Before answering the question posed in the title, let's consider what a cheat meal actually is. There is no National Council for Cheat Meals. The term cheat meal does not have a precise definition.
In the world of fitness, the term is used to describe a meal which:
- you are allowed to enjoy after at least 7 days of a reduction diet,
- has far more calories than a standard meal in the diet (approximately 1000 kcal per meal),
- does not have to meet any “healthy food” criteria,
- serves the purpose of breaking the monotony of the diet,
- may but is by no means guaranteed to speed up metabolism, which may have slowed down due to the persistent energy deficit (the effect of a reduction diet).
… but does it really make sense?
A cheat meal can lead to eating disorders
I came across the claim that a “cheat meal” may lead to eating disorders in 2016 at the Institute of Psychodietetics in Wrocław.
The speakers were unanimous: promoting “cheat meals” negatively affects the overall perception of a healthy lifestyle, emphasizes the gap between what is seemingly healthy and unhealthy and strengthens the misconception that a healthy diet is an all-or-nothing affair.
The claim received strong support in 2018. A prestigious Elsevier journal published the results of a study, which showed a relationship between the use of cheat meals and increased risk of eating disorders (specifically: compulsive overeating).