With so many opinions and approaches in the health and fitness industry, we asked Sydney trainer, Alexa Towersey about her take on cheat meals. 

 

 

 

Alexa Towersey

Personal Trainer and founder of Creating Curves

alexatowersey.com // @actionalexa 

Quals: BSc Biology and Psychology, Post Grad Dip. Sports Management and  Kinesiology, NASM, Gym Jones certified instructor, Precision Nutrition, Bio Signature

Experience: 15+ years

Favourite cheat meal: Guzman Y Gomez Barramundi Burrito and anything salted caramel.

 

I choose to refer to ‘cheat meals’ as ‘treat meals’ to escape any negative connotations - my aim is to create a positive relationship with both food and training, otherwise it will never be sustainable in the long run. I normally suggest one to three treat meals per week, depending on the individual, their specific goals, their level of experience/compliance (you never want to set someone up for failure) and their lifestyle. 

It’s far more sensible when planning a week to schedule in treat meals around social engagements. It’s important to be healthy and happy, so perceived deprivation is never ideal. I think an important part of treat meals is enjoying them guilt-free, which is a lot easier to do in a social environment than sitting alone at home. Solidarity treat meals are often eaten out of boredom, because you’re conditioned to eat while watching television or because it’s filling an emotional void.

A treat meal is exactly that – one meal. It’s not a day and it’s definitely not a whole weekend.  You can undo an entire week of hard work by bingeing in the weekend, especially if you don’t have an efficient metabolic foundation.  If you’re just starting out on a fitness journey, it’s much harder for your body to switch back to fat burning mode come Monday morning. According to Poliquin, the ideal ratio for using treat meals for fat loss is 20:1 or 30:1. That means that if you’re having five to six meals a day, then you should have a treat meal every four to six days.  Research suggests that what you eat first thing in the morning sends a message to your neurotransmitters dictating your choices for the rest of the day, so have your treat as the last meal of the day to mitigate your chances of overeating or encouraging cravings.

I don’t prescribe caloric or macro nutrient breakdowns when it comes to treat meals but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t – it just depends on your objective. In terms of science, treat meals can be used to increase fat loss.  If your body is over-trained and lethargic, and you’re psychologically exhausted, then a short period of ‘planned overfeeding’ can shock the metabolism, raise energy levels, and kick-start any potential decrease in the fat loss process. 

When you’re deciding on your deliciousness, my only serious words of advice would be to make sure your body feels good afterwards.  No cheat meal is worth creating inflammation and pain in the body, so if you’re intolerant or allergic to a food, then it might be worth avoiding it long-term even if you feel like you can’t live without it.