T Nation

Science Behind Cheat Meal?


Hey guys. I know there's the debates about cheat day vs meal, cheating vs re-feeding, and all that. Basically, I know my own body, and how it reacts. I typically eat around 2600-3000 calories a day, to build muscle while slowly burning away body fat. (6'0 200lbs)....Once every couple of weeks, I smash a 3-4-5 thousand calorie meal, purposefully, to eat foods that I've stayed away from, as well load up on any fat or carbs that I may have been missing from my cleaner eating.

And the thing for me is, when I used to be fat and 300lbs, and ate a meal like this, I was sluggish, couldn't do anything but sit on the couch and pass out.

Yesterday, (as with many cheat meals before this after changing my body & eating habits), I smashed a Triple Baconator, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Large Fry and Large Chocolate Frosty for dinner (around 3000 calories)...and woke up in the AM feeling leaner than I did all week before. And that was before I went to the bathroom.

So, I know this works for me, and the calorie surplus will most definitely help my lifts for this coming week... but I was wondering if someone could break down the science of it, just for my own personal curiosity, and maybe it'll help out some people along the way.


Lyle McDonald attributes this phenomenon to the mobilization of water from one body compartment to another. (Can’t link it, sorry.) For example, a big bump in carbs will top off glycogen stores. Each gram of glycogen brings with it 3 grams of water into the intracellular space. If this shift removes water from the interstitial space, it will leave you looking dryer/leaner. (Note that this ‘glycogen top-off’ mechanism also explains why you feel stronger in the days after the refeed.)