Ok, a lot of competitors and "fit fam" members post about their epic cheat meals/days that they have during contest prep.
1- I don't like to think of it as a cheat meal, cheating means you're doing something bad. And cheat DAYS can turn into some horrible habits. However, if you handle TREAT meals properly, they can be the most beneficial thing since sliced bread!
So, a treat meal- what is it? It's just that, a treat meal that isn't on your regular meal plan. It can be pizza, donuts, chocolate covered fruit, whatever you want it to be! The idea is to keep it a MEAL (ie no more than 500 calories as a rule of thumb).
Typically, I have my cheat meal on Friday or Saturday. With my birthday coming up, I am using one treat meal for dinner with my dad when he comes into town and the next week will be lunch with my mom- planning is vital for your treat meals too so that you aren't giving in to cravings!
So now you know what a treat meal (donuts), how often you should have them (once a week), and how many calories you should have (less than 500). Now, why are treat meals important?
Two main reasons:
1- physchological stress- we ALL know that when you are on a diet, some days, certain foods just sound amazing and you feel like you would stop at nothing to eat a piece of pie or cake or whatever. Treat meals aid in this, they give you a light at the end of the tunnel, more over, that damn donut that you eat for your treat meal will be the most delicious pastry you've ever had in your life.
2- metabolism. the goal with a treat meal is to stimulate leptin (a hormone that plays a central role in the regulation of energy homeostatis). When you are in a calorie deficit, leptin is inhibited and its level decrease (noooooooooooooooooooo). This results in low thyroid stimulation. When one is in a calorie deficit for a long time, leptin levels fall chronically and our metabolism becomes slower (hence, why we can't all be stage lean all year round). Unfortunately, leptin reduction is the normal physiological response to calorie restriction and the treat meal tricks our reactive leption signals so that we can continue to lose fat effectively.
Post treat-meal, you will feel good with lots and lots of energy, you will have more muscle definition and volume and more vasculatiry.
So there you have it! Train hard, treat harder.