Controlling Cheat Meal Damage
by TC T-Nation
Here's what you need to know...
Any meal over 750 calories (not including the peri-workout nutrition period) results in a measurable amount of fat storage, regardless of macronutrient profile.
Glycogen-depleting workouts done before a cheat meal can help counteract its detrimental effects.
Eating a low-glycemic meal a couple of hours before a big meal can improve carbohydrate tolerance and quell the appetite.
Taking thermogenic and nutrient-partitioning supplements before pigging out can undo much of the damage.
If you ignore any or all of the preceding tips, you can do a modified Pulse Fast the day after the meal to set you right.
You know that speech Kyle Reese gave Sarah Connor about the Terminator's non-stop attempts to kill her? Well, just change a few words here and there and you pretty much describe your grandmother when you come to visit:
Listen, and understand. Nana is out there in the kitchen. She can't be bargained with. She can't be reasoned with. She doesn't understand protein, carbs, or fats. And she will absolutely not stop, ever, until you are gorged, bloated, and hate yourself.
Grandmothers, or memaws, if you prefer, feel it's their mission to fill you with food that makes the 6,000-calorie "Triple Bypass Burger" from The Heart Attack Grill in Vegas seem like a celery stick in comparison. They say it's love, but that kind of love can kill you, or at least stifle your efforts in the gym, Brother.
Around the holidays, chances are you're going to be spending a lot of time with grandma. Even if you don't have a nana, you're going to no doubt be faced with situations where you're going to be expected to eat some "bad" meals, and walking to the table with your cooler filled with brown rice and skinless chicken breasts isn't going to cut it with your knife-wielding hostess.
There are always going to be times when you have "cheat" meals. Don't have an anxiety attack, though, because there are ways to prepare for those meals and ameliorate the consequences.
4 Strategies to Wash Away the Damage
In an article he wrote for T Nation several years ago about cheat meals, John Berardi explained that for the average person, any meal over 750 calories (not including the peri-workout nutrition period) results in a measurable amount of fat storage, regardless of macronutrient profile. Hell, you know you're going to get 750 calories from just the appetizer at most cheat meals!
While the amount of fat storage would vary enormously based on whether or not you exercise, are lean or fat, or are somewhat weight-gain resistant, we still want to grab that chubby bull by the horns. That's why we need to employ some pre- and post-meal strategies. Berardi wrote about a few of these strategies too, but several points have changed since then.
Strategy #1 Exercising
One way to prepare for a big meal, or "counteract" one you've already eaten, is of course to exercise. Which is better, though, working out before a big meal or after? Luckily, studies that compare both approaches have been done.
Some of these studies have shown that exercising before a meal was the way to go, as it prevents some of the shift towards burning of carbohydrate instead of fat. Other studies have shown that exercising after a meal was the best approach as it supposedly led to more calories being burned in a 3-hour post workout period than if the meal was eaten and not followed up by exercise.
In studies that compared the two approaches, it looked like exercising after the meal was the best approach, as the 3-hour thermic effect of food was greater when the meal was eaten before exercising.
The trouble is, the approach isn't usually practical. For one thing, it would require that you make an abrupt departure from whatever celebration you're attending, and who wants to leave, go home, change out of your grown-up pants, and head to a gym that's completely empty except for a collection of societal misfits?
A more realistic approach would be to increase your workout volume a couple of days before the event to deplete a little glycogen. Barring that, even a glycogen-depleting workout on the day of the event would go a long way in ameliorating some of the dietary excesses to come.
One logical choice would be to do your regular workout, but finish it off with 15 to 20 minutes of complexes where you strung together multiple reps of deadlifts, straight-legged deadlifts, bent-over rows, hang cleans, front squats, overhead presses, good mornings, and back squats.
Strategy #2 Eating Beforehand, or the Second Meal Effect
Dietitians often talk about something called the "second meal effect," which refers to the phenomenon where carbohydrate tolerance to a meal is improved as a result of having an earlier, lower glycemic-index meal.
This makes perfect sense. Furthermore, it just stands to reason that you won't be as hungry if you ate something in the two or three hours before the big meal. You may actually end up turning down seconds, or at least thirds, fourths, and fifths.
This initial, pre-emptive meal should consist of low glycemic-index carbs and significant amounts of dietary fiber; something like a chicken sandwich on really whole grain bread the stuff that looks like the bottom of an unkempt hamster cage accompanied by some bean or lentil soup would do the trick nicely.
Strategy #3 Supplements
There are various things you can take to greatly lessen the fat-storing effects of a big meal. First on my list is Indigo-3G®. I take it about a half hour before a meal and especially before a big meal to enhance insulin sensitivity, control insulin signaling (so that glucose and nutrients are partitioned into muscle cells), block elevation of leptin, and increase fatty acid oxidation.
I also recommend Hot-Rox® Extreme, a combination of Carbolin 19 (forskolin 1-9 carbonate), yohimbine HCl, and raspberry ketone, which acts as a potent thermogenic.
Or, if I'm sitting there in a suit and tie and don't want a really strong thermogenic effect to make me look like I just had an order of Kung Pao chicken, I opt for Carbolin 19® on its own instead of the combo. (It's also thermogenic, but not to the extent of the combo.) The Carbolin 19 has multiple fat-burning effects, one of which is increasing thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormones control basal metabolic rate, as well as control protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Separately or together, these supplements act like an insurance policy against fat storage.
Strategy #4 Pulsing the Day After
Let's say you blow off everything I've suggested and gorge yourself like Caligula at The Heart Attack Grill. Don't worry, you can still negate the effects of that huge meal by doing a modified Pulse Fast the day after.
It's simple. The day after your horrific meal, have only a protein pulse every 1 to 3 hours instead of solid food. If it's a workout day (and I assume it will be, because you ate like a pig the day before), have an extra pulse immediately prior to training, mid-workout, and immediately after training.
From the Depths of Dietary Hell, I Stab at Thee, Memaw!
No, no, we're not stabbing at grandma; we're merely ensuring that all that dietary love doesn't kill us. Here are my recommendations again, in abbreviated form:
1. Increase your workout volume in the days preceding the gastronomic event, or, at the very least, do a glycogen-depleting workout before the meal.
2. Have a low glycemic-index meal two or three hours before the big meal to both quell appetite and to improve carbohydrate tolerance (stoke the furnace, so to speak).
3. Take one to two capsules of Hot-Rox® Extreme the morning of the meal and one to two capsules about six hours later. (Alternately, take one or two capsules of Carbolin-19® on the morning of the meal and one to two capsules about six hours later.) Then take 6-12 capsules of Indigo-3G® about a half hour before the meal.
4. Consider doing a modified Pulse Fast the day after the big meal where you have one serving of Mag-10 every one to three hours in lieu of food.
You have to admit, these solutions are much easier than luring grandma into a punch press and terminating her. And these recommendations apply to any and all episodes of gastric malfeasance, whether they're granny-induced or self-induced.