By Brittney Bergen
- So hangry you could bite someone’s head off?
- Feeling under-recovered from training?
- Struggling to lose another pound and feeling like your fat-loss has plateaued?
It might be time to implement a refeed day!
What is a Refeed Day?
A refeed day is a higher calorie day – usually with most of the extra calories as carbohydrates. Refeed day calories are closer to your maintenance level of calories. (e.g. if you’ve been eating in a calorie deficit at 1550 calories for an extended period, you might add in a refeed day around 1850-1950 calories.)
Why Do I Need a Refeed Day?
A refeed day is beneficial when…
- You’ve been in a calorie deficit for a long time
- You want to crush a workout in the gym or at a competition
- Your bod is crying out for recovery (whether you’re feeling run down from training, hormones, life stress, illness, etc.)
If you’ve been in a calorie deficit for a long time…
A refeed day is used to prevent your fat loss from plateauing. It prevents down-regulation (the body adapting to a lower calorie intake over time).
You can think of a refeed day as a way to “trick” your body into thinking it’s going to get more food. It sort of revs your metabolism up in response to the extra food, and then when you remove it, it “resets” your fat loss.
Many clients feel hungrier for a few days following a refeed, and notice the scale drops.
A refeed day allows you to stay in a calorie deficit for a longer period without plateauing, and without biting someone’s face off because your mood’s gotten so low (hanger is a real thing).
How Do I Implement a Refeed Day?
Depending on the client, we usually add in a refeed day somewhere between the four and eight-week mark of their cutting phase.
At first, we add the refeed day in once a week – usually on their toughest training day (to help them perform and recover better) or on a day they have a special event (to allow them to have fun with food without going “off plan”).
Refeed days tend to be about 300 calories higher than the client’s regular macros, and most of the extra calories are in the form of carbohydrates.
We encourage clients to get the extra carbohydrates in the form of starchy, whole food carbs around their workout – like rice, oats, sweet potatoes, potatoes, air-popped popcorn, parsnips – rather than from sugary or processed sources.
Remember though, this IS a lifestyle, and we don’t expect you to eat whole foods ALL the time. Your refeed day is a great opportunity to have the treat you’ve been planning to have.
Some of my favourite post workout refeed treats are a McDonald’s Ice Cream cone (it’s much lower in fat than other options because it’s made with ice milk instead of cream), or a rice-crispy treat.
Why Should I Get the Extra Calories from Carbs?
- By increasing the amount of carbs you eat, you can ensure your glycogen (carb-based muscle fuel) levels are full.
- Increased carbohydrate intake can help regulate the hormone leptin – which is important for releasing fat and controlling satiety.
- Carbohydrates also help with protein synthesis, aiding in recovery.
Basically, proper carbohydrate intake can help with fat loss, recovery, and performance.
Eventually, you can implement your refeed days more intuitively.
Now, I refeed when I feel run-down – whether that’s from training, from where I’m at in my hormonal cycle, or if I was just sick but my appetite has returned.
If I’m refeeding because I was sick, I usually implement a higher fat moderate carb refeed. If I’m not training hard, my body doesn’t need as much fast-burning fuel in the form of carbohydrates. But if I’m sick, I want to up my calories to give my body all the resources it needs to heal.
What Can I Expect From My Refeed Day?
If it’s time for a refeed day you can expect to…
- Feel happier! The increase in calories (especially if your coach gives you some extra fat) will boost hormone function and lower cortisol levels. Your mood will improve.
- Recover faster! Your workouts will feel fueled, your post workout snacks will be more fun, and your bod will respond with thanks and praise.
- Continue getting more shredded. You gifted your bod with a mini-maintenance phase. Expect it to relax and respond by letting go of more body fat.
A refeed day is almost like a “reset” button for your bod. Is it time for you to push, “reset”?
If you’ve been in a deficit for a LONG time, it might be time for MORE than a refeed day. It might be time for a maintenance phase. Check out this article: Embrace the Maintenance Phase