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What is Refeeding And How To Do It

You’ve been following a strict diet and need a break. 

You’ve been training hard and feel like you can’t accomplish your usual reps.

If that sounds like you, it could be time for a refeed day.

Here’s everything you need to know about refeeding and why you should actually do it regularly.

So, what’s a refeeding day? It’s when you increase your calorie intake to refuel your body after it’s been in a depleted state.

Refeeding boosts your body’s production of leptin, a hormone that regulates metabolism. It also increases your muscles’ energy stores.

When you’ve got a calorie deficit, having a refeed day replenishes the muscle’s glycogen or energy, instead of its fat stores.

This increase in the muscle’s carbohydrates will give you enough fuel so you can train harder and get stronger.

Let’s look at refeeding in greater detail.

A Refeed Day Is NOT A Cheat Day

At first glance, a refeed day and cheat day might seem like the same thing.

Some people even use the two terms interchangeably, even though they do have some important differences.

You plan a refeed day so that you can benefit from it when it comes to your fitness and/or weight-loss goals, making sure that you load up on more carbs in a way that will help you, not hurt you, such as by giving your body the energy it needs to perform.

A cheat day, on the other hand, is when you eat more calories than you usually do and you don’t really spare a thought for the types of foods and calories you’re taking in.

You’re probably eating lots of high-fat, unhealthy foods that do you no favors.

A cheat day might also happen at any time, such as when you start to have intense cravings during a grocery-shopping trip and decide to go easy on yourself with the calorie restrictions for one day.

A refeed day, on the other hand, ideally should be planned around your most strenuous workouts because you’ll have ample carbs in your system to enable you to get through them.

Eat Carbs On Your Refeed Day To Increase Leptin

A cheat day should be scratched off your ‘to do’ list and replaced with a refeed day, if for no other reason than because a cheat meal is often filled with fats and those are low in leptin. 

Therefore, having an all-you-can-eat cheat day just doesn’t work.

During a refeed, carbs should be prioritized because they contain more leptin than fat, as research in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders has found.

So basically, when people talk about refeeding, they mean they’re eating more carbs.

How To Plan Your Refeed Day

If you’ve been eating less and exercising more, you’re in a calorie deficit.

That’s the perfect time to have a refeed day because you need to increase your calories and reap the benefits of glycogen and leptin. 

During your refeed day, you want to reach for carbs, but that doesn’t mean you should be eating as much pizza and doughnuts as you want.

Healthy carbs are better for you because you want to maximize the benefits of leptin without missing out on nutrients your body needs.

Although you’ll be boosting your carb intake on your refeed day, you still need to structure your meals, such as by eating every few hours and avoiding pre-bedtime carb snacks.

Tip For Structuring Meals With Ease

Speaking of sticking to your regular eating habits, on your refeed day you’ll be increasing your carb and calorie intake but you should stick to the same meal format that you usually follow.

For example, if you eat three meals a day with two snacks in-between, or two meals a day with four snacks, try to stick to this schedule. 

Doing this makes it easier to refeed.

It also helps you to add more carbs to your meals without throwing off your current calories, nutrient intake, and digestion. 

How Often Should You Have A Refeed Day?

Generally, a refeed can be done once a week by increasing your carb consumption, thus boosting your metabolism.

However, if you’re in a large calorie deficit (for example, you’re eating less than 1000 calories daily), you’ll want more frequent refeeds (or a longer one).

It’s also important to choose how often you have a refeed day based on your current situation and needs.

Weekly Refeed Day

This Is Best For You If: You exercise regularly and follow a low-carb diet.

You should have one day a week where you eat more carbs to rev up your weight loss and prevent you from hitting a weight-loss plateau. You should aim for a carb increase of approximately 200 grams.

Refeed For Intense Training

This Is Best For You If: You have strenuous training sessions, such as HIIT, and want to have greater performance and endurance.

The best time to have a refeed day is before your biggest and most taxing training day, and you should aim for approximately 100 or 200 grams of carbs to give you the fuel you need.

How Much More To Eat On Your Refeed Day

It can be difficult to know how to go about your refeed day.

By now you’re probably wondering, “How much more food should I eat?”

A good tip is to boost your calorie intake by 30 percent.

This calorie increase will benefit you without making you put on weight.

What About Fat And Protein Intake?

When choosing carbs for your refeed day, you should bring in as many lean carbs as you can, as mentioned above.

But when it comes to other important nutrients, like protein, you want to maintain the same intake as you usually do.

However, your fat intake should be less than 50 grams.

On refeed day, carbs is king.

Two Best Refeed Meal Plans

Although there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how you incorporate more carbs into your diet on refeed day, these meal tips will help you accomplish your goals.

Remember to stick to your normal amount of meals and just bulk up your carb intake at each one.

Here are some ideas for three meals a day.

Meals Foods #1 Foods #2
Breakfast Oats with honey or blueberries Porridge or bagel with fat-free cream cheese
Lunch Sweet potatoes or squash with brown rice Pumpkin puree with low-fat Greek yogurt
Dinner Whole-wheat pasta – just avoid high-fat sauces – with lean meat (chicken breasts or turkey) Quinoa with kidney beans and chickpeas; Sushi – Nigiri with white fish and cucumber rolls (avoid fatty ingredients like deep-fried fish)

Mistakes To Avoid On Refeed Day

Besides for eating high-fat foods that turn your refeed day into a cheat day, there are other mistakes you should try to avoid when refeeding.

You Eat Too Much Fiber

A refeed day should power you up for your next training day – not leave you with stomach grumbles and a grumpy mood. 

While it might be tempting to add lots of fruit and veg to your diet, doing too much of this too quickly can result in side-effects such as bloating and stomach cramps.

When topping up on your good carbs, go easy on the fiber, especially if it’s not usually a part of your daily eating plan.

You Feel Low On Energy Two Days After Your Refeed Day

Here’s something important to know: after a refeed day, you should feel energetic and be having great workouts for at least three days after a refeed day that was filled with more carbs. 

Yes – your energy should stick around for longer than a few hours! If you’re feeling low on energy or just not like yourself, the problem is probably that you didn’t eat enough carbs. 

Try to increase your carb intake during your next refeed to see if it makes a difference.

You Don’t Experiment With Adding More Carbs To Your Refeed Day

50 grams of carb

Getting the right refeed day that benefits you the most might take a bit of experimentation.

You won’t know exactly how many grams of carbs will improve your fitness and endurance until you try it out because it varies for different people.

A good idea is to start out with 100 grams of carbs and see how you feel. You might need more, so dare to experiment a bit to find your sweet spot.

How To Know You’re Ready For A Refeed

While you might stick to a refeeding schedule, such as having one refeed day once a week, you should undertake a refeed when your body is showing signs that you need it so that it will make use of your body’s leptin to boost your weight-loss and improve your training.

Bear in mind, you should be following a calorie-restricted diet before embarking on a carb feeding day. Here are some signs you’re ready for it.

You Lack Energy

You have no strength or energy during your workouts. 

You might even find that your muscles take longer to recover after exercise. 

If that sounds like you, it’s a clear sign that your glycogen stores are diminished and they need a boost with a carb-heavy diet to jumpstart them and give you greater energy.

You’ve Hit A Weight-Loss Plateau

You were steadily losing weight but lately no matter how much you try to restrict your calories, you just can’t seem to continue dropping the pounds.

Boosting your diet with carbs might sound counterproductive to your weight-loss goals, but it will encourage your metabolism thanks to increasing those – you guessed it – leptin levels.

You’re Craving Food All The Time

Were you ever told that having a cheat day would help you stick to your diet?

Well, there’s some truth to that, but you should replace the cheat day with a refeed day so that you stay on track with your exercise and weight-loss goals.

If you’re craving more foods than usual, a refeed day can help you to boost your calorie intake and prevent you from reaching for unhealthy foods that can set you back when it comes to your health and fitness goals.

Bottom line

If you stick to the same exercise and weight-loss routine all the time, your body gets used to it and progress can come to a halt.

By changing how you eat your carbs, you’re giving your body a change of pace that changes how it behaves with leptin and glycogen, both of which benefit you.

But there’s also a psychological benefit to the refeed day: when you add more food to your meals by focusing on carbs, it can feel like a healthier take on the cheat day to keep your morale up so you achieve your goals with a refreshed state of mind.

When Should I Eat The Most Carbs During A Refeed?

The best time to consume more carbs on refeed day is earlier in the day, especially when training.

This boosts leptin release for longer, as a study in Experimental Biology and Medicine found.

Carbs give your body energy so use them with a good workout!

Can I Do Refeed Days Instead Of Just One Day?

A few refeed days in a row can be beneficial by increasing leptin concentration by 28 percent, as reported by the International Journal Of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders.

The leaner you are and the longer you’ve been dieting, the more benefit you’ll get from a longer refeed.

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