Fitness trainer Julien Quaglierini in a restaurant, with an ice cream sundae and a slice of cake in front of him.

The ultimate cheat meal guide: how to treat yourself without compromising your diet?

Well-known to body-builders, the cheat meal is a cheat meal that allows you to indulge in previously forbidden foods. In this way, it helps to break the difficulty of a weight-loss diet, based on lower calorie intake. If used wisely, the cheat meal has numerous advantages for the body. fat loss. In this article, I'll show you how to intelligently manage your cheat meals to achieve your goals.

What is a cheat meal?

Cheat meal: definition

Let's get to the heart of the matter.

Everyone dreams of a perfect body. But to achieve a beautiful, muscular figure, it's not enough to train hard. It's just as important (if not more important) to put in place an effective training program. adapted diet.

On the other hand, sticking to a weight-loss diet can be taxing, both physically and psychologically. Likewise, it can be difficult to reconcile it with a social life.

That's why the cheat meal concept was invented.

" Cheat meal "can literally be translated as Cheat meal ". It refers to a pleasurable meal that can be part of a meal plan. low-calorie diet (low-calorie). 

So, during a meal, you can eat whatever you like (or almost whatever you like, we'll come back to that), guilt-free.

Please note: this is not a carbohydrate rebounda technique widely used in bodybuilding. The main purpose of the cheat meal is to preserve your motivation and, above all, boost your metabolism. In this way, it can help you achieve weight loss success.

Burgers, French fries, pizzas, ice creams, chocolate bars and pastries are undoubtedly among the most common cheat meals eaten by athletes.

Sports coach Julien Quaglierini with a box of donuts in his hands, ready for a delicious cheat meal.
Knowing how to please yourself is essential.

Cheat meals: 2 main approaches 

When it comes to cheat meals in bodybuilding, there are 2 main types of approach: 

  • The classic cheat mealwhich consists of eating foods that are best avoided on a daily basis;
  • The moderate cheat mealThe aim is simply to increase the usual intake of carbohydrates, while eating high-quality, unprocessed foods.

In either case, you can choose to include your cheat meal with breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. The choice is yours!

The difference between a cheat meal and a cheat day

You will sometimes hear about cheat meal "and sometimes " cheat day ". The difference between the two is very simple.

As you can see, a cheat meal refers to a single cheat meal during which you are allowed to deviate. 

Cheat Day is based on the same concept, except that you're allowed to indulge yourself. for a whole dayand no longer on a single meal. In other words, it's a whole day off.

The benefits of cheat meals

Going on a low-calorie diet is very difficult because of hunger, temptation and low morale. This can leave you feeling tired and disrupt your social and hormonal life. During a crash diet, your body will quickly realize that you've lost weight. calorie reduction you impose on him.

In this sense, a weekly cheat meal can be an important ally in shedding unwanted pounds. Let's find out how.

Treat yourself

First and foremost, a cheat meal is a real breath of fresh air during a period of caloric restriction.

It allows you to good for moraleand completely revive his motivation.

Indeed, depriving yourself of certain foods over the long term can create frustration. And clearly, this frustration is the cause of 90 % of weight loss give-ups.

It is therefore important to indulging yourself from time to time. It's also a way of rewarding hard work.

On a broader level, keep in mind that no food is off-limits, even for someone looking to lose fat. It's all a question of quantity and frequency.

To boost metabolism

Eating fatty foods to boost weight loss? It may seem counter-intuitive.

However, cheat meals are an ally for boost metabolism and keep burning calories.

When you diet for too long, your body slows down its metabolic activity to maintain a sufficient level of energy. In other words, your body gets used to the restrictions imposed and no longer needs to use as many calories as before. When this happens, your weight loss stagnates, as does your performance in the gym.

By indulging in a cheat meal with a higher calorie intake, you send a message to your body. Your metabolism kicks in and resumes normal fat burning.

To recharge glycogen stores

During weight training (or any other physical activity), Glycogen in your body provides you with the energy you need.

But this glycogen is not infinite. Reserves are emptied and recharged as you exercise and eat.

When you're dry, it's by definition more difficult to recharge these stocks. As a result, you're more tired, and your performance suffers.

The whole point of a cheat meal is to replenish your reserves, so you can face the next training session with confidence.

To maintain your social life

When it comes to weight loss, the question of social life is central. There's absolutely no question of depriving yourself of these moments of sharing with friends and family.

But social life often means going out to bars and restaurants.

Including a weekly cheat meal in your diet can help you enjoy these events guilt-free.

So if you're planning a birthday party or a meal with friends, you can do it then. In fact, eating and consuming rich foods during a meal will have virtually no impact on your diet, as long as it is planned and controlled.

Sports coach Julien Quaglierini in a restaurant, with a hearty dessert in front of him (scoops of ice cream, whipped cream and banana).
Boosting metabolism, maintaining motivation and encouraging social life: these are the benefits of cheat meals!

Some disadvantages

Of course, adopting the cheat meal also has some negative effects.

For novices, the cheat meal can provoke a feeling of heaviness, as well as digestive problems or headaches. 

It's not for the faint-hearted. If that's your case, I'd advise you to opt for a cheat meal made with healthy ingredients. You'll find some recipe ideas later in this article.

In this specific case, you should opt for a rich, healthy mealBut avoid fast food or junk food so as not to fall back into the downward spiral of eating anything and everything. 

Similarly, this method is not recommended for people who are extremely overweight. It is first necessary to go through a rebalancing of the diet weeks, even months, before adopting this kind of technique.

Would you like help to lose weight sustainably? Discover my personalized diet plan.

What about cheat meals for weight gain?

Cheat meals are often associated with weight loss.

But if there's a cheat meal in the dry, what about for someone who wants to build muscle ? Can he make as many cheat meals as he likes, without affecting his objective?

As you might expect, the answer is no. At least, for someone looking to make clean weight gainby limiting the appearance of body fat.

The example of Larry Wheelsa bodybuilder who gained over 24 kilos in 5 days after a competition, by eating cheat meals!

As with weight loss, successful mass gain depends on controlling your weight. caloric intakeIf you don't, you'll put on weight, but mostly a lot of fat. If you don't, you'll put on weight, but you'll also put on a lot of fat. This approach is now outdated, as we know that it's possible to be much more effective.

You can therefore allow yourself one cheat meal a week when building mass. But don't overdo it, or you won't achieve your goal. Just because you want to gain weight doesn't mean you can overindulge in junk food. Quite the contrary, in fact!

How many cheat meals a week can you eat?

The frequency with which you practice cheat meals will depend on your personal goals. However, it's not a good idea to allow yourself more than one cheat meal a week. This would clearly jeopardize all your efforts.

Eventually, you can make 2 smaller cheat meals, well spaced out during the week, but no more than that.

Another question that often comes up is what attitude to adopt. the day after a cheat meal ? Should you fast? Or cut calories drastically?

Simply resume your normal diet.

Personally, to aid digestion, I recommend getting up in the morning and drinking a large glass of water with half a squeezed lemon.

You don't have to eat until you feel hungry. By adopting this method, you may skip breakfast, but you'll have reserves from the previous day to carry you through to lunch.

Integrate cheat meals into your food program is to leave nothing to chance. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of this strategic meal: 

  • Even if it's a cheat meal, limit as much as possible the foods rich in saturated fats (hamburgers, pizzas, sauces, etc.), or eat them in small quantities.
  • Pay attention to the alcohol consumptionThe harmful effects of alcohol are numerous. Alcohol provides what are known as empty calories. Your recovery will be very difficult and you may experience more aches and pains.
  • Plan your cheat meal on the day you train a weak spot, or the day before your leg session, for a significant energy boost.
  • Eat slowly, until you reach the desired feeling of fullness. By eating too quickly, you risk eating more than you need.
  • Even during a cheat meal, weigh your food and track your calorie intake (using, for example, an app like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret).

4 cheat meals for bodybuilders

If you're looking for a cheat meal idea Here are a few suggestions that may well meet your expectations. There are, of course, a multitude of other possibilities. So it's up to you to find what suits you best.

Avocado and smoked salmon tartines

Spread 2 slices of wholemeal bread with fromage frais (Kiri or Saint-Moret, for example), then add sliced avocado and smoked salmon.

For an extra touch of deliciousness, add 2 fried eggs.

Here you are with a cheat meal healthy about 800 calories, quick and easy to prepare.

Two slices of wholemeal bread with smoked salmon and fried eggs.
Salmon tartines, a gourmet and balanced meal for you to enjoy.

Homemade hamburger with sweet potato fries

Would you like a burger ? It's possible to enjoy a delicious meal without going to the fast-food restaurant.

To do this, you will need : 

  • Wholemeal burger buns with no added sugar
  • A minced steak with 5 % of fat
  • Cottage cheese for the sauce, mixed with a little mayonnaise or low-fat ketchup
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Avocado or seasonal vegetables

Serve your burger with a portion of sweet potato fries an excellent alternative to traditional French fries.


Poke bowl

This dish of Hawaiian origin is a real treat for a guilt-free cheat meal.

You can easily prepare it at home with basmati rice or quinoa, raw vegetables, fresh fruit (mango, pineapple, etc.) and chicken pieces. You can also opt for cooked or raw fish (salmon, tuna, trout, etc.), which are just as versatile. high in protein.

Chicken tacos

Here again, choose homemade tacosrather than those sold in fast-food outlets.

You'll need whole-wheat tortillas, topped with fromage frais, fromage blanc or skyr.

Add grilled chicken or turkey, a few slices of tomato, caramelized onions and peppers. Then seal and heat in a hot pan for a delicious cheat meal.

So, is it a good idea to make a cheat meal?

One thing's for sure: a diet based on frustration and deprivation has never helped anyone achieve lasting results. Once again, no food should be permanently excluded from a diet.

Do you like chocolate? There's nothing to stop you indulging yourself and eating it from time to time, as long as you keep your calorie intake under control.

Successful weight loss depends on the calculation of your calories and the adoption of healthy eating habits. In this sense, the cheat meal can help you continue to lose weight over the long term, provided it's well managed and you don't abuse it.

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  1. Some people say that cheating is an excuse to eat shit but do people realize that the food in supermarkets is already 80 % of shit with their industrial food.

  2. Really great article that can help a lot of people. Indeed, we ask ourselves a lot of questions about the cheat meal principle and there are many opinions... Thank you very much!

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