by Kris Pitcher
It hurt to sit, but when I tried to lay down I couldn't breathe. I propped some pillows up and tried to recline in a semi-upright position, still uncomfortable. Uncertain how long the pain would last I tried to feel happy about what had just happened without throwing up.
What happened was the cheat of a life time. Half a pizza, waffles with peanut butter and syrup, chocolate bars, ice cream, cookies and some more spoonfuls of peanut butter. I literally could not breathe.
My goal was to get as much in as I could within my hour. It was a dirty cheat. I would eat as much fat, sugar, and carbs as I could within my hour. When the time was up, my hands went up...and I can eat!
When you're eating a restricted calorie diet, a meal of increased calories serves a couple of purposes. There are two typical versions of the meal. The cheat - which is considered a no holds barred dirty meal. Or, the re-feed - which is considered a clean bump in certain nutrients.
Each serves their purpose and like all things nutrition, you'll have your values driven ideas about each one. I do too. Certain types of competitors, or dieters, need one or the other. Neither is bad or wrong, or right.
What I've decided for myself is the re-feed works well as a tool to train my body. The goal is to restore my carbohydrates, or load, with the kinds of fuel I'll eat right before my show. I'm training my body to take up those nutrients and fill out.
Each time I do this leading up to my contest, we can see what works. We can experiment with exactly which carbs work well, and exactly how much. It's the science of figuring out my body. This meal is a tool.
The nasty, dirty cheat serves a purpose too. For the competitor who is about at their breaking point, it provides the mental break needed in order to push through another week or two of prep. Often, knowing you'll get a cheat helps you get through a tough week.
Now, even a "cheat" can be prescribed. Your coach may have you eat a steak and baked potato loaded. While this isn't pizza, french fries and ice cream cake, it's less clean than just loading with the same fuels you are already eating. See the grey area?
A re-feed is typically more of what you are already eating. And a cheat is goodies. But it's not all that necessary to get caught up in semantics. The thing to get caught up in is, "What do I want this meal to do for my body?"
The meal is designed to bump up your metabolism, restore your carbohydrates (if you are eating a low carbohydrate plan), and as a result keep you moving forward with fat loss.
It's been 2 or 3 seasons since I've had dirty cheats where I've stuffed myself silly. My progression has led me to the re-feed, a tool to help us dial in my response. This is more exciting.
The dirty cheat can also set you back. WAY back. You can do a lot of damage in an hour. Believe me. So, if you're wondering why your progress has stalled, or things aren't as sharp as you'd like...you may need to cut out all the sugar loading. Just a thought.
We each have values around the foods we choose, and the way we eat - including the "cheat". How you view this meal, this tool, can propel you forward, or set you back. Depending on where you are in your mental game you may need one or the other of these meals.
But don't be a fool about this meal, in this sport you can't have your cake and eat it too.