Cheat sheet to the runner’s diet

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 1086 Views 0 Comments
Cheat sheet to the runner’s diet

By Prachi Mandholia

Because cheating on your diet, occasionally, is good for you

Avoid sugary treats. Renounce fried stuff. Abstain from foods high in saturated fats. As a runner, you are always told to restrict foods. All of it is true, but not sustainable. Everyone likes junk food every now and then. ‘Cheat meals’ were designed to satisfy cravings while boosting the metabolism. Cheat days or planned days of nutritional splurges have increasingly becoming popular as a way for health conscious individuals to enjoy their favourite foods, without guilt.

Benefits of cheat meals:

Cheating has proved to be beneficial in the long run. Cheat days give you a mental boost. Eating grilled vegetables day in and day out can de-motivate the most dedicated individuals.

One of the major benefits of cheat days is its effect on leptin. Leptin is a hormone secreted by the fat cells responsible for regulating energy balance by inhibiting hunger. When the leptin levels reach a threshold, the brain signals the body to stop eating. However, with decreased leptin levels, the appetite increases which results in overeating. A strict diet for a prolonged period can lower the leptin level. So in order to keep it in check, regular binging will help rev up the metabolism.

Caloric restriction also adversely affects levels of the thyroid hormone which is responsible for regulating metabolism.

Cheat smart:

Since most cheaters have a sweet-tooth, listed below are a few healthy sweet treats:

1. Almond and cinnamon energy bites:

These energy bites are a natural healthy fuel to the runner. They also satisfy sweet cravings. Packed with protein, omega-3 and anti-oxidants, they make for a perfect immunity treat.

Blend some soaked almonds with walnuts and cardamom. Add some sugar to the mixture and a dash of cinnamon. Roll out into bars.

2. Chocolate dipped strawberry:

Combat the not so healthy side of chocolate by using it as a jacket on super fruits like strawberry. Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C which produces collagen, and positively affects muscles and bones, post a run.

3. Yogurt parfait:

A nourishing option to sweets, Greek yogurt, the main ingredient, is packed with protein for muscle repair. Add blueberries, chia seeds, granola and a banana. Here comes your perfect power-packed sweet treat. This treat is filled with anti-oxidants, which enhances recovery from stress. Also banana and granola provide energy to the muscles.

4. Fruit smoothies:

Fruit smoothies are always packed with nutrients. It could be for breakfast, a snack or dessert. Put a combination of milk, fruit, nuts and other goodies into a blender. To satisfy the sweet tooth, add in honey. This makes a delicious and nutritious dessert.

5. Peanut butter stuffed dates:

This makes a healthy dessert. Add a slice of banana and sprinkle cinnamon to make it even more delicious. This satisfies your sweet tooth fairly well and keeps you away from chocolate. Dates provide a good amount of iron, the transport agent of oxygen to the muscles, during a run.

Rules of cheat meals:

  1. No guilt – Enjoy your meal. Savor it. Don’t feel guilty. If you feel guilt, you lose the point altogether. But it is a slippery road; get back on track the next day.
  2. Plan your indulgence meals – Plan the day of the week to splurge. It should not be a spur of the moment decision. This will permit you to splurge rather than feeling guilty.
  3. Do not forget all you know about portion control – An indulgence meal is not a license to binge. E.g. if you go for cheeseburgers, pass on the fries or share the burger.
  4. Do not cheat too frequently – Spread out your cheating through the month, not more than once a week. Frequency of splurges depends on how close you are to the goal.
  5. Plan around special occasions- Birthdays and anniversaries call for celebrations that cannot be avoided. So plan your cheat meals during these special events.
  6. Move on – Do not allow an indulgence meal to turn into bad eating habits.

Remember, you can enjoy this dietary freedom, only if you have self control.

Having a high-carb meal will replenish glycogen stores and will help improve workout performance and get rid of mental fogginess. So have your cheat meal, enjoy it and get back on the wagon the very next day.


Prachi Mandholia, M.S. , R.D. , is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She is based out of Mumbai, India. She is a Practicing Clinical Nutritionist and Columnist, passionate about making changes in lifestyle. She is reachable at


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