I don’t use the word “cheat” to describe any meals, because cheating is associated with guilt and shame. I prefer “treat” meals. When it comes to fat loss I don’t allow treat meals until I’m am less than 10 percent body fat.
That’s the line I use: 10 percent for men, 16 percent for women.
Once you arrive at that body fat benchmark, you’re in the clear to have a treat meal—not a treat evening—every 5-7 days. If you stick to your program, work hard, and eat clean 90 percent of the time, you have the right to occasional treats. Scheduling them into your diet can actually work wonders.
When it comes to bulking up, I usually do two treat half-days per week, on Thursday and Sunday from noon to midnight. My wife and I will go out for dinner those nights, often followed by a movie and some treats.
By building in my treat days, I avoid giving in to cravings the rest of the week and I’m able to sustain a healthy diet over the long term.
Pay Attention to Meal Cadence
Earning your abs isn’t just about fat-loss. It’s also about building muscle.
That added muscle speeds your metabolism and also powers you through the fat-burning cardio workouts that help you get leaner.
But working out is only one part of building muscle; you also need the right nutrition to promote muscle protein synthesis.
Protein synthesis is the means by which your body uses dietary protein to build new muscle fibers.
Those muscle fibers are all made of various amino acids, and one of the most important for gaining size is leucine.
A steady supply of it throughout the day can help you build new muscle, and frequent high-protein meals are a great way to get that steady intake.
So what’s the ideal schedule? You’ll get different answers to that question. I’ve tried consuming my macros in two, three, and four meals per day, and each time I got smaller and weaker.
Based on my personal research and experience with my diet, as well as working with hundreds of face-to-face clients and tens of thousands of online clients, I concluded that five whole-food meals and one shake per day is optimal.
This has worked most effectively for 90 percent of my clients, 90 percent of the time.
Eating six meals per day is also a realistic way to divide your day’s protein, if you can make it work. You will generally get about 3-5 g of leucine in every 30-50 g of protein, so dividing your intake into 5-6 total meals (using a diet with 200 g per day as an example) puts you right where you need to be.