You might hear about them all the time, but what is a refeed day exactly and what does it do? Lets find out!
What is the purpose of a refeed day?
The reason we have refeed days when dieting is to simply try and keep our metabolism from slowing down to a snails pace. When you begin dieting, sometimes the weight will drop really quickly to begin with – but you then hit a wall. All of a sudden you are struggling to lose anymore weight despite eating clean and training hard. This is usually due to low leptin levels within your body. Leptin plays a key role in regulating your energy intake and expenditure which has an effect on your appetite and hunger levels, metabolism and also your behavior.
Started experiencing some intense cravings for all of those wonderful foods all of a sudden? This is your body telling you that your leptin levels are low. Leptin also indicates a slowing metabolism. When you have been dieting for an extended period of time, your body will begin to slow down its metabolism in an attempt to adjust to the lower amount of calories being consumed. It is due to this slow down in metabolism which brings your weight loss to a halt.
How Do I Raise My Leptin Levels?
Ok, so we now know that low leptin levels are the cause for our deceleration in weight loss. So how do we battle this? Simple, we just need to eat! Our goal is to pick up our leptin levels to prevent a slow down in our metabolism – this is usually done by having one or two refeed days per week (some people call these ‘cheat days’). Some people will choose to go wild on these days and eat everything in sight. This is not advisable, as not only is it easy to over eat and end up ruining your whole weeks effort, but leptin is also highly responsive to glucose metabolism so it is much more wise to refeed using good carbohydrate sources which will then turn in to glucose to give your leptin levels a better response.
How Much Should I Eat to Refeed?
This all depends on how love you have been dieting, how intense your diet is as well as your current level of body fat. The more extreme each of these factors are (ie the lower body fat, more intense diet) the more extreme and frequent the refeed you will require.
Usually a refeed should consist of eating 20-50% more calories above your maintenance calorie intake for a period of time between 12 hours up to 48 hours. The higher you bring your calories, the shorter the amount of time you want to refeed for. A lot of people like to try and keep their protein levels and fats at a similar density when they are dieting, but double or even triple their carbohydrate intake.
The downside to a refeed day is that you may gain a small amount of fat afterwards. This is not something you should worry about however, as your metabolism will now be recharged making your next week of dieting and training to be more worthwhile, and in the long run you will lose that small amount of fat gained very quickly as well as some more due to the increase metabolism.
It is common to include some of the foods that you have been desiring and craving in to your refeed day. This is just a great way to relieve you taste buds and to relieve you psychologically. Make sure this is just a meal or small portion of your refeed, and keep the rest of the refeed calories coming from good food sources.
Leptin Levels and Testosterone
Increasing your leptin levels also has other advantages such as promoting a healthier hormone profile. When dieting, with males in particular, testosterone levels can decrease which as an adverse effect of maintaining muscle mass as well as other symptoms. When you refeed and increase your leptin levels, this will drive up your testosterone, as well as boost growth hormone while reducing cortisol (the catabolic hormone). This keeps your body in a much better position for further fat loss.
Leptin Levels in Females
Females need to be extra cautios when dealing with leptin as this can have an effect on the reporduction hormones when leptin is low enough. This is shown through interrupted/non existing menstrual cycles (common in bodybuilding/fitness industry).
Prolonged low leptin levels can also cause other problems for females such as decreased bone mass/density and a higher risk of osteoporosis. Refeed days are essential to keep your bodies healthy.
When dieting, the immune system can take a hit and reduce in function making our bodies more prone to illness. Without adequate calories the immune system struggles to run at its full potential and therefor cannot fight off invading germs and viruses. If you have suddenly been feeling more ill or getting sick more often, this could be a sign you need to eat more to help out your immune system.
So what is a refeed day? We now know the answer. It is vital most importantly for our health and well being, but it will also aid towards your fat loss goals. Remember on your refeed days to keep your activity at a normal rate – do not hit the cardio purely because you are going to be eating more – this will not give your body the same effect. Take it easy! After your first few refeeds you will notice just how beneficial they are, and also notice your fat loss will continue at a better rate.
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