Strategic cheating is the dirty little secret of the fitness industry: The well-timed cheese-burger and fries that help you burn more fat.
Sounds counter-intuitive and quite impossible. But some expert fitness trainers swear by it.
Here’s how it works.
When you’re on a calorie-restricted diet, your body goes into “famine mode”, and your leptin levels drop to very low levels. Leptin is a hormone that’s released by your fat cells; as you eat and your fat stores fill up, so the level of leptin released by your fat cells increases. Leptin thus controls satiety, telling the brain when to turn off the hunger response, so you don’t store excessive fat. If your leptin level is low your body tends to store food as fat, and you don’t feel satisfied easily.
When you eat a strategic cheat meal, you spike your leptin levels, theoretically putting you back into fat-loss mode. And according to some proponents of the strategic meal, it’s one way to beat a weight-loss plateau.
When the cheat meal becomes a trap
It’s easy to see how the strategic cheat can be abused, or can become a bad habit that destroys your hard work. Remember that the personal trainers who prescribe this type of eating plan have a plan themselves – and their single cheat meal may be strategically spaced a week or two apart.
Here are some tips for incorporating the strategic cheat meal into your regime:
1. Keep your trainer and your tape measure handy
When you first introduce the cheat meal method, watch your body closely to see how it reacts. After all, no two bodies are the same and yours may not react to the cheat meal the same way someone else does.
If you don’t have a personal trainer who’s going to keep track of your progress and your reaction to the cheat meal, make sure to keep a diary tracking everything.
2. Eat well, even when you’re cheating
Yes, it’s a cheat meal. And yes, the goal is to spike your leptin levels. But you should still be kind to your body. Try to choose a cheat meal that isn’t bursting with hollow calories. Consider a rack of ribs with a side of mash potatoes (instead of a Big Mac with fries), for example.
3. Don’t lose your discipline
Make sure you maintain the discipline that got you on your diet and exercise regime in the first place. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret.