Do we still need refeed days for fat loss?

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Weight Loss

Estimated reading time: 4mins

Do we still need refeed days for fat loss?

Are Refeed days still good for weight loss?

Firstly, let's recap how these bad boys are supposed to help us.

Whilst it sounds counterproductive when you're used to hearing mainstream weight loss crap, eating more carbohydrates at certain strategic stages can help with fat loss.

This is because the hormone leptin drops during periods of dieting which ultimately means we burn fewer calories, whilst feeling hungrier, too.

And (how convenient), it just so happens that the way we INCREASE leptin again is by eating carbohydrates!

And we do this as part of a "refeed day", the process of eating lots of carbohydrates to replenish leptin.

By implementing a refeed day, research suggests leptin may only be boosted by 5-10 hours. But the additional benefits of a refeed are:

  1. A mental break from our diets (which can help prevent a binge)
  2. Induce satiety beyond what we're used to during dieting
  3. Refuel our muscles with carbohydrates to ensure optimal output for future workouts

When to have a refeed day

Scientists have no definite guidelines at the time we wrote this article. However, here are some strong guidelines:

  • Men at 10% body fat or more: 1 x refeed day every 2 weeks.
  • Women at 20% body fat or more: 1 x refeed day every 2 weeks.

And if you happen to be <10% body fat (irrespective of gender) then have one refeed day per week. Keep in mind that these guidelines are just that: guidelines. Just don't go overboard and enter a calorie surplus too often, as that's obviously the worst thing you can do for your diet!

Dietary fat will also need to be drastically slashed on refeed days because fat doesn't increase leptin levels. But now for the fun part: how many carbohydrates you can eat!

How many carbohydrates to eat on a refeed day to prevent weight loss stalling

You can work this out by taking the following steps:

  1. Double your current carbohydrate amount
  2. Set your fat intake at 30 grams for the day
  3. Reduce your protein by 30 grams for the day

And remember that in order to keep dietary fat intake low, you'll need carbohydrate sources low in fat. We're talking about:

  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Low-fat pasta
  • Maple syrup
  • Pikelets
  • Bread

So, that's the refeed day.

Bread is great during a refeed day
Bread is great during a refeed day

But what has science been saying about it lately?

Well, this study in 2021 into bodybuilders looking to enhance performance, concluded:

"Our results suggest that a carbohydrate refeed may help to attenuate the perception of muscle soreness and maintain exercise performance, especially when severe energy restriction is combined with an intense training protocol such as German Volume Training."

In English: subjects experienced less muscle soreness and kept up exercise performance with refeeds. Great.

Another study of 27 men and women looked at two-day carbohydrate refeeds and concluded:

"A 2-day carbohydrate refeed preserves fat-free mass, dry fat-free Mass, and resting metabolic rate during energy restriction compared to continuous energy restriction in resistance-trained individuals."

So refeeds in this recent study (2020) were found to help preserve muscle mass and prevent the resting metabolic rate from falling down. Now that's worth getting out of bed for.

And the key point is that long term refeeds help with weight maintenance.

So, whilst refeeds might not directly cause fat loss, they help with the maintenance of the fat we've lost and prevent the mechanisms that cause weight regain. That's important.

Pancakes are fair game during a refeed day.
Pancakes are fair game during a refeed day.

The bottom line on the refeed phenomenon

Since the refeed phenomenon first came to light, the subsequent research has backed up its popularity. Refeeds will not only help us lose weight but help us reduce the perception of muscle soreness and maintain exercise performance, along with helping us preserve muscle mass and stop our metabolisms (resting metabolic rates) from dropping as far as they otherwise might do. Refeeds should still be practised by the whole population when weight loss is the goal.

References:

  1. Klok MD, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obes Rev. 2007 Jan;8(1):21-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00270.x. PMID: 17212793.
  2. Dirlewanger M, di Vetta V, Guenat E, Battilana P, Seematter G, Schneiter P, Jéquier E, Tappy L. Effects of short-term carbohydrate or fat overfeeding on energy expenditure and plasma leptin concentrations in healthy female subjects. Int J ObesRelatMetabDisord. 2000 Nov;24(11):1413-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801395. PMID: 11126336.
  3. Kolaczynski JW, Ohannesian JP, Considine RV, Marco CC, Caro JF. Response of leptin to short-term and prolonged overfeeding in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 Nov;81(11):4162-5. doi: 10.1210/jcem.81.11.8923877. PMID: 8923877.
  4. Brooks GA, Mercier J. Balance of carbohydrate and lipid utilization during exercise: the "crossover" concept. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1994 Jun;76(6):2253-61. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1994.76.6.2253. PMID: 7928844.
  5. Dirlewanger M, di Vetta V, Guenat E, Battilana P, Seematter G, Schneiter P, Jéquier E, Tappy L. Effects of short-term carbohydrate or fat overfeeding on energy expenditure and plasma leptin concentrations in healthy female subjects. Int J ObesRelatMetabDisord. 2000 Nov;24(11):1413-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801395. PMID: 11126336.
  6. Moura RF, De Moraes WMAM, De Castro BM, Nogueira ALP, Trindade TB, Schoenfeld BJ, Prestes J. Carbohydrate refeed does not modify GVT-performance following energy restriction in bodybuilders. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2021 Jun;43:308-316. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2021.03.034. Epub 2021 Apr 20. PMID: 34024532.
  7. Campbell BI, Aguilar D, Colenso-Semple LM, Hartke K, Fleming AR, Fox CD, Longstrom JM, Rogers GE, Mathas DB, Wong V, Ford S, Gorman J. Intermittent Energy Restriction Attenuates the Loss of Fat Free Mass in Resistance Trained Individuals. A Randomized Controlled Trial. J FunctMorpholKinesiol. 2020 Mar 8;5(1):19. doi: 10.3390/jfmk5010019. PMID: 33467235; PMCID: PMC7739314.
  8. Gripeteg L, Torgerson J, Karlsson J, Lindroos AK. Prolonged refeeding improves weight maintenance after weight loss with very-low-energy diets. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jan;103(1):141-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509991474. Epub 2009 Aug 7. PMID: 19664301; PMCID: PMC2923049.
group of product images for proteins
group of product images for proteins