T Nation

To cheat or not to cheat?

In this week’s “Damage Control” article, the author says this…

…And physiologically, there’s no sound reason to have a cheat meal. One meal will not upregulate your sluggish dieter’s metabolism, despite what you’ve heard. Sure, the metabolic rate gets upregulated for a few short hours after the big meal, but no way will this thermogenesis account for the large caloric load you’ll be dumping into the gut at once.

About a month or two ago, I read “The Cheater’s Diet” which worshipped cheat meals every 3rd or 4th day, as they can be actually beneficial to your bodyfat percentage (and no, I’m not talking about the “psychological advantage” you get from the meal). Which one is correct???

Personally I am not sure if one is right or one is wrong. I think a lot of the articles are put out as food for thought, things to think about or try etc. Dieting is such a personal thing due to each individual’s will power , carb sensitivity. The only way to tell what works for you is experimenting with different approaches over time.

The correct one is whichever works for you.



Throughout my time reading T-Mag, and training in general i have discovered that many reputable, and often prominent strength coaches have ideas that differ from(and sometimes disagree with) others in their field. It doesn’t make either wrong, it just means that through experience (theirs and their clients) they have come up with a different conclusion. (Or new reasearch has come to light…) Try both, and if you discover that a cheat meal helps with your fat loss, screw the science and continue with it.



Though i read T-Mag religiously every week, i’ve learned to not jump on every new program that comes out. I just stick with what works for me, until it stops working, and then check out a King/Davies/Tate program. 3 years, and 70lbs of muscle later, i think I’m on the right track. Training and diet are obviously two different things, but it’s not too hard of a leap to apply principles that work for one to another.

I am no expert on this and hopefully joel can clear this up better but I have asked a lot of questions and it is working wonderfully for me. My understanding is that a cheat meal won;t do all that much but a 7-8 hour carb up or cheat sessions like Joel recommends in his diet will be beneficial. It will restore glycogen levels somewhat and prompt the body to Make(?) more leptin which tells the body to start burning fat again. It will also helo upregulate the metabolism. I hope this was right. If not Joel will correct me I’m sure. After all it was his article.
:slight_smile: Groove

AC, you have to understand the purpose for both. They, in their own respects, are both correct. The Damage control article is an article for those who eat right, or just basically have a maintance type diet and wish to cheat once in a while.

The cheater's diet is basically, well let's say that you are on the t-dawg diet and cannot get rid of that last bit of fat! Well the cheater's diet comes into play in that situation in which you would follow the guidelines for a period of 2.5 weeks. Then you would continue on the t-dawg diet and so forth.

So, one is for the maintaince individual and the other is for the dieting folk. I Tried the "Cheater's Diet" myself for only one week though as boxing is something that demands a ton more than just 1500 calories. It went well as my bodyfat went from 6.7-7.0%to about 5.7-6.0% and now I have kept it there with a maintance diet. So it works well.

as for the Damage control approach I also use that NOW twice a week, I basically eat maintance, healthy, and strict then two days out of the week I cheat following the damage control approach. Been doing this for about two months now and works like a charm as well. As for the supplements I use 750mg of ALA, 200mcg of chromium histidate, 100mcg old T2, 3 capsules of hydroxycut or 2 capsules of Diurlean one hour before the meal. No damage what's so ever.

Actually, both are correct.

Berardi states that a single meal will not upregulate your metabolism; in that, he may be correct, though I am certain people will debate that.

On the other hand, Marion's "Cheater's Diet" actually recommends cheat sessions which last several hours. So, while one meal may not have much physiological benefit as far as upregulation of metabolism, it is hardly comparable to an overfeed which will encompass several meals.

Hope this helps.

Berardi is talking exclusively to someone dieting to get ripped when speaking of having a cheat meal for upregulating your metabolism. John(no fun)Berardi states emphatically to never have a cheat meal while dieting to rip.

Answer this question:

Do you crave cheat meal type foods?

If yes - you need to figure out the most effective way to incorporate cheat meals and should listen to Joel and Alessi.

If no - you don't need to cheat. But you may want to look into periodic carbohydrate refeeds on intense diets.

It is by no means a black and white question, so there is no perfect general answer. It is situationally and individually specific.

Current scientific evidence supports using cheat meals to upregulate your metabolism but ONLY if you are dieting and are below your body’s homeostatic setpoint for bodyfat levels. The cheat meal in itself won’t increase metabolic rate much but the issue here is leptin. Leptin controls most of the functions of the body related to bodyfat control and on a diet leptin levels take a quick nosedive. A properly timed re-feed or high calorie cheat meal can upregulate leptin levels for a time and thus enable continued bodyfat loss. The lower leptin levels are the more a cheat meal will help. If you haven’t been dieting, are at a fairly homeostatic bodyfat level and your leptin levels are normal then having a big cheat meal won’t do anything except allow you to indulge.

It’s only of benefit if your leptin levels have crashed due to hypocaloric dieting. One meal isn’t going to do it, but an 8 hour session will. If you want to minimize the damage, I have recommended keeping fat minimal. The point is, if you get back to your diet and training regimen after the cheat/overfeed then you will get leaner over the course of the next few days due to an upregulation of the hormone leptin.

Joel, I agree with your plan, but is one overfeed/cheat meal enough to stimulate leptin production? Or is something else at work here?

On a side note, when I was training for my contest, I did something similar to the “Cheater’s diet.” The last four weeks I was training like a madman, and I noticed a pattern which I could not avoid. I would train and diet hard for about four days, and all of a sudden I would begin to freak out. This freak out consisted of one huge carbohydrate meal (the “bad” carbs). It suprised me that I would fall into this pattern because I’m highly disciplined, and I would get very depressed after I ate it. But the next day I would get up more motivated than ever and kick ass for another four days, and then I would cheat again! And it was through this method I attained my leanest condition and won my contest.

A single meal may have some impact, but not the optimal impact. You’d almost certainly get better results by spreading things out over a longer period of time. Congrats on your results.

Stay tuned for an Appetite For Construction Q and A that addresses this very question. It’s my current thoughts on the “cheat meal”, what, where, when and why.

John, I am glad to see you are starting to post again. You really do give invaluable advice. I sent you an email probably about a month ago through your website, and I didn;t get a reply to it. I figured you were just really busy with everything you do, but since I have seen your name floating around the forum a little lately I thought I would see if I could get you on here.(Oh yah the email would have been under the name luke Denley)
I was curious as to wether you were going to be doing any seminars in the west of Canada anytime(Alberta) and if none were planned what would the possibility of convincing you to do one be? Reason being, there is an uneducated mass of Kinesiology students at my univerisity who are getting fed information saying that diet should consist of 58% carbs, and when I asked my prof about possibly brining up a high protein, high good fat diet so people could see an alternative she said it was not proven yet. Ughhhhhhhh Anyways I would love some info on prices, availability, etc if you could.
Thanks,
:slight_smile: Groove

Grooveless One,

Sorry that there was no response. Typically I respond to each and every email that I get but I imagine that there are a few that slip thru the cracks and go unanswered.

To address your question - I often visit Calgary and Canmore. For starters, my girlfriend lives in Calgary. Secondly, I consult with many of the olympic teams and with the olympic oval out there. Third, I love spending weekends in Canmore and Banff.

Currently Im trying to arrange 2 talks, 1 at Destination Perfection in Calgary, and 1 in conjunction with a supplement store. I’ll probably be setting up more seminars that will take place at the University of Calgary. In addition, I may be lecturing at U of C for a new cutting edge performance training course for grads and undergrads.

Anyway, give me a shout again at my jb address and we can chat more about this.