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The Science of the Cheat Meal.

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Eat, Drink & Be Healthy
The Science of the Cheat Meal

Christmas is a time of festive food and (often) not as much fitness. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, that’s how it’s meant to work. For many it’s the only time beloved family and friends can all sit around one table and share a glass of wine (or two). But if you’ve come out of the other end of the festive period a little worried that you’ve over indulged there could be some good news. This is because studies show if you understand the power of the “cheat meal” it becomes entirely possible to eat, drink and be healthy this year.

#1. Increase Your Thyroid Hormone Output:
A common mistake people make during the New Year is they hit the diet hard! They embark on a calorie deficit that’s too strict for them to maintain and then they wonder why they feel tired, lethargic and unable to get close to their PB’s in the gym. One reason (among many) is your caloric deficit means you produce less T3 and T4 hormones, both important thyroid hormones that play roles in the regulation of metabolic rate.

This is based on a study published in the American Journal of Physiology that discovered, "During caloric restriction, transport of T4 and T3 into tissues is diminished". Essentially, what all of this means is hamster food will leave you hormonally handicapped to burn fat.

But never fear, research published in the nutritional journal Effectors of Thermogenesis states, "Serum thyroid levels are increased by over nutrition." Emphasis on the words, "over nutrition" which means that huge, tactical, Wild Kangaroo Burger could hold the key to up-regulating your fat burning hormones and get your metabolism firing how it should.

#2. Burn Calories Just Eating
Do you prefer a sweet or savoury cheat meal? If it’s the latter and you’re a devoted carnivore there could be good news. This is because scientists from the Department of Nutrition at Arizona State University found a large part of the calories ingested through protein are lost as heat when it's metabolised by the body. This is through something called the "thermic effect of feeding" and whilst it’s mainly associated with whey protein shakes and certain fatty acids like CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) and MCT powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides), there’s also a very good reason to occasionally order an rack of babyback ribs to yourself.

#3. Increase Serum Leptin Levels
Finally those are just the physiological and hormonal benefits of a cheat meal. Of course, there’s the psychological benefit of being able to take a day off from your diet; eat whatever you like and be comfortable in the knowledge that you’ll still get lean. It’s hard to quantify how much that actually helps since there’s been very little research on dietary adherence and behavioural strategies. I always say the best diet in the world is useless on paper if someone can’t follow it.

Research from the International Journal of Obesity agrees too. In a huge Meta study — a study of lots of studies — it was found there was no perfect diet. Instead they concluded, “Regardless of assigned diet, 12-month weight change was greater in the most adherent,” adding, “These results suggest that strategies to increase adherence may deserve more emphasis than the specific diet.” Basically if attacking a huge rack of lamb or demolishing an entire pack of bacon (once a week) helps you stick to a diet, then it could be doing more good than harm. Don’t underestimate simply enjoying your food.

*One of those silly disclaimer thingy's > Athleat has no affiliation with THE PROTEIN WORKS™ nor do we endorse them specifically. Ross does, and therefore we are more than happy to give him some links through to the Protein Works website :)

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