Nutrition Tip – To cheat or not to cheat?

I am not a fan of the phrases “cheat meal” or “cheat day”.  For me that creates a negative connotation when in reality there is nothing wrong or negative about factoring in some scheduled meals that are off your eating plan. This does, however, come with some factors to consider.

The more focused you are on changing your body, the more you have to account for your caloric intake and the more you need to make the calories you are consuming “work” for you.  That being said, for the majority of people who just want to be healthier and lose some fat it is unrealistic and not necessary to never have any of the foods you enjoy as long as you do it within reason and as long as the majority of the time you are eating foods that are on your plan.

The important thing is to look at the trend of your eating habits over a period of time and you want the trend to be heavily slanted towards good days of execution verses bad.  In the documentary “I Want to Look Like That Guy” I give Stuart the example that if 90% of the time you ate crap food and 10% of the time you ate healthy it would not help you out very much. Well the same is true going the other way. If you eat healthy 90% of the time then 10% eating off the schedule is not going to “derail the train” so to speak.

The rules change if you are trying to be ultra lean. If that is your goal then I say you want to make all your calories work for you every day of the week and you don’t want to waste any meals on calories that are not going to perform the functions you are trying to achieve. Here’s how I approached it. During the maximum muscle building phase of the year I would have one day a week to eat what ever I wanted, without going totally crazy. Once I was within 6 months of a contest I would cut out any non-bodybuilding foods and make sure all my calories were working for me 7 days a week.

So the moral of this story is in most cases it is fine and recommended to schedule an off day and have some meals for enjoyment (not a license to gorge).  Just make sure the overall trend of your eating pattern is heavily slanted towards following your nutrition plan.

If you approach it intelligently there is nothing that is “cheating” about it.


  1. Hi Jeff, I understand that you recommend cardio sessions in the 16 – 20 minute range, and with high intensity. I like to use interval training in order to increase the intensity during my sessions (I find it difficult to increase the intensity with conventional cardio).

    I like to do these high intensity sessions 5 days a week. A lot of articles I read regarding high intensity interval cardio training recommend that people do it no more than 3 times a week (to prevent over training)?

    Am I over training by doing this type of cardio 5 days a week?

    • I don’t believe you are. When focusing on Maximum fat burning to get ultra lean I did Max-OT style cardio 6 times a week and had great results!

  2. Hi jeff. On your week off from training and the weekends. Should you consume the same amount of calories what you would eat on workout days? cheers

    • On the week off and on non training days calories will be a little lower because you are not consuming pre/post workout drinks and the post workout meals with the extra carbohydrates.

  3. Jeff I am currently deployed and just started doing MAX OT 7 weeks ago. Progress has really been good as far as strength and weight increase since I’m following you bulk up diet. I really want to gain as much as I can for the next 4 months until I begin a calorie reduction (cutting) phase. My biggest concern is I am doing the reps very consistently and to the letter going as heavy as possible but I feel that some of my muscles just arent growing. For example Jeff I am able to complete 135lb barbell curls correctly but still dont quite see my arms blowing out yet, and the same with my chest. I get no pump at all and am never sore except on leg day. Really max out every rep every time but feel like Im not quite packing on that hard big look yet. Any advice?

    • Takes time and execution. Quality muscle is built over years and not just weeks. So my advice is to continue to execute the plan and be very consistent with your nutrition, particularly in the post workout hours.

  4. Hi jeff, I always questioning what is better for building muscle apart from the diet, doing 8-12 reps till failure or 4-8 reps till failure. Cheers

  5. Hi jeff, If my only goal is muscle mass/strength gain does calorie intake, diet and scimming really matter ?, thanks

    • Yes, diet matters a ton for maximizing muscle gains. Nutrient ratios, nutrient timing, caloric intake….it all matters.

      • As long as I eat the correct nutrients at the right times, would eating extra meals/calories ontop of that have an effect on strength and mass gain ?

        • Not necessarily. An overabundance of calories even if it is coming from “good” foods will lead towards fat gain. Extra fat doesn’t make you stronger.

  6. avatar
    Jeppe Tarp

    Hi Jeff,
    Watching your documentary made me want to try out the Max-OT program.

    One thing is confusing me though. When I have to step up in weight, is that when I can do 6 reps, in all sets, or only in the last set?

    Currently I can do 2 sets of 6, and then the last set I can do about 4 reps before failure. Should I increase the weight? or Wait until I can do 6 in all sets.

    By the way, your blog is amazing!

    • Once you hit 6 reps with good execution you should increase by the smallest increment. You do not need to get all sets of 6 before you bump it up.

  7. hey jeff.. is it possible that you can email me the workout program for “i want to look like that guy” ? im a 16 year old who is willing to put in hard work and dedication… much appreciated

  8. when do you go to failure?

    • You should train to positive failure on all your sets which is the last rep you can complete on your own with VERY little to no help.

  9. Jeff its me again been working out as always and got a bit burnt out with the Max OT… Just being honest but still hitting it hard.. When I begin Cutting down just wondering what can I use to replace NY-TRO pro 40 since it is no longer available?? maybe 2 scoops of protein and 16 ounces of skim milk?? Thanks Jeff

    • You should look for a meal replacement with a similar nutrient profile that Ny-Tro PRO 40 had. And you are looking for a blend of proteins.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    I’m going to attempt working out in the morning, however I only have a 30-40min window before I train…what would you recommend to eat to fuel a workout? Thanks again!!!

  11. Hey Jeff,

    Been following a low carb diet, and been avoiding cardio because of muscle loss….what would be the recommended meal pre- cardio?….also since I have carbs once a day at breakfast, since my workout is in the evening should I consume carbs again after my postworkout meal i.e dinner

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