Some call them “cheat meals” but I like to refer to them as “refuel meals.” These are meals that are essential and a key component to your fitness goals and success. It is important to refuel not only your glycogen stores, but more so your mind, body and palate.
A refuel meal will not hinder your progress— it will only help! Note: I do not call these meals cheat meals because I do not believe you are cheating yourself or your fitness plan. The word “cheat” automatically implies that you are doing something wrong, which shouldn’t be the case. When I say refuel meal, I am not talking about a full-out binge, but rather something that your body is craving or something that you like but is not on your typical daily diet plan.
Let me first clear something up— did you know that junk food or “bad foods” are not what make you fat? Rather, it is the added calories that put on the extra weight we are afraid of. If all you ate was 1,500 calories of junk food, most likely you would not gain weight. Is it healthy? No, but you are not in a calorie surplus. Now, mind you, you would only be able to have small amounts of this unhealthy food, and why would you want to do that? Excess calories cause weight gain. People think that it is a cheeseburger or pizza that causes you to gain weight but in reality it is the added calories. A typical cheeseburger has way more than 1,000 calories so that is about half, depending on your personal needs, of your daily calorie allowance. Now, if you know that you are going to have a refuel meal, you can alter your food choices that day and the day after and allow for your special meal. If you know how to follow a set program and allow for a meal to refuel your mind body and soul, the meal will do nothing but help you with your progress and recharge your batteries!
Choosing Your Refuel Meal
When you do decide to have a refuel meal, I suggest still making wise choices. First of all, I suggest a refuel meal one to two times a week and keeping it still within reason! Where at all possible, I suggest continuing to modify the meal. For example, if you are dying for a burger, maybe remove the cheese and mayonnaise and ask for a side salad instead of the fries. If you are craving pasta and whole wheat is an option, maybe go for the whole wheat over the white pasta. You see, you are allowing yourself the burger or pasta and still making the best choices to keep the calorie count and unnecessary fats within reason.
I also always suggest eating your refuel meal at home, because you can get a lot more bang for your buck. You can make the most amazing burger on a whole-wheat bun and with sweet potato fries. You can also make a super healthy pizza with tons of veggies and grilled chicken. You are still having a fun refuel meal of your choice, but you know what you are putting in it and can still alter the meal to be much healthier than a meal out. With that being said, going out to eat is also a fun way to feel like you are being social and able to go out without worrying about being super strict. If you do choose to enjoy a refuel meal out, I still suggest you make smart choices. For example, if you are ordering pizza, maybe you ask for thin crust and only eat a few pieces rather than an entire deep dish pizza.
It’s All About Balance
Depriving yourself completely of your favorite foods is the perfect way to make yourself miserable and risk the chance of falling off any fitness program. Isn’t it funny how we want things we “can’t have”? Suddenly if you tell yourself you “can” have this or that, you oddly don’t want it anymore. When you restrict yourself of foods, you want them and when you have them you can go overboard because you don’t know when you will get them again. Allowing yourself the opportunity to refuel your mind and body can keep you enjoying life while reaching your goals. Imagine being able to eat pizza and still obtain the body you desire. Yes, it can happen and it is possible. It really is all about balance between staying fit and achieving your goals while still enjoying life! With proper balance, you can stay within a reasonable calorie intake and still enjoy those foods you have always loved so much.
5 Benefits of a Refuel Meal
1. Gives you the motivation to stay on your meal play throughout the week because you have something to look forward to.
2. Frees your mind of the stress that you can’t have something.
3. Spikes your metabolism with the added calories.
4. Gives you the feeling that you are still able to enjoy life without restrictions.
5. Allows you to enjoy the things you have always loved but may feel like are “not allowed” on a track towards reaching your goals training/diet plan.
I would follow these on the day of and the day following your refuel meal.
Be sure to account for the refuel meal in the rest of your meals that day. Make a conscious effort to
still eat every two to three hours, but eat foods lower in calories, like lean proteins and tons of green veggies.
Be sure to get in your exercise for that day and if you ever do HIT training or take an intense bootcamp class, a day you are enjoying a refuel meal is the perfect day for that type of training! Not only will you feel better mentally, but your metabolism will be revved up and burn right through that meal like nothing.
Be sure to make a few simple changes to your meal, as I suggested, still modifying it slightly so that you are not getting any excess calories or fat that doesn’t make or break the meal. If you can, make your refuel meal at home! Get creative, find a good recipe, have fun and enjoy the process of cooking and enjoying your meal!
Get right back on track after that meal and the day following. Don’t allow yourself to fall in the trap of one refuel meal that turns into a refuel weekend. Keep your refuel a meal and then continue with your fitness plan the following day.
Plan wisely and refuel your mind, body and palate! Remember, it is all a part of the journey— enjoy!