Every prep is different for different athletes. Reigning Bikini Olympia champion Jennifer Dorie has prepped without cheat meals for 15 to 16 weeks and preps with cheat meals every week or biweekly until a few weeks before a contest. She has done preps where her cheat meals stop at the halfway point. That variance depends on her starting point and how her body responds to cheat meals.
In a video published on her YouTube page on Sept. 30, 2022, Dorie delved into how she structures cheat meals into her prep and how and why they can be valuable tools for building a physique. Check it out below:
Even before prep began, Dorie’s off-season consisted of eating clean Monday through Friday and then allowing herself whatever she wanted on the weekend. She deemed those Saturdays and Sundays “intuitive” eating days.
Monday through Friday, all of Dorie’s meals were home-cooked or MegaFit meals — a meal prep service. Anything that wasn’t was considered a cheat meal. For Dorie, a cheat meal doesn’t inherently mean it has to be unhealthy or highly caloric.
A cheat meal for me doesn’t mean it’s terrible for you or junk food or fast food. Getting salmon at a restaurant…extra added oil, and calories.
On the weekends during the off-season, Dorie allows herself whatever she wants. Usually, this will be two cheat meals per week, and she will maintain her weight.
When Dorie started her prep, she didn’t chomp at the bit to increase her cardio or drop her calories. The only initial change she made was cleaning up those cheat meals to one per week on Saturday nights.
She will go out for a “cheat meal,” although she prefers to call them “treat meals.” So many factors go into including a cheat meal in a person’s prep. Dorie stresses how those calories still count — it’s not a free for all — you don’t want to spend all week getting back to where you were before the cheat meal as your weight would yo-yo.
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Dorie keeps close to her stage weight during prep, making the impending calorie deficit to sharpen up less stark. To defend her crown at the 2022 Olympia, she intends to bring her best package to date. Dorie has learned from experience that cutting the last five pounds is the most challenging.
Dorie’s favorite hot spot for her Saturday night cheat meals is Barry’s Steakhouse in Las Vegas, NV:
The food is amazing, the service is amazing, desserts are amazing, there’s so many desserts.
Dorie has a steak, extra crispy truffle fries, a side of mushrooms and onions, one piece of house bread, and a glass of red wine for most of her cheat meals. She never goes overboard, though, only eating until she is comfortable. Having the same cheat meal each week is another way for her to stay consistent, and she knows her body responds.
Dorie’s diet and cardio plan do not change the day of or the day following her cheat meals. She doesn’t cut carbs or fats. The cheat meal replaces her last meal of the day. Sunday brings the routine grind, though Sundays are Dorie’s rest day. By Monday, the cheat meal revitalizes Dorie with renewed energy and a great pump in the gym.
The further Dorie gets into prep, the more effectively her body is at burning off cheat meals. She gains a pound or two from the extra sodium she feels her body burns off the meal by Tuesday.
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Calibrating Cheat Meals
- “Am I making progress at the rate that I should be, that I want to be? Decide from here because if I am not progressing week to week, my body isn’t responding well to cheat meals, hurting me more than helping me.”
- “How is the cheat meal affecting my digestion? Is my digestion responding well to the cheat meal, or is it messing up my digestion for the rest of the week; or for too long?”
- “Do you want the cheat meal, or does your body need the cheat meal?”
The above questions are guidelines, as there isn’t one correct answer for everyone. An athlete could want and need a cheat meal. But if it isn’t helping their prep, it might be better to sacrifice cheat meals until after the show when they can be enjoyed without hindering progress.
I enjoy my cheat meals. However, I have no emotional attachment to them. When they do go it’s not the end of the world.
Eleven weeks from the Olympia at the time of the video’s publication, all is seemingly going well for Dorie. She already has a winning physique and aims to maintain the package she brought in 2021, perhaps even sharper.
Dorie stays lean during her off-season. She is further ahead in her prep in 2022 than in 2021 — she’s already within 10 pounds of her stage weight. She’s fine-tuning rather than putting on mass, especially in her legs and glutes. We’ll see if including these strategic cheat meals will help her retain her Bikini crown at the Olympia in December 2022.
Featured images: @jenniferdorie_ifbbpro on Instagram