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Are Cheat Meals All Right in Bodybuilding?

By April Khan ; Updated April 18, 2017

Bodybuilders, like athletes and fitness lovers, must adhere to a strict diet to maintain and achieve the physical results they crave. Bodybuilding meal plans are as diverse as the individuals following them, but, in general, a bodybuilding diet is much stricter than a regular workout diet. For this reason, some bodybuilders choose to incorporate cheat days or cheat meals to help them stick to the diet in the long run.

Bodybuilding Nutrition

Unlike a normal 30-minute workout, bodybuilding puts excessive amount of strain on your body, increasing its need for extra nutrients. The additional nutrients ensure proper muscle repair and building, healthy circulation, fat reduction and malnutrition prevention. However, some bodybuilders follow an extremely limited diet consisting of mostly protein – 1 gram per every 1 pound of body weight -- carbohydrates and very little dairy, fruit or vegetables. This diet prevents bloating from the fiber contained in fruit and vegetables and ensures muscle and tissue repair and building from the extra protein. Before altering your diet, consult a nutritionist or dietitian to assess your health and devise a personalized meal plan that ensures you consume as many nutrients as possible while bodybuilding.

Cheating

Most conventional diet plans consist of a cheat day or cheat meals. A cheat day allows you eat what you want on a pre-scheduled day. On this day, you can "cheat" on your diet by eating foods your diet restricts completely or in part. The bodybuilder is allowed to go all-out on a cheat day and eat however much he wants of whatever he wants -- calorie counting, food weighing and serving sizes don't apply. In contrast, a cheat meal is one splurge during a daily dieting routine. This is usually a small meal consisting of foods restricted on the diet. Although you're still dieting for most of the day, it is still considered a cheat day.

Benefits

The main benefit of having a cheat day or a cheat meal while bodybuilding is mental relaxation. The driving force behind this is the notion that strict, restrictive diets cause the dieter to binge when he has a weak moment or gets completely fed up with the diet due to its strict routine. In fact, experts at the Mayo Clinic state that you're much more likely to stick to a diet when you allow yourself some leeway. In addition, you might find that you're more fatigued than usual during the first few weeks of the diet, because your body is reserving energy due to a low nutrient intake. The Bodybuilding website recommends cheat days to help replenish your energy and increase your metabolism.

Considerations

Before scheduling a cheat day or a cheat meal, think about how it will affect you psychologically. Some people say a cheat meal helps them focus on their bodybuilding diet, but others find it makes them feel guilty for having "broken" the dieting routine. Negative feelings surrounding cheat meals cause some bodybuilders to spiral into binge eating. Before cutting out any of the recommended five foods groups or diminishing or increasing your intake of them, consult with your physician. If you have a condition such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, speak to your physician to see if the bodybuilding diet or cheat meals are right for you.

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