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Old 10-05-14, 03:18 PM
Cheat Meal,dieting, carbs and protein
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Join Date: Oct 2014
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Cheat Meal,dieting, carbs and protein

I found this article and thought it might help out those dieting for shows or just to get in better shape.

Originally this article was written with the intention of helping to curb fat gain from eating too much on holiday.

However, the more I began to look at it, the more I realised that some of the ideas discussed are applicable at any time of the year as sensible strategies we can incorporate when we have a cheat meal. Although the recommendations outlined are suggested with the intention of helping prevent fat gain from a cheat meal, they can just as easily be applied to a normal diet with the intention of enhancing partitioning towards muscle rather than fat.


Bodybuilders and athletes in general are bound to be aware by now of protein's importance when it comes to building muscle and strength.

Without adequate protein intake all the supplements and training in the world will not be enough to generate significant gains. Most sensible athletes will know that supplementing with around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is a healthy amount to help boost gains.

What you may not be as aware of is the value protein has when dieting.

Not only does protein help spare muscle tissue it has the dual benefit of having a natural appetite suppressing effect linked to the fact high protein foods are released slowly, as well as having a higher thermic effect than carbs or fats.

The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the amount of energy required to help metabolise different foods. Protein has the highest thermic effect of all food types, at around 30%, meaning 30% of the calories in the protein are used up in metabolising the protein. Fibrous vegetables are next at around 20%, followed by grains and simple carbs. Fats have the lowest TEF at around 3% meaning your body expends very few calories to digest and store them as body fat.

Knowing this we can use protein's unique benefits by ensuring that if we are going to have a feast we should kick the meal off with some high protein foods that are also low in fat. Good choices include chicken breast, turkey, tuna, and lean meats and fish in general. They will help by suppressing appetite to help prevent some of the costs associated with overeating, as well as requiring energy to burn off leading to less chance of being deposited as body fat.


Carbohydrates are most people's favourite food type and the one food group which can cause the best structured diets to go out of control very quickly. Their ability to increase levels of the pleasure chemical dopamine make carbohydrates literally addictive!

By consuming a lot of protein with our cheat meals we help to dampen some of the ardour for high carbohydrate foods but there is still more we can do to help ourselves. First of all, as noted above, fibrous vegetables have a high thermic effect, second only to protein. In addition to this they are low on the glycemic index (a measure of how fast carbohydrates elevate blood sugar levels). As such, everyone worried about eating too much should help themselves to a generous helping of vegetables with some good choices being broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, and cabbage.

At this point the combined effect of the high protein food and the vegetables comprise a dual safeguard in preventing you eating so much that you literally gain a week's worth of fat in one day.

At this point, most people will be wanting to indulge themselves. Go ahead and do so. Everyone needs a break at some point and it is futile and counterproductive to try to override your body and brain all the time. We can still apply some rules though in the following areas:

Fish and Meats - Aim to eat healthy meats and fish still as much as possible.

Carbohydrates - Focus on eating high carbohydrate, low fat foods like breads, pasta, potatoes, and rice.

Fats - In an ideal world keep these low as they are easily deposited as body fat when we eat too much. If you intend to consume significant quantities of alcohol or carbs, any fat is more likely to be deposited as body fat.

Alcohol - For many people the essence of enjoying ourselves requires at least some alcohol consumption. Although demonised by bodybuilders for decades, alcohol has some unique characteristics that makes it consumption and occasional overconsumption permissible.

First of all, alcohol cannot itself lead to weight gain without a concomitant intake of other food types. The reason for this is that your body treats alcohol as a toxin, something devoid of nutritional value which requires your body to burn alcohol off whenever any is consumed.

That means alcohol cannot be stored as body fat. However, alcohol has a strong tendency to lead to an increase in appetite triggered by it's consumption.

This increase in appetite and the subsequent intake of junk food that follows alcohol consumption for many people, is what causes most drinkers to gain body fat so readily. If we just drank alcohol (ideally wines and spirits which do not contain the carbohydrates that beer does), and eat lean meats and carbs the likelihood of fat gain is reduced massively.

Alcohol has 7 calories per gram of alcohol with a TEF of around 20% meaning the real value is around 5.6 calories per gram. This gives a little room when drinking alcohol.

Another concern bodybuilders have about alcohol relates to potential adverse health consequences. In this respect research shows that moderate alcohol drinkers tend to live longer and show a better cardiovascular risk profile than teetotallers. Furthermore, there is research to show that alcohol can increase insulin sensitivity which in turn can lead to better nutrient partitioning, as well as data showing moderate alcohol consumption can protect against the incidence of various diseases such as diabetes. Given all this it is safe to say that no-one should shun alcohol on their cheat day from a health standpoint.

Of course, the reason many hardcore trainers avoid alcohol are due to its purported negative effects on both body composition and on hormone levels. One three week study where drinkers consumed the equivalent of three beers a day showed a drop in testosterone of 6.8% over the duration of the study. Other studies show that binge drinking can cause a temporary reduction in testosterone of around 20%.

Although these numbers should discourage anyone from daily consumption or a one off binge, the middle ground of having a few drinks once a week is likely to be negligible in terms of the impact on testosterone levels.


So far we know that protein is very important in a cheat meal because of it's higher TEF and appetite suppressing effect, while slow digesting carbs come second. Once these two are in place there is less likelihood of a cheat meal going badly wrong. Alcohol we know cannot be stored as fat directly while dietary fat is most easily deposited as fat where overall daily calories are higher than maintenance.

An excellent strategy to employ when we have a big meal is to eat less in the run up to the meal and make strategic use of fat burners beforehand to help prevent overeating. When we speak of fat burners which can help before a cheat meal there are obviously appetite suppressants, but the whole point of a cheat meal is to give a psychological and physiological break from dieting so an appetite suppressant is not advised, however look for one that has a mix of ingredients that work to prevent fat storage and increase fat metabolism.


To recap here is are the key take home points to ensuring a cheat meal strategy works for you:

On the day you plan to have a cheat meal, try to eat less earlier in the day to provide a bigger reserve of calories for you to eat later.

Take some a fat metabolizer half an hour before sitting down to eat.

Start meals off with proteins like fish, marinated lean meats and fibrous vegetables.

Drinking alcohol is okay providing you limit it to a maximum of five drinks. Any more can cause negative effects on testosterone levels as well as lead to delayed muscle recovery.

Carbohydrates are fine to consume but you should limit dessert if consuming alcohol.
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