Refeeds: cheat day done right

Refeeds: cheat day done right

The process of losing weight isn’t always linear. No matter how low you drop your calories or how consistently you commit to a deficit, sometimes our bodies just say “no”. After months of successful weight loss, suddenly you hit a plateau and the scale just won’t go down. It can get really frustrating when you’ve worked so hard to reign in your food choices and show up for the gym every day. To burn fat, the solution is always less food or more exercise right? Well, apparently not. Sometimes a refeed day is just what you need to get your body’s fire burning again.

The reason our bodies reach weight loss plateaus is usually hormone imbalance. Long periods of calorie restriction lead to low leptin levels in the body. Leptin is a hormone secreted by the fat cells that tells you when you have enough fat stored and it’s time to stop eating. Low leptin levels not only leave you feeling hungry, but they also slow down your metabolism so you can adapt to the reduced amount of energy your body’s getting each day, according to BodyBuilding.com. A slower metabolism means less fat being burned, if any at all. So you can drop your calories and sweat it out at the gym all you want, but at that point, your body’s not going to let go of the pounds very easily.

This is where refeed days come in. A “diet break” or a day of higher-calorie intake will rev up your leptin levels again and get your metabolism closer to a healthy level. Leptin responds the best to glucose, which is why the best place to find all these extra calories is dense carbohydrates. A refeed could be considered a scheduled “cheat day”, but it’s important not to fall too far off track. The level of calories you should be taking in on your refeed day depends on your current physique. If you have a super low body fat percentage and you’ve been following a really restrictive meal plan for the past few months, you could probably use a pretty massive refeed. But if you’re overweight or a lot farther from your weight loss goals, your refeed day will be more limited. Your calories should be around 20-50% higher than usual for 12 hours to two days, according to BodyBuilding.com. The point is, this concept is no excuse to go completely off the rails.

Leptin isn’t the only hormone that will thank you for the extra food, a whole host of other biological components will see positive changes as well. Refeeds have been shown to boost the production of growth hormone and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Weight loss depends on your diet and exercise efforts, but it also relies heavily on a healthy hormone profile to keep all your systems pumping the way they should be.

You can also dial-in your workout plan during refeed days for better results. When you’re eating all this extra food, your diet brain might tell you that it’s time to go way harder at the gym to burn it all off. But that’s not the best course of action. The boost in calories can actually fuel the muscles that you usually have a hard time growing. So instead of hopping on the treadmill or walking until your legs are numb on the stairclimber, focus on a muscle group that you want to add mass to. Lift some weights and funnell all the extra calories to the part of the body that needs them the most. You’ll probably notice an increase in strength or endurance during your workout because of the extra glycogen in your muscles, according to Beachbody On Demand.

With all the physical advantages, it’s easy to overlook the mental boost a refeed can give you after months of dieting. Though rewarding, losing a significant amount of weight takes a lot of focus and concise planning on your part. Reading all the nutrition labels, calculating calories and going step by step through your workout plan without missing a beat can be mentally exhausting. A refeed can be the mental vacation you need to relax for a second, eat a food you’ve been craving, find your passion again and keep trucking towards your goals.

The only real downside to this kind of refeed is a temporary uptick in fat percentage, but it may be worth the risk. Many of those who try out this bump in calories wake up even leaner than they would have after days of strict dieting. This is why fitness professionals like bodybuilders will utilize a refeed day as they get closer to show day and their bodies are pushed to extreme deficits. The extra day of fueling up can help them shed that last stubborn pound they need before stepping on stage. This whole process may seem counterintuitive, but in the short term, it can really show success.

If your body isn’t performing like it used to, that doesn’t mean it’s time to punish it. If you’ve been keeping up your end of the deal, eating healthy and staying active, it may mean that something is biologically out of whack. It might be time to step off the scale, loosen up and take yourself out for a well deserved meal. Get to know your body and give it what it needs to succeed.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Take it from me

Refeeds are a relatively new component of my diet routine. For months, I never experienced a weight loss plateau and just watched the pounds fall off without any kind of setback. I thought I’d completely avoided what everyone else was afraid of. I didn’t really experience it until my goals started changing.

After weight loss, I started focusing on muscle gain. I kept the calories high and ignored the scale so I could put on some real mass. My body got used to a new maintenance calorie level and sucked up all the food I was giving it.

Then a vacation popped up on my calendar and I impulsively decided to diet down again. I had to get my “summer bod” in just a few weeks so I dropped the calories immensely without much of a warning. I hopped on the scale after a week of that and I was shocked to find that the scale hadn’t budged. If anything, I gained a little. How is that possible? I was baffled and frustrated until I did a little research. Taking a step back, I realized that I had forced my body into a kind of shock and was facing my first plateau.

Instead of cutting back so much on food, I brought my intake back up a bit and threw in a refeed day on the weekends. Almost immediately, I woke up tighter and thinner than I had in forever. Turns out an extreme deficit wasn’t what my body needed. Every time I shift my food intake like this, I learn more about how it all works and what it takes to see real change. I realized you can’t be afraid of the process and should be willing to teater a bit on the scale to make your ultimate physique a reality.

Powered by Frankly