The purpose of a treat meal is to give you a mental break as well as your metabolism a boost from an increase in calories. When your calories are below maintenance for an extended period of time it can get difficult mentally to eat too many meals in a row that are in perfect accordance with ideal body composition or your physique goals. The cheat meal or free meal allows you to take a break from those traditional foods that you would normally be eating and have something you may be craving or just enjoy. This meal can also have a metabolism boosting effect on the body and actually help you burn more calories in the long term and increase hormones that have a positive effect on fat loss.
There are definitely foods that are better choices when having your free meal. Pizza isn’t a great option but if you’re going to choose between deluxe and hawaiian, hawaiian is superior. Chocolate covered almonds are going to be of more benefit to your body than gummy bears, and brown rice pasta is a better pick than whole wheat or white pasta. The idea however is to satisfy any cravings that you have so you are more motivated to stick to your plan for the days in between free meals.
Sit at a table in a restaurant or at home, not in front of the TV. It’s way too easy to mindlessly eat while watching your favorite TV program or movie. If you happen to have leftovers from whatever food you ate, freeze it right away so you avoid the temptation of looking at it every time you open the fridge!
I typically have my clients eat cheat meals every 5 or 6 days. A general rule of thumb is to have one free meal for every 20-30 low carb meals you eat, so if I were eating 5 low carb meals a day, I would have a free meal every 5 days. Eat your free meal at night in order to avoid cheating the entire day and also because high carbohydrate meals tend to leave you tired so dinnertime is optimal.
Before you start shoveling ice cream down your throat make sure to eat your regular serving of protein before you have your treat, this will lessen the insulin response in your body and keep you leaner. One way to know when you’ve had enough is you start feeling more thirsty than hungry. If you’re still eating but your body is telling you that it just wants water stop, it’s a cheat meal not a cheat night! A huge motivational factor about sticking to a nutritional program is that once you get lean enough you can move onto cheat evenings and cheat days because the lower your body fat percentage is the better your body handles above maintenance caloric intake.
Another benefit to this type of approach to fat loss is that if you cut out common high carbohydrate allergens like wheat you will notice how your body reacts when you reintroduce them at a free meal. You may stop eating dairy products for 4 or 5 days and then ingest some ice cream as a treat and get sick. Your bowl of Haagen-Dazs could reveal a food intolerance you were unaware that you even had.
The problem with a lot of weight loss programs is that they are too restrictive so people tend to binge after the given program period is over and they gain all of the weight back! People who have cheat meals in their programs actually lose more weight at a quicker rate and they prevent mass binging because cravings are curbed on a consistent basis!
My personal favourite free meal is tuna, salmon and avocado rolls with a homemade dessert!