Refeed to Lose Body Fat
Most likely you heard someone explaining their “cheat meal” or “cheat day” while they are on some form of diet or nutritional plan. These terms are pretty common knowledge. When you hear cheat meal or cheat day, you might think – Philly cheese steak pizza, triple scoop ice cream sundae side and a liter of something carbonated to wash it all down. Maybe that is just me, but in general I believe you understand the concept of cheating on a diet, which typically involve foods rich in fat. But what is this about a refeed day?
Until recently I had not heard anyone talk about a refeed day, let alone did I have any clue as to what the term might mean. Fortunately a friend of mine Travis Struble (owner of Struble Training Concepts) decided to casually drop this little nugget of wisdom during a conversation in preparation for our upcoming bodybuilding shows. After quickly switching into the game 20 questions, I picked Travis’ brain enough to get myself information hungry and ready to spend the next few hours reading everything Google search had to offer.
Before we get into defining the term “refeeding“, we must first understand Leptin. Trying to keep things at a high level, this hormone plays a vital part in energy regulation and energy expenditure which includes, appetite and metabolism. Even more interesting to those of us trying to lose body fat – studies have shown that low calorie diets or fasting is correlated with lower leptin levels and that leptin is affected more by the decrease in food intake than its increase. (Interested in reading some of those studies: Effect of Fasting, Refeeding, and Dietary Fat Restriction on Plasma Leptin Levels and Plasma leptin responses to fasting in Pima Indians)
Now that you understand the importance of leptin, lets answer the question you have been waiting for: What is refeeding? To be blunt, refeeding is an effort to boost back up your leptin levels with the goal of maintaining a more active metabolism and allow your body to continue to reach lower levels of body fat. When refeeding you are consuming more than your normal amount of carbohydrates because leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism as opposed to typical cheat meals that are normally a free-for-all and rich in fat. Unfortunately fat does not have the same affect on leptin as its relative the carbohydrate, which is why refeeds are centered around carbohydrate consumption.
How much more carbohydrates should you consume? This is where the grey area begins. There are various estimates, opinions and guidelines to determine how much more carbohydrates to consume when refeeding and as you know that every individual is different. Some say 20-50% more calories from carbohydrates and some look at actual grams of carbohydrates consumed. Personally, what works for me is 50-100 grams over normal consumption. Keep in mind this should not be replacing any of your other macro-nutrients. You will be consuming the same amount of protein and fat as every other day. On a refeed day, you will eat more than normal and it will be carbohydrate goodness.
How often should you be refeeding? Again another grey area. This is highly dependent on how long you have been dieting and how low your leptin levels have dropped. If you are in the single digit body fat range, chances are your leptin levels may be in need of some help. The more drastic the situation, the more often and the more intense the refeed. Remember, the goal is to kick start the body into increasing that hormone. A good point of entry for refeeding is once a week.
By now you should have enough of an understanding of what a refeed day is to apply it, or just store it away for a random bodybuilding Jeopardy question. However this tactic has allowed me to push past my plateau and get my body in the best conditioning possible for my upcoming show, so I felt it should be shared.