The DMs on my Instagram are full of questions about cheat meals. People want to know how often they should have a cheat meal without sabotaging progress. Of course, nobody wants to hear that they have to go without things they crave in order to get the best possible results. To answer this question accurately I need to break it down into segments.
Whenever I see somebody who has consumed thousands of calories from bad processed food on IG, it amazes me that they are willing to do that to their health. It doesn’t matter if they are shredded or jacked, I’m focused purely on health here. When you consume bad calories, particularly in extreme quantities, this triggers chronic inflammation. Digestion, heart health and general recovery are all affected by this. Have you ever noticed your stomach is often “upset” the day after a cheat meal? This is your body telling you it doesn’t enjoy the s*** you ate the night before.
Regardless of the calorie count, or whether the cheat meal “fits your macros” if it is riddled with artificial colorings, flavorings and processed foods I don’t recommend you consume it. This isn’t a question of body composition; this is about preserving your health.
My recommendation is to always create a homemade healthy alternative. This is possible with pizza, burgers, fries and all the usual things people crave. Not only will the calories be much lower, but the ingredients also contribute towards your health. You won’t wake up the next day feeling lethargic, dehydrated and full of regret.
Regarding the frequency of “cheat meals” it depends on the context. If you are willing to listen to my advice and prepare homemade alternatives dieting becomes very easy because you can practically “cheat” most days. This is because you are in fact preparing healthy, nutritious food which is also relatively low in calories and abundant in the right nutrients.
However, if you are somebody who insists on eating the usual s*** people crave on cheat days in large amounts then it becomes difficult to answer this question accurately. Calorie intake is clearly a consideration and most cheat meals are extremely dense in energy, therefore it is very easy to over-consume which sabotages progression. Sometimes it can takes weeks to recover from the over-consumption caused by a cheat meal! The best solution is to put a calorie cap on your cheat meal, but this means you will only have a very limited amount of food and you will still be eating nutrients which aren’t healthy for you.
Generally speaking, the leaner you are the more you can get away with a cheat meal because you are much more insulin sensitive. This is even more true for those who carry a lot of muscle tissue because it acts like a sponge. However, this is not to be abused if health is a long-term priority for you.