Cheat Meal Anyone? Phil Learney Explains - Part 2!

Its an old phrase I’ve used and will use again ‘it’s about what you NEED not what you WANT’.

This brings me onto two points, one of which a little daunting but nevertheless a fact. Put some commercially produced food, McDonalds, Chocolate bar etc in amongst a pack of hungry wild animals and due to the fact they can still define what they ‘need’ and what is actual food they won’t touch it. Put the food in amongst a pack of domesticated  or human bred animals and they’ll consume it happily. As a note, there are no recorded cases of onset diabetes in wild animals or infact many other modern diseases. Both cancer and diabetes are now prevalent through domesticated and human reared animals. This is one of the reasons I’m a strong advocate of well sourced and wild meats.

The other point which I’m sure all of you can relate to is that we are all addicted to some extent and the food industry bank on that fact. In my recent mentorship I posed the question that if you where able to give me one commercially available food that would symptomatically fix the below symptoms  what would it be? I won’t answer this as I’ll let you think about it but if you refer to Part 1. These symptoms are in the red area as a note and the solution was actually utilised as a medicine in its originating country.

You need to:

Increase neural focus and concentration.


Offset Hunger

Improve Cognitive Function.

Answers on a postcard please……….

Many food companies much like drug dealers will use the simple marketing strategy of ‘giving some away for free’…….create a NEED and you have a market but it’s a NEED for all the wrong reasons and quite deceptive. Think about what your body WANTS. Apologies….off on a little tangent there but a soap box is a soap box right.


Leptin is an interesting one, it is derived from the word leptos meaning ‘thin’ in Greek.

Leptin is a protein based hormone that basically regulates appetite and metabolism. It sends the signals out to the body to say if we are in a level of starvation (Red Zone) or we are nutritionally sound (Grey Zone).

Leptin is managed by fat cells and mediated by the level of someones bodyfat. The higher someones bodyfat is the higher their leptin levels are, the lower someones bodyfat therefore is the lower someones leptin levels will be. The challenge that lies with Leptin is that when someone begins a diet or becomes calorie restrictive the body inhibits Leptin and levels get even lower. I have said this before and have said this again that one of the main reasons for ‘dieting’ NOT working is a restriction in calories and THIS is why.

Figure 1. To Review and can be seen to overlay Figure 2.

Figure 2. Leptin Response.

Someone on a restrictive diet will lower leptin levels which therefore sends the signal we are starving (Red Zone) at this point Cortisol goes through the roof, thyroid hormones (more on these next) plummet and a bunch of appetite stimulting hormones fire up to tell you to get your arse back in the grey. Science tells us that after 7 days of restrictive dieting or creating a negative deficit through training (My favourable method) Leptin levels drop by about 50%. To raise this back to its normal level will generally take us less than 24 hrs. How we do this is a excess of calories and most importantly carbohydrates.

Ok, now before you all start getting excited and think that because you’ve spent 7 days dieting or creating a calorie deficit its time to pig out, think again. I’ll repeat myself…..the higher someones bodyfat is the higher their leptin levels are, the lower someones bodyfat therefore is the lower someones leptin levels will be. The 50% drop is relative to the amount you begin with. If you’re overweight the leptin is there but much like the issue we have with Insulin you cannot release and utilise it, the leptin receptors have been de-sensitised. The 50% drop will not be sufficient in someone overweight to warrant a carb/caloric refeed as it’s only relative to the amount they began with. Leptin management is only really of major concern to those that are lean but if utilised correctly can push the boundaries of leaness.

In a hierachy of what someone overweight needs to be concerned with it isnt Leptin. As diet improves and Insulin efficiency improves Leptin receptors will in hand be re-sensitised and it now becomes a useful tool in the quest for fat loss.


We now come onto the final hormones of note (in this conversation anyways).

The Thyroid Hormones are responsible again in this conversation for Basal Metabolic rate. The black line in figure 2. It will increase this basal metabolic rate and also impact the metabolism of Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. This becomes a burnout issue in most cases. Our body has a certain amount of fuel it can process and utilise in one go.

If we take a typical Western diet that has 3 meals in it with traditionally the biggest meal being in the evening it would mean at some point this person WILL overeat in order to meet caloric requirements. If they don’t remember all that happens is Leptin decreases and appetite stimulating hormones Ghrelin, Neuropeptide-Y and Anandamine increase. So you’re gonna be hungry irritable, losing no bodyfat and on a low calorie diet. …..sound familiar (Just incase you really don’t get it muscle will be used as fuel so weight WILL come down to a point).

So everytime someone overeats Thyroid hormones elevate metabolic rate and this leads to heat generation. In someone who regulates metabolic rate successfully overeating will lead to a notable increase in body temp. If this isn’t you maybe the timing of a cheat meal isn’t appropriate. Continuous bouts of overeating or binging will lead to the burnout of the Thyroid hormones and once again an indication of underactivity within them. Overeating is NOT total calories it is a ‘per meal’ scenario. Therefore 3000 k/cal is not JUST 3000, its how its dispersed and often the reason most of my clients ending up eating more calories than they started with.


There is NO exact science here but I would quite simply start with some markers and how I generally work with people.

If bodyfat is in excess of 25% there are NO cheat meals as in the onset someone at this level WILL make conscious and unconscious mistakes.

15-25% I would look at implementing a cheat meal every 4-5 weeks.

10-15% I would apply a cheat meal at least every 14 days without fail.

4-10% I would use a ‘re-feed’ or cheat meal every 7-10 days.


A cheat meal simply has to be an excess of calories and a substantial elevation in carbohydrates if we want to spark up and make use of the above three systems. This does NOT have to be junk. It can simply be a re-feed. I occasionally just eat my normal structure and throw a 1kg bag of sweet potatoes on every meal in that day. Other times I’ll pick one meal and have a pizza or something like. At present my bodyfat is about 8-9% so I use one every 7-10 days and may choose either option. What I can say for sure is that 1-2 days post re-feed my metabolic rate is still racing and I am visually leaner. The way this works is that the elevation in calories ramps everything up and for a period of 24-48 hours later your body is working harder than ever. Therefore you burn fuel FAST!

Pretty neat huh…..BUT I EARNED THIS RIGHT!

Be strategic and sensible with both your own and your clients ‘cheat meals’ or re-feed days.

For more articles from Phil Learney, world leading expert visit !!

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