What is a cheat meal?

A cheat meal is when you break your own rules when it comes to nutrition by eating a large amount of something you shouldn’t.

Let’s say you don’t eat any fast food as part of your normal diet, if you go and order a family bucket of fried chicken and eat the whole thing to yourself then that’s a cheat meal! If you have one cheat meal a week, then you’re eating clean 96% of the time – not bad at all! One cheat meal shouldn’t ruin your progress.

“A Cheat meal is when you break your own rules when it comes to nutrition, whereas refeeds are used to prevent weight loss plateaus when cutting.”

What is a refeed day?

A refeed is a planned increase in calories, usually from eating additional carbohydrates. The key difference is that you stick to your diet in terms of the foods consumed.

Refeeds usually take place over the period of a day, and are only strictly necessary when on a cutting or weight loss diet. Refeeds are designed to prevent your body from entering a “starvation mode” where it will hold onto stored body fat for when times get tough. Refeeding by increasing calories up to maintenance every week or two should prevent this and keep your weight loss on track.

What do we do?

Some people plan in a weekly cheat meal as part of their diet, and this can be a good thing as it can help motivate you to eat clean the rest of the time. We think a better approach is to try to avoid cheat meals, but allow yourself to let loose a little when the opportunity presents itself (e.g. family meal, eating out with friends, unable to get anything else). Just make sure you limit yourself to once a week at most, and don’t let a cheat meal turn into a cheat day!

Refeeds on the other hand should definitely be planned into your routine. Refeed frequency should depend on your body fat percentage:

  • If your body fat is above 15%, limit refeeds to once every 2-3 weeks.
  • If your body fat is between 10-15%, refeed once every 1-2 weeks.
  • If your body fat is below 10%, you may want to incorporate a refeed day up to twice per week.