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Cheat meals, refeeds and diet breaks. The how's and why's of these nutritional strategieS - PART 1

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

With regards to nutrition coaching, counting calories and macros is not enough, it is imperative to understand how, when and why, to implement cheat meals, refeeds and diet breaks into your client’s nutritional plans.

Changing food selection and calories is a way to restore the psychological and physiological effects of dieting. When implemented successfully, these nutritional strategies can help bust through plateaus and lead to great results.

But the million dollar question is….

Which strategy is right for your client and why?

In this three part post, I delve into the meaning of each strategy and explain how they can be implemented into a weekly routine and who the strategy is best suited to.

‘Cheat Meals’

How: This usually comprises of one meal for the day, generally last meal of the day. This tends to work well with intermediate to advanced clients as they can have them once a week.

Clients will plan and look forward to a nice dinner with their partner or friends, this way they don’t feel like they’re entirely losing their social life. I find that this factor causes clients to feel as if they are depriving themselves of a social which leads to them losing everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve throughout the week over their weekend.

However, when working with gen pop clients, which is the main kind of client you see at PTA, I don’t recommend cheat meals as the focus is on repairing their relationship with food. It is best not to use food as a reward system as we retrain the brain. Our initial aim with our beginner – intermediate clients is to get them as healthy as possible as quickly as possible.

I just want to point out that the longer they clients with us, the more their nutritional plans change. I do this in a way where I incorporate more food options in their daily eating along side their Daily Calorie Consumption and Daily Macro Splits. This is what ensure they have a healthy balance in their eating as well as not over eat. Keeping their body composition looking as best as possible.

When: For those in ‘hard’ dieting phases for a 12-week transformation, for example, one cheat meal a week is a great way to break the week up and allow the client something to look forward to. Clients in mass gaining phases, where the goal is to increase muscle mass, 2 meals a week will allow for a little more freedom.

Please understand that this is not a ‘free for all’ meal! Clients will still be restricted by calories.

Why: Cheat meals do not fix any physiological markers from being in a calorie deficit. It is 100% purely breaking up the diet, from a psychological point of view. When a client knows that they have one cheat meal a week, it leaves them in a mentally good place. The idea of a cheat meal can encourage motivation and compliance throughout the week from the client, as they know that there is a reward for their efforts. Also on the next day they will feel mentally fresh and ready to get back to their nutritional plan.

Yours in health,

Coach Anthony Kassis

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