5 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Sticking to a Strict Diet
Your research is complete. You have a blank food log ready to go. You know exactly how many carbs, proteins, fats, and calories to eat each day. You even have an alarm set to go off every 3 hours to remind you to eat a snack or drink a protein shake. You’ve got anywhere from 10-20 weeks to reach your target body fat, but you know full well that cheating can be disastrous.
You know from experience that after 2 weeks your body is going to demand that you feed it some of your favorite tasty treats. But this time is going to be different. This time you are going to stick it out. So how are you going to stick to your diet for the required time? How are you going to hit your goals?
It is far from impossible. In fact thousands of bodybuilders do it every day, and you can too.
Here are 5 strategies to help you stay disciplined on a strict diet.
Schedule a Cheat Meal
As long as you are following your diet to the ‘T’ every meal of every day, you should allow yourself a cheat meal once or twice a week. That’s one cheat meal, not a whole cheat day. This will help you to feel like you’re not really dieting.
Here are some tips for a successful cheat meal:
- Schedule it as the last meal of the day so the insulin spike won’t induce a day of sugar cravings.
- Save your cheat meal for post-workout and make it a hellish training session. Put those extra calories and carbs to work!
- Go to a restaurant. Eating out will provide a refreshing change of environment and cuisine, and whatever you don’t eat you can leave on the table.
- The cheat meal must have some nutritional value. It should be high in protein and should not excessively combine fats and carbs. Nachos for example, are all carbs and fat, and are not the best choice… even topped with chili.
Be careful though! Cheat meals can sometimes derail a carefully planned out diet strategy. Stick to one cheat meal every 5-7 days and be sensible about it.
Utilize Artificial Sweeteners
In moderation! Artificial sweeteners containing sucralose, like Splenda, have few calories but are something like 600 times sweeter than table sugar. A couple packets a day can go a long way. Use Splenda to sweeten your Total, oatmeal, coffee, and tea. One packet of Splenda contains about 4 calories, all maltodextrin, so don’t forget to record it on your food log… I’m watching you!
Stevia is another option. It is an herb that has about 300 times the sweetness of sugar. However some people think it has a bitter aftertaste. You’ll have to shop around for a brand that agrees with you, or you can just make it easy on yourself and choose Splenda.
Be careful though! Sweeteners containing aspartame and saccharin can cause headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and carb-cravings. Equal and the stuff in the pink packet are out, unless you want to make yourself sick. Besides we all know by now that some artificial sweeteners have reportedly caused cancer in lab rats.
Stuff Your Face with Vegetables
Most vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories. This is like a fountain of youth for the dieting bodybuilder. You can stuff yourself silly with broccoli and other green veggies, and the fiber will take a long time to digest, which keeps you feeling full.
Also, fiber is great for your digestive system. It helps to push the garbage through your intestines. This is always a concern on a low-carb diet, since fiber is hard to come by.
- Vegetables to Choose: Asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and green lettuce are all great vegetables when dieting. Add these foods to any meal or snack, or combine them all into a small salad. Top with vinegar to flavor. Avoid fatty, sugary, and high-carb salad dressings like they were the plague.
- Vegetables to Avoid: Corn, peas, and carrots. They are all high in sugar. Be sure to check your nutrition labels before randomly adding vegetables or any other food into your meticulously designed diet plan.
Spices are Your Friend
The following foods are vital to a successful bodybuilding or fat loss diet, but they are also bland and boring:
- Every vegetable mentioned above
- Total cereal
You do have a million options to flavor your food, but sugary condiments like barbecue sauce, teriyaki, and ketchup are full of sugar and are off limits.
Popular bodybuilding spices and condiments include:
- Mustard – All mustard is great for flavor and calories. Watch out for pimped out mustard that has sugar and other crazy ingredients added. Plain yellow or spicy mustard are great choices.
- Horseradish – I don’t like it, but some people swear by it.
- Soy sauce – You can find low sodium soy sauce. It adds great flavor to unsalted foods.
- Hot sauce – Hot sauce goes great in everything. Every meat in the world can benefit from hot sauce. I have nothing else to say about it.
- Mrs. Dash – There are a million different spicy combinations from Mrs. Dash. Try them all.
- Turmeric – Asian, Indian, and other Middle Eastern countries use turmeric in many of their recipes. What they probably don’t know is that the active component in turmeric is an antioxidant that aids joint health, reduces inflammation, and helps joints to recover from injury.
- Lemon juice – I like lemon juice best with meat, especially fish. Lemon pepper chicken is great too.
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon extract aids in the digestion of glucose, which helps to keep your blood sugar regulated. No need to waste your money on a cinnamon extract supplement, instead just add cinnamon extract to your food as desired.
- Sea salt – Apparently a better alternative to table salt. Tastes basically the same.
- Cayenne pepper – This is the hottest spice on the list. Adding it to your food will really give your taste buds a kick, and has great fat burning effects. The active ingredient, capsaicin, is a known thermogenic – it raises your body temperature and metabolism.
Try to find the ones that are lowest in sodium, if you really care. Some pre-contest bodybuilders actually need extra sodium up until a day or two before the contest.
Be careful though! All of those spices can build up in your digestive system and you could end up with indigestion or acid-reflux. If you start to feel your esophagus burn, cut back on the spices. Try not to turn to acid-reducing medicine as it can cause other problems.
Prepare Meals Ahead of Time
Every time you need to eat, you should either already have that meal prepared or it should be a short and quick preparation. Hungry bodybuilders are not rational, nor do they care to put 20 minutes into preparing a meal. As long as you have a meal you can grab on the go, you will not have to worry about settling for something less healthy.
I used to cook all of my meals for the week on Sunday. Many people can’t tolerate their food sitting around in the fridge for 5 or 6 days before they eat it. A better practice would be to cook every 3 days so that your meals are, at most, 2 days old. This will prevent your food from losing moisture, getting rubbery, or somehow going bad. Microwaving your food can make it lose its taste and turn its texture into cardboard. Yuck.
Most of your meals should be prepared at home so you can be sure the ingredients, calories, and macronutrients are correct. You can ensure nothing extra gets into the meal… cooking with butter for example.
At times you will have to eat out at a restaurant or even grab fast food, so you better have a fast food meal plan in place. Salads and grilled chicken sandwiches are usually trustworthy, but be sure to hold the mayo and choose healthy dressings, sauces, and spices to make the food palatable. At a regular restaurant you should be able to order exactly what you need, to specs. Hold this, add that, side salad, and ice water. Don’t be afraid to ask to have your meal customized exactly how you want it.
Stick to these 5 tips and you’ll be successful on your hardcore diet. Consider using these tips with my upcoming Swole 30 Day Diet Shred or with intermittent fasting. Never give up hope after just a couple weeks of dieting. 10 weeks will go by like a flash and you will feel totally supreme for having stuck it out.
Tags: bodybuilding, cheat meals, Diet, dieting, eating, fat loss, food, lose fat, lose weight, meal planning, meals, nutrition, tips, weight loss
Thanks for your interesting post on creating cheat meal for dieting. My hand-up to you for making dieting meal more interesting through cheat meals. My hand-down to you for cheating when come to dieting. What is the purpose if this is going to be a strict diet plan?
Strict diets can still benefit from a cheat meal once a week. Every other meal should be strict.
It seems like a cheat meal is definitely helpful for making the rest of the discipline tolerable. I haven’t figured out how to cheat only one meal in a day, though. I can either go all-out and not cheat at all (for a stretch), or I slip off the wagon.
Preparing meals ahead of time is a good one. Even if I don’t prepare 3 days ahead of time, I’ll just make extra of whatever I’m cooking that day and then have plenty on hand for the day after.
Great tips on scheduling a cheat meal man. Especially the spices you have mentioned to add flavour to those bland foods. Plain chicken can really put you off your diet and demotivate you after a while, will be putting those spices to good use!
So what do YOU have when you go out to eat for you cheat MEAL. You mention not nachos but I’m curious what restaurant has a good cheat meal. I’ve always thought of going to Five Guys after “Leg” day which is my favorite day and I really push it. I thought okay big portion of protein (but NOT lean), potatoes for insulin spike. But I never have ’cause it just seems like too much of a cheat. Please don’t be shy in your recommendation and NOT mention any specific restaurant. If they have something worthy we should reward them by spreading the word.
By the way thank you for your blog.
You know about Five Guys? I didn’t know they were a franchise.
I know how to select and modify meals at any restaurant to make them healthy, so I can eat anywhere. I guess one of my guilty pleasure cheat meals is to order tacos and gorditas at Taco Bell. More sophisticated cheat meals can be had at the 99’s Restaurant and Pub, Longhorns, and the Olive Garden. I also enjoy going out to Hampton Beach to order some crazy fish, crab, or lobster meals.