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So you’ve been slaving at the gym day in and day out and eating rabbit food to get those killer abs; what if we were to tell you that eating that burger you’ve been craving could actually help you reach your fitness goals? Give in to your temptations and still get the body you want – it’s time to treat yourself and carb up!

It’s time to get hormonal

Let’s get technical - Our appetite is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin; ghrelin stimulates appetite and leptin suppresses it. When following a calorie restricted diet your ghrelin levels can raise and leptin levels can drop within only 24 to 72 hours of ‘fasting’ – which can cause you to want to reach for those naughty snacks throughout the day.

Time for the good stuff – why a little indulging can be good for your waistline. When you’re at a calorie deficiency your metabolism slows down in effort to prevent starvation and conserve energy. When you consume a high calorie, high carbohydrate meal your body is able to regulate its hormones to keep your appetite in check by boosting its leptin production by 30% for up to 24 hours after the meal, which in other words means your appetite is suppressed and your metabolism is raised.

Mindfulness mind games

Eating chicken and broccoli everyday can not only be boring but can make you go a little crazy, and that’s when the cravings kick in. A cheat meal is good for your soul and sanity. It’s easy to stick to a diet when you know there’s a slice of pizza on the horizon. Plan your cheat meals wisely – Choose a day once a week to have your indulgence, whether it be your weekend catch up brunch or Friday night football, don’t miss out on social events because of your diet. By picking a day to have your cheat meal you’re able to eat clean and reserve calories before hand therefore you don’t have to feel guilty about treating yourself and having fun. Pick your poison - Pin point exactly what you’ve been craving and satisfy it, don’t waste those extra calories on something you aren’t going to enjoy.

"Babies cry when hungry and stop when they're full. No one taught you that" – eat till you’re satisfied not overbearingly full.  Instead of eating a whole pizza; have two slices, if you’re having a burger try to resist ordering a side of fries. When having your cheat meal, be mindful of not overindulging, this could lead to undoing all your hard work that week, the extra calories can add up quickly.

Go beast mode

Beast mode before feast mode – want to minimise fat storage from your cheat meal? Hit the gym before you indulge. By working out before hand you deplete your glycogen stores (sugar in your system that your body uses for energy). Because your glycogen reserves are low, your body won’t convert carbohydrates into body fat until the glycogen reserves are full. The emptier the tank, the more room you have for that pasta you’ve been yearning for.

A fit blonde woman lifting weights at the gym

The main thing with having a cheat meal is not letting it turn into a cheat day, or even a week – practice your self control. If you have very little self control perhaps cheat meals are not for you. Just remember - for every gram of carb you consume your body holds almost 3 grams of water, so don’t go weighing yourself the day after hoping for a miracle. If you’re cheating correctly you should be 0.5-1kg lighter after a few days. You deserve to treat yourself once in a while; food is meant to be enjoyed.