To Cheat or Not to Cheat?
I thought I’d give my opinion on one of the most controversial topics in fitness especially in competitive bodybuilding; CHEATS. There are probably more people out there who believe eating regular cheat meals while you train for shows or achieving any fitness related goal is a bad thing and will set you back rather than people who feel they are beneficial. I personally believe cheats are not only beneficial but actually important in goal related success. Some of you may have seen me use the term “cheat to win” on social media outlets which is something I actually believe. I believe if you use your cheat meals properly they won’t set you back at all in fact they will put you in a better position to win and ultimately achieve your goal. I want everybody who’s reading this to not take anything I say as fact but as my opinion and what I feel works over a 24 year bodybuilding career so far. If you haven’t read my introduction blog, I’m 36 and started bodybuilding at age 12. Over the course of years I learned how my body reacts to everything; all types of carbs, fats, and proteins, supplements, weight training and cardio. Use this as a guideline to understanding how cheat meals can benefit you not just for competition but for bodybuilding and fitness related gains. Also understand I am a heavyweight bodybuilder weighing 270+ pounds off season and 225 pounds on stage, meaning I take in a lot more calories than most people and my body is able to deal with more calories as well.
In order to get in shape the basics have to be in place, training 5-6 days a week, eating 5+ healthy meals a day, getting lots of rest and taking days off even if you don’t want to! I don’t believe diet is 80% of success or training is 80% of success, I believe training, diet, supplementation and rest have to be all considered of the same importance. If one isn’t utilized as well as the other gains are much harder to come by. Each element has it’s place and all are incredibly important. Even when it comes to the importance of diet, however, I believe 100% that dirty high calorie cheats are a very important factor in success when used in a timely and strategic fashion.
Not only during prep for contests, but year round I have tried to maintain a similar diet method for gains in the gym. Generally Monday to Saturday I eat clean and Sunday is my day to rest and eat whatever I want in any amount. This is referred to as a CHEAT DAY. I can get away with a full cheat day because of my size and the amount of work I do in the gym. For my Northern BC and BC provincial shows in May I start prepping about 16 weeks out. Monday through Saturday I would eat as clean as humanly possible and train twice a day, upwards to 5-6 hours a day sometimes. On Sunday I would not go near a gym and take a well-deserved day off eating whatever I want but stay protein conscious at the same time. My regular meals for a Sunday would look something like this:
Breakfast– 3 over easy eggs, 2 pancakes with syrup, butter and peanut butter, toast with butter, hash browns, large orange juice, tea with milk and real sugar.
Lunch – burger and fries or pizza
Supper – burger and fries or pizza.
Snack time –
1. Chocolate bar, ice cream or choclate milk
2. A high protein shake and real fruit for good proteins and healthy simple sugars
3. Repeat snack 1
4. Repeat snack 2
My calories during my cheat days were most likely double on my diet days, but when I trained my first session on Monday after eating a surplus of sugars, good and bad fats and proteins, I would literally feel twice as strong and have twice the stamina for the first 3 days of the training week. Some of you reading may think this is ridiculous to do but lets no forget bodybuilding is the “SPORT OF OPINION” where 10 trainers or coaches will have 10 different ways to train their clients and 10 bodybuilders will have 10 different ways to approach their stage ready goals. I’m not stating my approach is the best way to do things but it works for me as I know my body better than any coach ever could.
My advice for someone who is afraid to cheat because they think it will set them back is to eat clean 6 days a week and choose a day to rest and eat whatever you like and live. If you are in weight loss mode maybe start with 1 cheat and if you progress week to week add in another. Set your mind free, kill those cravings, eat blissfully and tell yourself that this is the reward for being a machine 6 days a week! Eating junk is good for the soul, your emotions, mental health, state of mind and it also increases your metabolism! When your body eats low calorie foods all the time your metabolism will actually slow down over time because your body doesn’t have to work so hard to burn calories. Add in a heavy cheat meal or cheat day and your metabolism has no choice but to speed up and deal with the extra fuel you’ve taken in.
I won’t state this as fact but I believe you can get lean and maintain muscle mass by eating chicken, rice and vegetables but I honestly don’t think you’ll be growing or building muscle. I eat an obscene amount of calories on my cheat day because I feel it’s the only day, especially during contest prep, my body is fully repairing itself and building muscle. Adding in the fact I rest fully on my cheat days gives my body twice the chance to grow and recover. Again a lot of people will disagree with this but I won both the Northern BC Heavyweight Title and the BC Provincial Heavyweight Title in May 2015 having a huge cheat day every Sunday. I will admit I did cut my cheat days out 4 weeks from competition just for peace of mind but not until 4 weeks out. People called me crazy for cheating so big but let’s not forget that when we get ready to compete we train longer and harder and add in fat loss supplements we normally don’t take, in turn our metabolisms sky rocket. The human body becomes a furnace burning anything and everything that enters it. Our bodies can deal with a high calorie meal or high calorie day so much easier in this form than when we aren’t doing as much work or using fat loss supplements. I simply feel like cheating helps me succeed. Too each their own but I will never change my approach. It’s fun, it’s something to look forward to, and it keeps my head on straight and fuels my early week workouts like nothing else.
You can’t drive a Lamborghini without high octane gas, and you can’t train to your maximum potential without high calorie foods. I’m Kenny O’Neil and I leave you by saying its OK to cheat. Cheat to win!
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