T Nation

Cutting, Carb Loading, And Cheat Meals

After browsing Builder’s prep thread and being seriously cutting fat myself right now, I would like to get some discussion/opinions going regarding (clean) carb or Skip loading VS big cheat meals during a serious cutting phase.

Some possible starting points:

  • Under what conditions is either carb loading or a big cheat meal useful/relevant during a serious cutting phase? For example, stage of cutting phase, low-carb vs mod/high-carb approaches…
  • What works “better” (could be physiological and/or psychological)? Carb loading or one large cheat meal/cheat day?
  • What parameters works best with both approaches? Amounts? Timing? On training days? etc.

My experience:
In my previous cutting phases with Shelby, I typically got a 1h window at the end of the day to stuff myself with whatever I wanted VERY late into the cutting phase. Looking back, I don’t particularly like that approach because of the psychological roller-coaster it produces and the physical side-effects (stomach pain, bloating, etc.). I once did a clean high carb day instead (6 meals with 50g carbs or so) and it felt awesome after a long period of low carbs and the training was great.

Go!

[quote]infinite_shore wrote:
My experience:
In my previous cutting phases with Shelby, I typically got a 1h window at the end of the day to stuff myself with whatever I wanted VERY late into the cutting phase. Looking back, I don’t particularly like that approach because of the psychological roller-coaster it produces and the physical side-effects (stomach pain, bloating, etc.). I once did a clean high carb day instead (6 meals with 50g carbs or so) and it felt awesome after a long period of low carbs and the training was great.
[/quote]

I agree with your assessment. I’ve had many clients come to me asking “when do I get a cheat meal/day?”. To me, it’s too haphazard. I much prefer to make smart use of the advantages you get from bumping up certain variables, but still maintain some control over what you’re doing.

High carb/cal days? Sure. A free-for-all period of time when your body can be ideally primed to actually lose ground if you’re not careful? Not a great idea in my opinion.

S

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:

[quote]infinite_shore wrote:
My experience:
In my previous cutting phases with Shelby, I typically got a 1h window at the end of the day to stuff myself with whatever I wanted VERY late into the cutting phase. Looking back, I don’t particularly like that approach because of the psychological roller-coaster it produces and the physical side-effects (stomach pain, bloating, etc.). I once did a clean high carb day instead (6 meals with 50g carbs or so) and it felt awesome after a long period of low carbs and the training was great.
[/quote]

I agree with your assessment. I’ve had many clients come to me asking “when do I get a cheat meal/day?”. To me, it’s too haphazard. I much prefer to make smart use of the advantages you get from bumping up certain variables, but still maintain some control over what you’re doing.

High carb/cal days? Sure. A free-for-all period of time when your body can be ideally primed to actually lose ground if you’re not careful? Not a great idea in my opinion.

S
[/quote]

So you’re saying as long as it’s clean, it’s fine? Essentially a refeed with a focus on carbs?

When do you advise one to use this? Once progress stalls, or weekly to keep progress up?

[quote]Ripsaw3689 wrote:
So you’re saying as long as it’s clean, it’s fine? Essentially a refeed with a focus on carbs?

When do you advise one to use this? Once progress stalls, or weekly to keep progress up?
[/quote]

I’m not saying that it has to be ‘clean’ per say, because I’ve used many a poptart, and boxes of fat-free baked goods to really meet some high carb days in my own past preps. I just prefer to be able to look at the actual #s, instead of “I ate whatever the hell I wanted, as much as I wanted”, and having to assess just how much an unmeasurable feeding affected the rate of progress.

As to when, first off, let me say that I’m a very big fan of cyclical diets. The psychological benefit of suffering less on most days of the week is huge, and IMO allows for an easier overall experience. Second, Dr. Connolly spoke a few years back about a study that measured two groups of dieters. Both had the same weekly totals, but one was a steady daily intake, and the other fluctuated up and down.

By the end of the time period looked at, the group that had more of a cyclical approach presented more favorable body compositions. Now, I’m certainly not the guy to obsess over if there were other factors that could have played into the results, because at the end of the day, I’ve personally tried both methods, and prefer the method Connolly supports anyway.

The basic premise behind ‘refeeds’, or ‘high days’, or however you wanna refer to an increase in specific #s, is to address the naturally dropping hormone levels that are inevitable during the dieting process. Depending on the individual person, their natural metabolism, how quickly they’re making progress, and importantly, how lean they are at the moment, you can structure these days into your program even other week, every week, or even twice weekly in some cases (I’ve never had to go more than that, because we’re still talking about dropping fat, and too frequent refeeds will pretty much kill steady progress).

S

I’m doing the weekly cheat window saturday nights right now with Shelby at 3 1/2 weeks out.

The ‘window’ approach, used by Shelby, as well as Beverly International athletes (although they plan what it will entail a bit more), is intended to limit what you jam down your pie hole, by placing it as your last feeding of the day. Too often a competitor will have a cheat meal early in the day, and then it somehow turns into an entire cheat day -lol.

S

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:
The ‘window’ approach, used by Shelby, as well as Beverly International athletes (although they plan what it will entail a bit more), is intended to limit what you jam down your pie hole, by placing it as your last feeding of the day. Too often a competitor will have a cheat meal early in the day, and then it somehow turns into an entire cheat day -lol.

S[/quote]

So how do cheat meals or cyclical dieting help with hormone production? My understanding is that hormone production is based on sufficient fats while thyroid function is more based on a sufficiency of carbs, but otherwise?

As long as your macros are sufficient, even when dieting, I don’t know how carb binging would improve hormone production…?

I ask because I am currently cutting. While I’m not going into any competitions and my goal is simply to get to ~10% bodyfat, I’m sick of having size 34 dress pants feel tight :slight_smile: I exercise to look good naked (or at least less bad) and to be healthy, so obviously I don’t want to muck up my hormones during my cut.

–Me

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:
The ‘window’ approach, used by Shelby, as well as Beverly International athletes (although they plan what it will entail a bit more), is intended to limit what you jam down your pie hole, by placing it as your last feeding of the day. Too often a competitor will have a cheat meal early in the day, and then it somehow turns into an entire cheat day -lol.

S[/quote]

You’d be surprised what a starving man can take in just 45-60 min!

(I speak figuratively…I know you wouldn’t be surprised with your background =)…)

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:
Depending on the individual person, their natural metabolism, how quickly they’re making progress, and importantly, how lean they are at the moment, you can structure these days into your program even other week, every week, or even twice weekly in some cases (I’ve never had to go more than that, because we’re still talking about dropping fat, and too frequent refeeds will pretty much kill steady progress).

S[/quote]

(1) Can you please elaborate a bit more regarding when you specifically program “refeeds” into a client’s diet plan. Perhaps one or two examples. I would like to understand what “signs” you roughly look for in a client’s progress/subjective feedback that perhaps necessitates a “refeed”. Also what type of “refeeds”/high cal days do you typically prescribe. Cheers.

(2) I think the anything-goes cheat meal/window approach doesn’t make much sense with regard to the physiology of fat gain/loss. While it might have a positive on hormones, excess fat is ALWAYS stored and not oxidized. Hence, eating a shit load of fat during a anything-goes cheat meal (most people do that I think) WILL make you fatter. How large the net effect is depends of course. Hence, I think a (clean) carb up/high cal day makes more sense.

First off, Stu has been on point in this thread. Great job.

infinite_shore, I will attempt to answer your recent question:

  1. During my diet, there were a few things I would look for in terms of doing a refeed.
    a) If I was subjectively feeling or looking flat
    b) Performance down substantially in the gym
    c) Or if the scaled started dropping to fast (based on my target)

If I was experience two or more of those, I would typically implement a structured refeed (5 to 6 higher carb meals).

  1. While you can only do so much damange during one hour (I believe you will just poop out the excess if you eat a ridiculous amount, but I could be wrong), I agree with you. I don’t like those type of cheats and think that clean carb ups are best.

In my experience, I have the most successful “cut” currently and one of the thing I eliminated was cheat day. Back then, I used to have cheat day where I would eat whatever I want. I didn’t get very far like this…not because I was unable to maintain the habit but I gave up because my results were lackluster. Currently, my “cheat” days are about once every week or two where I will just add an extra meal or two consisting of mainly carbs and protein (ie. rice + fish, or my favorite, Chipotle Burrito Bowl w/o sour cream and cheese).

I really respect all of you guys and your knowledge about your own bodies and how they respond to different scenarios. I can’t wait until I finally know what happens to me and why it happens as close to 100% of the time. Experienced posts like all these really make the site. Keep it up

I experimented with it yesterday, since I’m currently cutting. After I have been on rather low carbs (30-50g/day) for some time now with some pretty nice fat loss progress, I decided to do a clean carb up after to see how my body reacts.

Well, I’m a bit confused how to interpret the results. I consumed a total of around 400g of carbs throughout the day all from “clean” sources, keeping fat pretty low and protein at my usual 300g.
Immediate results were that I had great energy throughout the day and a good pump in the gym. Pretty much as expected. However, I was surprised to see this morning that my bw was almost the same (only 200g more) as it was before I did the carb up. I expected it to be up by at least 2kg or so (bw is around 100kg). What is up with that? Explanations?

If you truly need a carb up and if you don’t consume tons of water (which can be hard because you are already full from the carbs), I found it is not uncommon to weigh similar the next day, especially if it’s clean.

Now if you consumed tons of fluid and tons of sodium with your carb up, you may see different results. You’d be heavy the next day but gradually baseline.

IMO, when you wake up a similar weight, it just shows that you truly needed it. Not very scientific I know, but that’s how I see it.

[quote]timmcbride00 wrote:
If you truly need a carb up and if you don’t consume tons of water (which can be hard because you are already full from the carbs), I found it is not uncommon to weigh similar the next day, especially if it’s clean.

Now if you consumed tons of fluid and tons of sodium with your carb up, you may see different results. You’d be heavy the next day but gradually baseline.

IMO, when you wake up a similar weight, it just shows that you truly needed it. Not very scientific I know, but that’s how I see it.[/quote]

Thanks. Let’s hope that I “needed” it.