How to Cheat at the Weekend Without Ruining Your Diet

How to Cheat at the Weekend Without Ruining Your Diet

The weekend can be a challenge as far as dieting is concerned. Our food-loving physique competitor, Tom McDonough, explains how to get through it without feeling guilty and ruining your diet progress.


Firstly I hate the phrase ‘cheat meal’… it automatically puts a negative twist on something as simple as eating a meal out with friends or family, and often leads to guilt. Start calling it a ‘free meal,’ a meal off the plan, a meal you can enjoy that you shouldn’t be feeling guilty about. I simply used the term for the article as everyone knows what a cheat meal is.

It’s pretty easy to stick to a diet five days a week. Most of us have a set routine that we can stick to and prepare food for so we adhere to our goals. When it comes to the weekend that’s a whole different ball game where routine goes out the window and we don’t necessarily want to be carrying food while out and about with friends. Hopefully this article will give you a few ideas on how to tackle the weekend diet without leaving you filled with guilt come Monday morning. You will have enjoyed your weekend without suffering.

There are many ways to skin a cat- how strict you want to be will dictate the methods you may choose.
Here’s are a few ways I do things and have successfully done in the past.

First, let’s look at options if you are being pretty strict and have a goal in mind: Simply write out a plan for the two days which include foods you’d like to eat over the weekend that are totally different to your optimal meals. The great thing is, because we are normally busy over the weekend and do not have to get up so early, your normal 5/6 meals that you eat on weekdays can be reduced to 3/4. That gives you a lot more calories to play with for each meal. You can even raise your calories a couple hundred over the weekend (don’t do this if you have someone helping with your diet.)

If you set yourself a plan through out the week heavy in “optimal” foods like the usual chicken and rice, then make a change. You could have pancakes for breakfast or eggs and bacon on toast and then grab yourself a subway for lunch. If you make the right choice even a foot long is only about 600/650 calories. Eat what ever, just make sure it fits your calorie allowance. Make sure that you maintain a good amount of protein within this and let the fats and carbs fall wherever. Eating this way is not perfect but much better than going off the rails and quite easily consuming an extra 2/30 00 calories which could set you back days.

This is obviously hugely dependent on your goals, and individual to each person. Your daily calories may be a lot lower, for example females may not eat 1500 calories and still have 1500 to play with so obviously your meal sizes would need to be reduced. You would need to design this FOR YOU. One plan for food certainly does not fit all but I hope reading this article helps you get the idea.


Pro Tips

Method 1- Goal Focused

  • Track your food
  • Write out a plan
  • Pick foods you look forward to eating

Method 2- Lifestyle Focused

  • Track your food
  • Consume less through out the day
  • Leave yourself plenty of calories
  • The day after have a low day
  • Weight session on following day
  • Choose food you enjoy

The Hungry Man’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

The Hungry Man's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

In this special guest blog, strength and conditioning coach, Alex Backhouse, who has over 10 years industry experience, talks us through the basics of Intermittent Fasting; What it is and how you could benefit from this tried and tested eating approach.


What is Intermittent Fasting?

I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. You may be even experimenting with it already. The world seems to love things that have got technical sounding titles, especially when it comes to health, fitness and weight loss.

High Intensity Interval Training? We could just call that sprints. But it doesn’t sound as good. Intermittent fasting- sounds ten times better than skipping breakfast doesn’t it?

So to take the mystique out of fasting, let’s give it a better definition.“Non-sequential extended periods without calories.” From time to time, you don’t eat – at all.

There are several different ways to apply this caloric restriction, including the 5:2 method which involves 2 days of the week with severe calorie restriction. There are some that favour the occasional 24-72 hour fast, where you only drink water and other calorie free drinks.

I’ve found the ‘windowed eating’ approach easiest to use personally, and the one I’ve had great success with my clients with. You eat all your food within a timed window: usually 8 hours or less. The easiest way to do this is to skip breakfast, and carry on your day as if nothing happened.


How does Intermittent Fasting work?

“But breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I hear you cry.

For me there’s a massive disparity with the type of things we were eating, 20, 50 or 100 years ago compared to the plethora of calorific delights at our disposal these days. Let alone the difference in lifestyle: transport, jobs, exercise, and recreation. My point is this: A day of working hard in the fields and coming home to a meager portion of meat and potatoes before bed is very different to how we live our lives today.

At some point, maybe breakfast really was the most important meal of the day. But not any more. I’m not even going to go down the route of whether Mr. Kellog invented that phrase as a marketing slogan and got the whole world hooked on carbs for breakfast. But it’s definitely a possibility.

So lets look a bit more at what happens to your body when you don’t eat. If you don’t believe in fasting, technically you’re already doing it every time you go to bed- this is where the magic happens. We recover from the day’s grind, the day’s workout. We soak up all the calories and nutrients we’ve absorbed from our food. Cells repair. We grow a little bit. We get older.

We burn fat too, because after a while, all the calories we’ve eaten have been assigned to different storage areas – muscle, liver, fat stores, and we enter the fasted state aka the post-absorptive state. We’re no longer digesting and absorbing calories, we’re now using them and burning them. So when we wake up, we’re burning fat. I’m pretty sure most of us would be happy with that.

“But my metabolism will slow down if I don’t eat small regular meals”

Allow me to paraphrase Kaiser Soze when I say “The greatest trick the food industry ever pulled, was convincing people they had to eat more food in order to lose weight.”

I’m well aware that in extreme cases this may be true, but I think most of us would agree that if we’re overweight, it’s because we eat too much in general. And a consistent, mild caloric deficit is essential for weight loss (I’ll come back to this bit later). Then there’s this phrase “stoking the metabolic fire”- implying that you need to eat to increase the rate at which your metabolism burns calories.

Well, metabolic rate is king when it comes to daily caloric expenditure. If we can be burning more calories at rest, or throughout the day in general, then this is our most powerful tool in the battle to drop some fat. But we do not significantly increase our metabolic rate by eating. We increase it through exercise and by having more muscle mass.

You can fast for up 72 hours before experiencing any drop in metabolic rate, providing calories are kept above BMR before and after the period of fasting


What are the benefits?

So we’ve established that a fasted state is safe for our hard earned muscle, and that we probably don’t need to be topping up our glycogen levels to 100% to go about our day- unless we were mid-way through Royal Marines selection. We can now come back to your daily calorie allowance and how much we need to restrict this by to lose weight.

As a regular exerciser weighing 92kg, my basal metabolic rate is around 3400 calories. If I subtract 500 off this (the accepted sensible amount for consistent weight loss,) I get 2900. Following a windowed eating approach, breaking my fast at noon, I now have 8 hours to consume nearly 3000 calories. Which is nice.

However, if I divided this into 5 meals of 600 calories each, the first of which I ate at 7am, I’m just going to feel hungry, deprived and grumpy for pretty much the whole day.

Are you starting to see the appeal?

Fasting is not for everyone and not for every situation. Adding muscle mass would favour being in a fed state as well as a reasonable (500) surplus of calories per day. But for weight loss, maintenance or even a simple system to enjoy food without obsessing over macros and calories, a windowed eating approach can be a valuable tool.

It’s not ALL about weight loss though is it?

Human Growth Hormone, a favourite of Hollywood celebrities as a ‘fountain of youth’ substance has been shown to increase during periods of fasting. Insulin levels get reset to a healthier level by restricting any rises in blood sugar.

And there are the ‘non scientific’ benefits…

You have more energy. Strange but true. You’re not constantly craving food or worrying about where you can get some protein- you learn to survive with a slight hunger pang in my belly. Personally, I’m actually more productive on it.


To summarise, hopefully my fresh perspective on 21st century life, coupled with the biological processes involved in fasting have allayed some your concerns about experimenting with what is probably the easiest method of reducing your daily calories and feeling better throughout the day.

Wake up.

No breakfast.

Black coffee or black tea is fine.

Plenty of water.

Your lunch is when you’ll ‘break your fast’.



Try it tomorrow!


Note: Please seek advice from your doctor if you are on any medication or have any medical issues, prior to attempting to follow or trial any of the above advice.

A Look for the Future

Reflex Nutrition Re-Brand and new categories

Along with a reputation for delivering unparalleled quality in the sports nutrition market, at Reflex Nutrition we are known for our unique holographic packaging.  As part of a process of ensuring that we capture the very essence of the brand and make your navigation around the different categories as logical as it can be, we have redesigned the labels and trimmed the categories down from five to three (but keeping all existing products). Each new category has a dynamic logo that reflects its individual essence;

Strength and performance

Our previous ‘muscle and strength’ and ‘energy and endurance’ ranges have been merged to form a category that contains every product needed for any strength, performance or endurance goal.
The Strength & Performance graphic is designed to represent a brightly shining force, almost star like sense capturing the sense of strength or dynamic performance.

High protein

The High Protein graphic is designed to represent a highly active, almost sense of breakthrough in whatever physical activity you are undertaking.


Our vitality range has been expanded to include out previously named ‘weight management’ category and contains everything from vitamins and minerals to diet proteins and other weight management supplements.
The Vitality graphic is instantly much calmer and softer, representing a more rounded sense of health and wellbeing.

All new Reflex Nutrition products off the production line will have the new packaging layout with existing products coming into circulation from early March.

Look out! Are any of these ingredients lurking in your protein powder?

Protein powders

Protein powders, shakes, whey protein drinks and protein blends are terms that can be applied to products that vary enormously in terms of ingredients and quality.

This to me is a problem.

You see when I started Reflex Nutrition I did so with one aim, to make the best. That ethos has not changed but many other companies do not work with that view. Instead, they are driven by accountants rather than passionate product experts.

Reflex Nutrition is in the business of making first class supplements and I could take you through the entire range to demonstrate the point but let us take Growth Matrix as an example. It is a post workout recovery product aimed at an almost immediate delivery of whey di and tri peptides in combination with high dose L-leucine and glucose polymers. I remember nearly ten years ago to the day formulating this amazing product but realising that it tasted really challenging. We even ended up putting a note on the product label to forewarn people of the taste that is associated with using such an extreme hydrolysate as the sole source of protein. Given the performance consideration, I simply would not compromise and that formula is still nearly identical to how it was when it was first sold.

The point is this; at no point would there be a compromise, it was possible to make it for less and make more profit, but we would not use an inferior hydrolysate, we would not use less L-Leucine, nor would we lower anything, cut ingredients in favour of flavour so that we could sell more. I would be selling my soul to the devil. I’m a firm believer of getting what you pay for, if you think Reflex products are expensive there is a reason for that, you are getting the best. If you don’t like the price I’m certainly not offended if you buy another brand’s offerings, but I can guarantee it will be the expense of something else.

The industry today is flooded with protein powders and it must be a minefield for any newcomer to sports nutrition to make any sense of it all. What I can say is that there seems to an ever growing emphasis on flavour and as a result we’re seeing widespread use of fillers to make products taste better. But they are ALL at the EXPENSE of the nutritional profile. Protein content will go down and the compromises will increase.

There are a number of ingredients you can add to a protein powder that will improve the flavour and mouthfeel of the product, but at the expense of the nutritional profile and sometimes potentially your health. I want to point these out to you today so that you can make an informed choice the next time you buy a protein powder. And you will not find any of these ingredients in a Reflex product.

What you don’t need in a protein powder or your label:

Creamer or Non Dairy Creamers

A very popular ingredient that can make just about any protein shake taste better by adding fat, flavours and sodium which makes your protein shake taste more creamy and smooth. However it’s not what you would call healthy, some are laden with trans fats, some are not. Many are made from palm oil and that immediately rules it out for us because of the deforestation that occurs to grow palm oil. Here is a typical ingredient list for a non dairy creamer; CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, VEGETABLE OIL (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OR PALM KERNEL, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN), SODIUM CASEINATE, AND LESS THAN 2% OF DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ANNATTO COLOR.

It is like someone has made a competition to make the worst possible concoction of ingredients and this won! Needless to say we’re no fan of creamers, and you don’t add milligrams, you need grams per serving to having a noticeable effect on flavour.

Soy Protein, especially GMO Soy Protein.

Lots and lots of protein blends contain soy protein, as do meal replacements, protein bars, flapjacks and all in one bodybuilding supplements. I wrote a whole article about why we don’t use soy protein you can read that here in the blog.

Protein % less than 70%

A lower protein % is the direct result of adding fillers or using cheaper proteins. If you add highly quality sources of protein to make a quality protein blend and add some flavour, colour and a small amount of thickener you should end up with a protein powder of 70%, even for chocolate! As an example, our 100% Whey Protein product delivers 70% protein for all flavours, and this is our entry level product using WPC as its only source of protein, that’s as low as we go!! But if you are paying a premium then it should be at least 75% protein, especially if you are using whey isolates, egg white and micellar casein. As an example our protein blend Peptide Fusion is 78% protein.


Fructose has a place in energy drinks in specific ratios for people exercising more than one hour. That’s the only time it offers value in sports nutrition, and its scientifically proven. However, throwing it into a protein shake to sweeten it is simply madness in my opinion, dextrose would be better.

Sodium Chloride

Lots of brands add additional sodium to boost the flavour profile of their shakes. We all love salt on our foods but it is simply not needed in a shake, there are novel ways of adding flavour (yet costly) to shakes without having to add plain table salt sodium chloride.

Artificial Colours

Certain USA brands seem to love adding all manner of artificial ingredients. I understand its use because you literally need only add 0.01% to make a shake go bright pink, probably very necessary if you have already lowered the protein content by adding creamers, fructose and sodium chloride!

Glycine, the protein spiker’s delight!

Protein spiking, a hot topic! Some companies will use glycine in their protein powders. Why? It’s cheap, it tastes quite sweet and carries with it a very high nitrogen content. This will boost protein content dramatically with minimal cost. It’s about one third the price of whey protein and contains nearly twice as much nitrogen. Even though there is some evidence to support its use to elevate growth hormone levels there is a lack of clinical data. Why is it used in a protein powders today? Why not ask the supplement companies who make such products.

Protein listed on a “dry basis”

Meaningless and totally misleading to the consumer. Do you know what it means? The “the dry basis” info comes from a Certificate of Analysis that dairies use to show the amount of moisture in their raw material. I’ve never seen the point because moisture is always listed separately and usually represents about 5% of the protein powder. But what they also do list is the actual protein content “as is” it looks like this;

Protein (on dry basis) 85%

Protein (as is) 80%

Moisture 5%

If you ask the dairy which protein figure represents what’s in the product it’s the “as is” figure, it’s the same answer they gave me 20 years ago and it’s the same today. We test in house all of our suppliers proteins and it’s always the figure that matches our own test results. Why use the “dry basis” figure?? Go ask those supplement companies that use it. I know it is illegal to label a food product in the EU using such terminology so I’m guessing that those companies are just not aware of the laws that protect consumers. Labelling has to be accurate in every detail.

Other stuff

I’m sure there will be ingredients I’ve missed out, so if there are any that come to light in the coming months I’ll amend this blog with additional information.

Something is coming!

If you have read this far, then great, thank you for your time and I hope that the information has been useful. As always I’m here at Reflex Nutrition focusing on improvements and advances in sports nutrition so do not be surprised to see a new protein blend very soon with a protein content that’s minimum 80% protein derived from a unique whey isolate not found in any other protein blend in the world, micellar casein and egg with absolutely none of the ingredients mentioned above!


The Ultimate Meal Replacement – What to expect in the near future

The ultimate Reflex Nutrition meal replacement

At Reflex, we have seen first hand market trends change quite dramatically over time and the subsequent demand for certain products to perform complete u-turns.  Some fifteen years ago the market for Meal Replacement Products (MRP’s) dominated.

We have a MRP available at the moment (Diet MRP) which has to meet a very strict nutritional profile in order that it is legally classified as VAT exempt.  Similarly, other products exist in the market that proclaim great things but in our opinion haven’t progressed beyond what was on offer fifteen years ago.  Herein lies our challenge; to produce a product that draws on ALL of the advances in nutritional understanding, that is based on optimising the quality through choice of the very best ingredients from leading global suppliers and to challenge what people think of MRP’s.

In order that a product be called a meal replacement, it really does need to hit exceptionally high standards.  I’m sure all of you reading this blog are very discerning in terms of what you eat and what you don’t eat.  Herein lies both the paradox and the challenge.  At Reflex, we produce food supplements, but the very product category we are talking about  here (meal replacements) must achieve something all together different if people such as you are prepared to use the product as a genuine meal replacement.  Respectful of this, I want to produce something that challenges your expectations of what is possible, that leaves you thinking “if only I could cover these bases in the lunch I’m about to eat”.

That’s our challenge and given what we’ve got up our sleeves, we’re confident that you’re going to be totally surprised.  Think of the future of nutritional solutions and think about having that incorporated into a sachet.  We’d love to hear about what you think a meal replacement of the future should contain so would welcome your feedback.

Rest assured, we will be very interested in your thoughts but be totally sure that what we have planned currently does represent the future.

Stay tuned!