What about cheat meals?

In my opinion, cheat meal is not necessary in every diet and also many who follow a more flexible diet do not include cheat meal (s) in their diet. I respect both approaches, as what suits everyone’s needs and daily life is different. Secondly, let’s take for granted that our client is following a personalized diet plan to reduce body fat.

First step: we need to let him know that this process should actually teach him how to eat and make it a way of life. Rather than thinking that he will get into a process – which is painful in his mind. Otherwise, soon it will end and return to his old eating habits. Health professionals need to teach their clients how to live better lifetime and not how to live for 1-2 months in which they want to see some body change.

cheat meal

What about hormones?

Closing the psychological track, I will go straight to the zoom. When we are in a calorie deficit the body perceives it and responds as follows:

  • Reduces metabolism, and
  • It raises appetite levels


The main hormone responsible for this is leptin. Leptin comes from the Greek word “slim” and regulates appetite and metabolism levels. The higher the percentage of adipose tissue (% body fat) the higher the level of the hormone, which is due to leptin resistance (as is insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes).


Client will surely ask us – once he gets into a specific diet plan – when he can eat a cheat meal, we ask the nutritionist to take the necessary measurements or if we have the proper equipment as personal trainers, we can do it for them. I will show you a protocol for the frequency of cheat meals based on the body fat (fat percentage%).


Correlation of fat percentage with cheat meal frequency

Based on the above protocol used by many distinguished bodybuilding coaches, we conclude that (take paper and pencil or screw the numbers in your mind):

  • If the fat rate exceeds 25% NO there are no cheat meals at all.
  • At between 15-25% I would consider applying a cheat meal every 3-4 weeks.
  • At 10-15% I would serve a cheat meal at least every 14 days without any fear.
  • At very low rates ie 4-10% I would use a “feed” every 5-7 days.

When food for our regular practitioner is just calories for us it should be a hormonal and digestive tract. The physical effect is intertwined with the balance between anabolic and catabolic processes. I will not go into this big issue right now, but I keep going.

ελεύθερο γεύμα cheat meal

What is believed to be a free meal / cheat meal?

Those of you reading this article think that you are already thinking of a delicious burger with french fries and a big cola on the side, or a big bowl of ice cream or a huge pizza with bacon, sausages and cheese.

What is it really?

In conclusion, when we are trying to make a better physique, cheat meal should go beyond the usual daily calories and be high in carbohydrates. This does not mean that junk food should be necessary. It may just be a re-feed meal. E.g. a meal with a regular salad chicken fillet could add a great deal of baked potatoes. Especially in cases where body fat is relatively high (<20%). At rates of 15% or less, it can also be a burger with potatoes or a pizza. The body works harder than ever for 24-48 hours after this meal. Do a workout after a cheat meal and you will remember me.


Levine, J. A., Eberhardt, N. L., & Jensen, M. D. (1999). Leptin Responses to Overfeeding: Relationship with Body Fat and Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis 1. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 84(8), 2751-2754.

Klok, M. D., Jakobsdottir, S., & Drent, M. L. (2007). The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obesity Reviews, 8(1), 21-34.

Heymsfield, S. B., Greenberg, A. S., Fujioka, K., Dixon, R. M., Kushner, R., Hunt, T., … & McCamish, M. (1999). Recombinant leptin for weight loss in obese and lean adults: a randomized, controlled, dose-escalation trial. JAMA, 282(16), 1568-1575.

Horton, T. J., Drougas, H., Brachey, A., Reed, G. W., Peters, J. C., & Hill, J. O. (1995). Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding in humans: different effects on energy storage. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62(1), 19-29.

Dirlewanger, M., Di Vetta, V., Guenat, E., Battilana, P., Seematter, G., Schneiter, P., … & Tappy, L. (2000). Effects of short-term carbohydrate or fat overfeeding on energy expenditure and plasma leptin concentrations in healthy female subjects. International Journal of Obesity, 24(11), 1413-1418.

Romon, M., Lebel, P., Velly, C., Marecaux, N., Fruchart, J. C., & Dallongeville, J. (1999). Leptin response to carbohydrate or fat meal and association with subsequent satiety and energy intake. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 277(5), E855-E861.

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