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How Often Should You Incorporate Cheat Meals Into Your Diet?

Healthy food on table next to unhealthy food

When you hear the term “cheat meal,” there’s a lot of confusion about what it is and how it affects your diet. Some people swear it helped them achieve a ripped body; others say it ruined the body they had. If you look anywhere online, you’ll see all kinds of influencers saying that you can’t have a cheat meal, that you can have one every day, that you should only have them once a month, that it's bad for you, that it's good for you, and so on. And honestly, it can be incredibly confusing to know what’s true and what’s not.

Today, we're going to get real and talk about cheat meals, what they are, their benefits, and how often you should really have them if you don't want to get off track from your goals.

1. What is a cheat meal? 

Junk food on table

A cheat meal is exactly as it sounds––it’s when you cheat on or take a break from your diet to indulge in sweets, junk food, fast food, or anything that wouldn’t usually fit on your diet plan. 

Many people trying to lose weight or train for a specific goal tend to follow a very specific diet to help meet these goals. And, when you're following such a strict diet for so long, there often comes a point where you start to crave something different from your diet plan. Maybe you want to go to a restaurant without worrying about what you’re ordering. Maybe you want to have a date night and indulge in some sweets. Whatever it is, that’s what a cheat meal is for. 

A cheat meal is an opportunity to take a break from your strict diet and have a little fun with what you eat without worrying or feeling bad about it. And actually, there are a lot of benefits that can come from cheat meals, too. 

2. What is the main benefit of a cheat meal? 

Woman jogging outside

The truth of dieting is that many people struggle to stick with a strict diet 100%. If you’re not used to eating healthier food and smaller portions, it can be really hard to stick with it. You may even slip up, fall off your diet, and stay off of it because it feels like too much work. But that’s why cheat meals are actually beneficial for many people. 

Cheat meals help curb those cravings and help you transition into your diet more easily so that you can better stick to your diet. And, while there are some physical benefits to them, such as improved hunger levels and maybe an increase in energy, mostly, it’s going to be good for you mentally.

Mentally, it will help you get more motivated to go to the gym, knowing you're putting in the work to earn your cheat meal, and it can just help you feel happier and more balanced overall because of that. But most importantly, it can show you that even if your diet isn't perfect, you can still achieve your goals, work hard, and make gainz, which can take a huge weight of stress and expectation off your shoulders.  

3. How often should you have a cheat meal? 

Woman with visible abs

While cheat meals can benefit your mental and physical well-being, you don’t want to get too crazy with them. Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect and can knock you off track with your body and mentality. So, how often should you really have a cheat meal?

Truthfully, the rate at which you have a cheat meal ultimately comes down to your goal and how seriously you want to approach it. For example, if you have a weight loss goal specifically, you need optimal nutrition and a caloric deficit most of the time to lose weight. So, if you’re indulging too much in cheat meals too frequently, it will cause your calories to spike, and you’ll no longer be losing fat. This will set you back a bit, and if you do it too often, you will be setting yourself back a lot. For those with goals to gain more muscle or put on mass, the frequency you can indulge could be different because you don’t need to be in a caloric deficit to achieve your goal.

Not to mention, some people prefer a more flexible approach to dieting, meaning you have cheat meals more frequently, and in return, you progress on your goals at a slower pace. And that’s fine, and could potentially be a good method for those who are struggling to transition to their diet. However, going with this method can make it a lot harder to achieve your goals and will take you longer. So, you just have to keep that in mind when choosing to do it and decide if that's something you're okay with or not.

In general, if you want to stick to your goals and progress on them steadily, no matter what your goal is, I would suggest that you don’t have a cheat meal more than once a week. If you can go longer and only do a cheat meal once or twice a month, that would be better. 

The longer you go, the easier it will become. And once you’ve been spacing out your cheat meals for long enough, you’ll start to notice that your body does not crave cheat meals or unhealthy food as often. In fact, once you get to this point and try to indulge in a cheat meal, you’ll likely notice that you feel sick and lethargic after eating. That’s just another benefit of keeping your cheat meals less frequent; they will help you crave them less and less over time until you might not crave them at all. 


Table with junk food

Cheat meals can help you stay motivated, balanced, and happy during diet. However, too many cheat meals can quickly set you back and slow your progress. So, if you want to have a cheat meal and continue to make progress at a faster pace, make sure you spread out your cheat meals and eat them in moderation.

For many people, this can be really challenging to do, and that’s okay. This is normal and something we’ve seen with hundreds of clients. But just because it’s something many people struggle with doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone.

If you’re struggling to get on a good nutrition plan or have questions about managing your nutrition or about cheat meals, send us a message where we can pair you up with an expert coach and help you get on track to achieving your goals while still making plenty of time for the foods you enjoy.

It can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. Reach out and try out a FREE 7-day trial, and let’s get you set up for success right now. 

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