Cheat Meals Better than Continuous Diet
by: Robbie Durand
The current prevalence of obesity is estimated at approximately 400 million people worldwide. The main issue with dieting is that it’s easy to lose weight, but keeping it off is the bigger problem. Let’s face it, dieting sucks!! For years, the concept of dieting has always been to stick to your diet, no matter what! Over the last few years, the idea of dieting has changed, and previous research has found that incorporating periodic cheat meals in your diet not only helps out psychologically, but it can also boost your metabolism. Some trainers and coaches recommend no cheating to lose weight. No longer is sticking to a calorically restricted diet year round sound advice.
Cheat Meals to Lose Weight
Cheat meals improve leptin production levels. Leptin is the hormone that encourages metabolism of fat and at the same time, it manages appetite. Typically, the leptin level in the body is reduced after one week of dieting. However, this level is restored to the normal level during cheat days. Therefore, the body is once again prepared to burn fat and to contain appetite for the next diet week. Cheat meals also lessen cravings during non-cheat days. Foods that can be eaten during cheat days reduce the desire to eat the same foods when dieting. Cheat meals are designed to keep you sane, as our natural compulsions usually take the better of us, a cheat meal helps normalize cravings and keeps you on track with your diet plan or exercise regime. A cheat meal is a meal that has been designated to one day of any food you like. Some cheat meals include pizza, cakes and other foods that make eating and dieting more exciting. Previous research has shown that while on a calorically restricted diet, the metabolic rate often drops but when a high caloric meal is consumed, metabolism increases. Strict weight loss diet works better if you bend the rules occasionally. A new demonstrates how powerful cheat meals can be to helping you achieve weight loss. The researchers did trials with two groups each of 37 women with a BMI of 25-37. The women were aged between 26 and 50.
-One group followed a traditional – but strict – calorie restriction diet for six weeks. The women reduced their caloric intake to 55 percent of their resting metabolic rate. The resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories you burn while at rest.
-The other group followed an even stricter calorie shifting diet (CSD), which consisted of 3 cycles of 2 weeks. The first part of the cycle took 11 days, during which the women ate only 45 percent of the amount of calories their body burned when resting. The second part of the cycle lasted three days, during which the women could eat as much as they wanted. The central theory of CSD is to change intake from high to low calories (e.g., to 11 days) to decrease weight, and then change it from low to high calories (e.g., to 3 consecutive days) to keep the RMR at higher levels.
At the end of the six weeks, the researchers put the women on another diet for four weeks in which they were given exactly enough calories to maintain their new body weight. The women in both groups lost the same amount of kilograms. But after they had completed their weight-loss diets, the bodyweight of the women in the calorie restriction diet group increased more than did the bodyweight of the women in the calorie shifting diet group. The effect is even more dramatic if you look at the fat mass. After coming off a slimming diet the traditional calorie restriction diet group gained fat mass again fast, but the calorie shifting diet group did not. The women who lost weight on the calorie restriction diet started to burn fewer calories while at rest, whereas the resting metabolic rate of the women in the calorie shifting diet group remained constant. This means the cheat meals diet was able to maintain metabolism while dieting. The effect of cheat meals on RMR was reflected in sustained weight and fat loss and BMI reduction over the follow-up period, something which was not seen in CR-treated subjects. This study just goes to show that the incorporation of cheat meals not only maintains metabolism but it’s also helped keep weight off over a longer time. The key is to use cheat meals occasionally for effective weight loss.
Eat More Calories and Lose More Weight
An exciting new study just PLOS One reported another study finding that a cheat meal is better for losing weight. Obese male mice that had were fed an ad libitum (i.e. all you can eat) diet high in fat and sugar for 22 weeks were then fed one of two energy-restricted normal chow diets for a 12-week weight loss phase.
-The continuous, strict diet provided 82% of the energy intake of age-matched ad libitum chow-fed controls.
-The intermittent diet provided cycles of 82% of control intake for 5–6 consecutive days, and ad libitum intake for 1–3 days.
At the end of the study, both groups ended up at virtually identical weights at the end of the weight loss phase. Since the intermittent diet group achieved this weight loss with ~11.5% higher energy intakes (due to the refeeds) than the continuous, strict diet group. This study shows that moderate energy restriction (18%), applied in intermittent bursts of 5–6 consecutive days per week and separated by 1–3 consecutive days of ad libitum energy intake, resulted in more efficient weight loss than continuous moderate energy restriction in diet-induced obese mice. So, despite eating significantly more than their counterparts on the continuous diet, mice on the intermittent diet achieved the same results concerning reductions in body weight. Mice on the intermittent diet also produced similar results to mice on the continuous diet concerning reductions in body fat, lean mass, and fasting serum glucose and insulin levels. Intermittent moderate energy restriction may offer an advantage over continuous moderate energy restriction.
Key Points: Cheat Meals can be an effective way of increasing metabolic weight while on a diet. The interesting aspect of the studies, it seems that a dieter can lose more weight by eating more calories.
Seimon RV, Shi YC, Slack K, Lee K, Fernando HA, Nguyen AD, Zhang L, Lin S, Enriquez RF, Lau J, Herzog H, Sainsbury A. Intermittent Moderate Energy Restriction Improves Weight Loss Efficiency in Diet-Induced Obese Mice. PLoS One. 2016 Jan 19;11(1):e0145157.
Davoodi SH, Ajami M, Ayatollahi SA, Dowlatshahi K, Javedan G, Pazoki-Toroudi HR. Calorie shifting diet versus calorie restriction diet: a comparative clinical trial study. Int J Prev Med. 2014 Apr;5(4):447-56.