By Foodism Team
It’s impossible to stick to a healthy diet 100 per cent of the time. Cravings and the urge to just let loose come and go for everyone. Even The Rock, who’s as famous for his strict diet as he is for his movie roles, allows himself to indulge every once in a while. Research shows while it may seem like a cheat meal can derail your healthy goals, in fact, it can actually be important to your diet.
Here, we break down why cheat meals are important and how they can actually benefit your diet and fitness routine.
It all has a lot to do with metabolism.
There are two main hormones that we need to focus on here: leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is the hormone that regulates your appetite and controls satiety; it signals when you’re full. Read the latest research on boosting metabolism and burning fat.
Your leptin production depends on your calorie intake; if you are in a calorie deficit or consume excess calories, your leptin will decrease and increase respectively.
On the other hand, ghrelin is a peptide hormone that tells you when you’re hungry. When you are trying to lose weight and are following a low-calorie diet, your ghrelin levels can actually increase.
Cheat meals can regulate our hormones
When you’re on a weight loss diet, you should consume fewer calories than what your body needs to function normally (this is called your TEE – total energy expenditure).
However, over time your body will grow used to a low-calorie diet and adjust accordingly, which can lead to a plateau.
A cheat meal high in calories and carbohydrates can actually assist jumpstarting your metabolism (read the research here) and regulating these hormones. This way, you encourage the body to keep burning these calories, instead of adjusting to this lower intake.
One study separated healthy, non-obese men into three groups.
Each of these groups then underwent four three-day periods, during which they consumed:
1. 70% of their TEE (underfeeding)
2. 130% of their TEE (overfeeding)
3. 100% of their baseline TEE (eucaloric diet).
This study showed that when the subjects were underfed, their leptin decreased. It was only when the men overate that their leptin production returned to ordinary, proving that a cheat meal is needed to actually replenish your leptin levels to its normal state.
With an indulgent reward acting as the light at the end of the tunnel, people find that they are more motivated to remain healthy that 80 percent of the time. Plus, that meal will definitely taste yummier knowing that you’ve earned it!
Cheat meals give us a mental break!