Quick Thoughts on Cheat Meals and Post-Workout Carbs
Written by: Coach Slater
Cheat meals are a common occurrence that we see justified by everyone at some point or another. Personally, I tend to utilize a “cheat meal” on a general day of under-eating, so my cheating is actually just me catching up on the macronutrients I was supposed to be having anyway… just in a slightly dirtier form, like a triple-cheeseburger. In that way, I’m not really eating a cheat meal. Most people aren’t doing that though. They’re eating these cheat meals on top of whatever other food they’re already consuming.
When you’re on a Derby City nutrition plan, cheat meals aren’t bad per se; but, if they’re a physiological urge, then it may be time for a 1-to-2 week resettling of your nutrition plan where you stop trying to lose weight during that time, then get back to your detailed macro plan afterwards. A resettling period is where you aren’t as stringent with your macros, and allow your body to temporarily “settle” at your new bodyweight. That doesn’t give you the right to go crazy during this time, but our bodies do tend to reach settling points and there’s some evidence that spending some time at each settling point is good, before restarting your nutrition plan of either cutting or bulking. This strategy seems to keep your metabolism working most efficiently.
Psychologically, some people love cheat meals and it helps them de-stress, allowing them to come back after the cheat meal and hit their nutrition plan hard again for another two weeks before allowing in another cheat meal. But for others, a cheat meal screws with their routine, results in crazy cravings, makes them feel guilty during the meal itself, and gets them thinking about their next cheat meal. The majority of people seem to be in this second group. In that case, I recommend staying true to the plan without cheating, while maybe going up in carbs a little for a day to increase glycogen and reduce fatigue, then getting back to work. Otherwise, cheat meals can be too detrimental psychologically.
Eating the majority of your carbs post-workout, as opposed to other times of the day, is a common rule-of-thumb as it leads to greater muscle growth, via a mechanism known as anabolism, and it helps with greater glycogen replacement so you can go hard again in your next workout. And, by making these post-workout carbs high-glycemic (fast-burning), you’ll jack up your insulin to further aid this anabolism and glycogen replenishment. You want to avoid fats post-workout as they counteract the high-glycemic carbs you just ate, delaying digestion so those nutrients can’t enter your bloodstream as rapidly.
“But wait,” you say, “I’m trying to lose weight, not get huge!” Doesn’t matter. Eating carbs post-workout not only leads to greater muscle gain, but also greater fat loss. So, when I cut carbs from your daily nutrition plan, I don’t cut them from your post-workout window. These are the last ones to go, in fact. When aiming to lose body fat, I want to cut your fat intake first, to maybe as low as 0.3g/bodyweight, not your carbs.
Gatorade is an easy post-workout carb (52g per bottle, sold at the Front Desk), but I’ve also recommended dextrose and/or cyclic-dextrin for some of the Derby City gentlemen really needing to up their carb intake. For the ladies, 52g of carbs might be more than you want from purely a liquid source. So, you might consider mixing Gatorade powder with water to better control the amount of carbs you’re drinking, and then get a real meal with cereal or rice to hit the rest of your post-workout carb needs.
1. “Set points, settling points and some alternative models: theoretical options to understand how genes and environments combine to regulate body adiposity“, Speakerman, J, et al. Dis Model Mech. 2011 Nov; 4(6): 733–745.
2. “Carbs: The Training Fuel“, Israetel, M. Juggernaut Strength.