If you’re like most people, you are on the fence about cheat meals. Some consider cheat meals to be a mental reprieve from dieting while others see it as cardinal sin if they step away from their diet for one small bite of that donut they’ve been craving.
I’m here to tell you today that both schools of thought have some merit; however the language used around taking a break from your diet needs to change. The traditional “cheat meal” language is dead.
Enter the “Strategic Refeed”.
Taking a break from your diet is by no means a bad thing. However, taking a day to simply do an all-out binge is not going to do much at all for you, other than cause a slight increase in thermogenesis from digesting the extra food.
On the other hand, doing what’s called a “strategic refeed” has many benefits, including boosting your resting metabolic rate, regulating your hunger hormones leptin & ghrelin and thus allowing you to burn more fat without the worry of regain later on.
What Is A Strategic Refeed?
A strategic refeed differs from a cheat meal in that it is controlled, is as “clean as possible” and strategically incorporated into your routine, as the name suggests. Cheat meals on the other hand, are often an uncontrolled binge on junk food.
To do a proper refeed, at a particular time in your diet, you may increase energy intake by 500-600 calories for a minimum of 3 days. During this time you certainly can enjoy a couple of slices of pizza or a burger, as long as you are smart and keep track of your macros, being careful not to take it too far.
What this will do is cause a significant boost in your metabolism that will last for days AFTER you return to dieting and also acts as a “reset”, for lack of a better word, for your hunger hormones leptin (satiety) and ghrelin (hunger), so you can curb cravings.
The study represented in the graph below shows a significant increase in metabolism with a one week, 50% calorie refeed increase, following three weeks of dieting.
As you can see, over time, your metabolism can decrease while dieting and a controlled increase can give your metabolism the boost it needs (Muller et al. 2015).