the metabolic rate gets upregulated for a few short hours after the big meal, but no way will this thermogenesis account for the large caloric load you’ll be dumping into the gut at once.”

Plus, he says it’s hard to stay get back on track after a cheat meal.

“After weeks of dieting, the taste buds, which have all but given up hope, are stirred back to life,” Berardi notes, adding that if you’re eating enough good bodybuilding food each week, you shouldn’t be craving cheat foods. If that’s not the case, consider consuming more calories through the week instead of having a cheat meal.

Another factor to consider is your body-fat percentage goal. Unless, you’ve reached it–skip the cheat meal.

Why does this matter to you? Because cheat meals play an important role in your fitness goals. There’s no definitive wrong or right, so evaluate your goals, take Berardi’s advice and decide if cheat meals fit into your overall game plan.