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Cheat Meals and Refeeds - Harm or Help
If you sit back and examine bodybuilding as a whole, you’ll realize what a dichotomy our sport truly is. In what sport is it essential to fail on a daily basis in order to improve and succeed? In what sport would you find that the athlete who is closest to death is also the ideal image of physical perfection? And, if you were to look at dieting approaches, the general public would never believe that we, being masters of manipulating physical appearance, employ strategic cheats to boost fat loss. This month, I’d like to explore cheat meals and refeeds, common mistakes coaches make when employing these dieting strategies, and the optimal way to inject these highly effective diet tactics into your contest prep diet.
Cheat meals vs. refeeds
These terms aren’t interchangeable and are very distinct diet strategies. Most consider cheat meals to be an all-out frenzy of food porn. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s close. Cheat meals are designed to boost a sluggish metabolism by upregulating thyroid output, and to increase BMR due to increased caloric intake (so much so that you should feel your body temperature increasing and begin to sweat uncontrollably).
However, I’m willing to bet my Olympia tickets that most competitors see a cheat meal as an excuse to pound back the foods that were in the no-fly zone and also to give themselves a mental break from the diet. I guess cheat meals give a whole new meaning to psychological warfare!
Refeeds, on the other side of the coin, can be considered as “more of the same thing.” Typically, it’s a method of adding additional clean calories, which are generally in the form of carbs. Refeeds may be considered a very structured and controlled cheat. Although an athlete may get a slight boost in BMR, the main benefit would be to fill out a physique that has taken on a flat appearance. It’s normal to see the number of cheats decrease and the number of refeeds increase as the show date gets closer.
The biggest mistake I see would-be coaches making is letting the calendar date dictate when a client implements a cheat meal or a refeed. It’s very common for a competitor to schedule a cheat on the weekend. This totally negates client feedback and won’t serve the athlete optimally. A good coach will look at pictures (or see the client in person), review weight data, and examine athlete feedback before prescribing a cheat meal or refeed. Although the client should make every attempt to keep everything in his or her contest prep consistent, real life takes over and can have a substantial effect on conditioning. Prescribing a cheat once a week (on Saturday or Sunday, for example) is really a lazy coach’s approach to contest prep. Top-tier coaches will listen to their clients and really review all the feedback supplied before permitting them to briefly have a diet detour.
Cheat meals or refeeds can work wonders for clients and can help to make a 20-week prep more tolerable. However, in the hands of a novice coach, they will destroy any effort to shred body fat. Follow my tips listed above or, better yet, enlist the help of a seasoned contest-prep expert such as my wife or me. Michelle and I will take the pressure off you when deciding the right time to implement a cheat meal or refeed and get you in your best shape possible! Yes, it is possible to achieve extreme contest conditioning and eat your cake too!
Click here for another article from Elite Physique about how to strategically plan your cheat meals for optimal fat loss!