About two months ago, you started the typical bodybuilding diet. At first it was a bit of a challenge but after the first week, you had everything under control. Gone were the days of having to snack on some chocolate, or have garlic bread with your salad. Each night you prepared your food for the following day, and like a soldier, you knew exactly when and what to eat. You felt as though you had the entire diet maze all figured out, and would be lean for the rest of your life.
Eight weeks into your 'diet', even though your abs are beginning to show, your energy levels are a lot lower then they used to be. Plus, your mind is starting to think about 'food'. Not chicken, sweet potatoes, or green beans, but of dipping a chocolate bar into a bowl of ice-cream! You can hardly call that food, but these are real thoughts and they aren't going away. How can this be happening?! Feeling frustrated, you think to yourself, 'I'll just buy a small piece of chocolate, not an entire bar, and that will satisfy my craving for something sweet.'
Within seconds the chocolate is gone, and you know you need more. There is no talking yourself out of it this time, and within 20 minutes you have eaten two chocolate bars, and 500ml of cookie doe ice-cream. How can you justify this, and what can you do to prevent this from happening again? For the next couple days, you are overwhelmed with guilt and have a hard time picking up where you left off. The Solution!
Not all is lost, and your future is brighter then ever, if you follow this simple concept. The concept of having a " " once a week. To me, Cheat Days (or meals) are necessary to not only emotionally calm your cravings, but to jump start your metabolism and provide extra energy. Eating foods that are higher in calories, or are not normally in our food plan, will increase our metabolism since our bodies are forced to work harder at burning the calories ingested. The key is to cheat only when necessary, and this skill can take time to learn.
Many people I know have a cheat day every Sunday, however I work better on cheating a few meals or snacks each week. Devoting an entire day (Sunday) to cheating doesn't work for me emotionally since I know I would want something naughty by Wednesday or Thursday. Through trial and error, I know my body and mind works best when I allow myself to have a cheat meal when I truly need one. This may mean a Frappuccino, a small bowl of ice cream, or some toast with peanut butter.
Whether you have reached your fitness goals or have 20 pounds to loose, having a cheat meal will keep your sanity and rev up your metabolism so that when you return to your clean eating you will burn calories faster, now that your metabolism is working harder.
If you have been dieting down for a contest, and training twice a day for 10 weeks, you want to be sure everything you consume is what you need, gram for gram. Having a cheat day at least three or four times can help keep your sanity during your contest prep. The final two to four weeks before your show are crucial to your chances of winning, and here is what I did during that time.
Competing to win means sacrifice, and when I was dieting for my bodybuilding contest, I didn't cheat the last four weeks. These thoughts which I ran through my mind is what helped me maintain my focus:
- Do what your competitors are doing, but do it better.
- Eat how your competitors are, but eat cleaner.
- Never miss a workout, and train like your competitors, but train harder and smarter.
- Most importantly, keep in mind that your time will come when you will be off your contest diet. Now, while you are dieting and training, is your time to shine and the stage is only mints out of the 12 weeks.
Be Armed and Ready!
- Set a cheat day once a week, or eat clean all week and let yourself relax a little when dining out.
Lighten up. One splurge will not ruin your progress. In fact a healthy diet can include all food in moderation.
Get moving. Do an extra 10 minutes of cardio tomorrow morning or add a couple extra sets to your weight training routine.
Think long term. You will be eating for many years to come, so follow your clean eating plan and get back on track, even though you may be tempted to skip dinner to make up for you indulgence.
Learn from your experience. Why did you cheat? Did you not have your food prepared? Were you board? Over hungry? Depressed or Anxious? Find out what made those sweets so tempting and be armed and ready for next time!