What Are Cheat Meals? Basics, Benefits and Frequency

Cheat meals tends to help psychological well-being more than any other thing. (Image via Unsplash/Sander Dalhuisen)
Cheat meals tends to help psychological well-being more than any other thing. (Image via Unsplash/Sander Dalhuisen)

With growing awareness about health and fitness, there has been a greater focus on maintaining a strict eating routine and following a proper workout regime. This is especially true for people who want to lose weight. However, following a strict diet can sometimes be monotonous and stressful. Fortunately, cheat meals can help you indulge your cravings once in a while without disrupting your fitness journey.

Earlier, the idea of cheat meals in a diet routine was popular only amongst fitness enthusiasts. Thanks to social media, the concept has paved its way into mainstream diet culture.

What are cheat meals?

A cheat meal is not usually included in your daily diet and will not help you achieve your fitness goal. It may simply mean consumption of more food or junk food. This concept allows you to break the regular diet rules, like a reward strategy that provides for a moment of indulgence after following the rules religiously.

While some people have a cheat meal or a cheat snack once every week, others might have a cheat meal or cheat day once every month. Your implementation of a cheat meal depends on your personal fitness goals. Similarly, the food consumed as a cheat meal also differs from person to person according to their taste buds.

Benefits of Cheat Meals

Psychological Relief and Mental Break

Diet fatigue and stress is one of the most common issues among people following strict diet rules. Constantly sticking to the diet and avoiding your cravings may feel exhausting. Having a cheat meal or snack every now and then will help you relax and satiate those cravings. It will help you in balancing the diet along with providing psychological relief.


A cheat meal can act as a great incentive for sticking to a strict diet plan. This will motivate you to stay healthy. Additionally, it will also enable you to make conscious and mindful food choices.

Better Workout or Exercise

Cheat meal will help you in training harder and faster. This is because increasing carbs in the body boosts muscle glycogen, which enhances your performance. Therefore, some people tend to have a cheat meal after heavy training sessions. Cheat meal can also help in improving focus level and cognitive function of the brain.

Boost Metabolism

Cheats meals may increase the metabolism of the body by elevating the calorie intake of the body along with improving the appetite hormones. This will help in gaining better dieting results.

Frequency of cheat meals

Cheat meals are a slippery slope and should be carefully planned according to your eating pattern and general relationship with food. Some people combine cheat meals with extra exercise to balance things out.

If you're new to the cheat meal concept, take it slow and indulge your cravings only on special occasions. However, cheat meals do not necessarily work for everyone, so if you find yourself going for cheat meals more often that you should, there is a good probability that your regular diet is not sustainable.

A little bit of flexibility in your diet is important. But it is important to maintain a healthy relationship with food. Associating food with "good" and "bad" can lead to stress and eating disorders. Avoid associating your food and its consumption with negative thoughts.

Bottom Line

It can be argued that cheat meals are more helpful from a psychological perspective than anything else. Cheat meals might act as a motivator for some people, but it's certainly not for everyone. The strategy of cheat meal might work better with other factors such as conscious eating and portion control.

Keep readjusting your regular diet to avoid monotony and include more nutrition. Try to make your regular diet more diverse with different recipes. Also, consult a registered dietitian to make sure that you are getting all the required nutrients and sufficient calories.

Poll : How often do you have cheat meal?

Once every week

On special occasions

65 votes

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Edited by Sabine Algur