How To Use Refeeds For Faster Fat Loss
The start of any diet is exciting.
You feel motivated by the thought of change, the idea that through the simple acts of eating and exercising you can change your body.
The first few weeks and months usually go well too;
- The weight comes off consistently
- You feel engaged and motivated
- Your diet plan is satisfying
However, slowly but surely the weight loss slows down, your motivation wanes and your feelings of hunger never seem to go away.
Next thing you know you’re binging every weekend.
Putting away pizza, chocolate and popcorn like it’s being discontinued.
Then, BAM, you wake up one morning and realised you’ve gained back all the weight you lost and then some.
Why Does This Happen?
The answer is set point theory.
Set point theory says that your body has a set weight that it will actively try to maintain in response to your efforts to change it.
When you try to lose weight your body will respond by;
A – Losing weight as a result of your calorie deficit
B – Trying to ‘defend’ it’s preferred set point
This means when you stay in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time you will lose fat, but the effectiveness of this fat loss will decrease over time.
The body does this through 2 main processes;
- Adaptive thermogenesis
- A decrease in the production of the hormone Leptin
These 2 processes conspire against you to slow down the loss of fat, increase hunger and generally make fat loss faster.
Adaptive thermogenesis the name for the changes in metabolic processes when dieting for prolonged periods of time and is described as;
“the decrease in energy expenditure (EE) beyond what could be predicted from the changes in fat mass or fat-free mass under conditions of standardized physical activity in response to a decrease in energy intake.” (1)
This basically means that as you diet your daily energy expenditure will decrease over time, often by a large amount, which means your calorie deficit will become smaller and smaller to the point you’re no longer in a calorie deficit at all.
The greater the calorie deficit and the greater the duration of the deficit the higher this reduction in metabolic rate will be (2).
“Leptin is a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance, suppressing food intake and thereby inducing weight loss.” (3)
It's commonly known as the “satiety hormone” because of its effect on your hunger.
Its produced by your body’s fat cells and usually works in conjunction with Ghrelin (which does the opposite of Leptin and increases your hunger) to manage your weight. (4)
However, when you eat in a calorie deficit Leptin creation is suppressed. This results in increased hunger & cravings.
This is backed by research which shows your diet impacts the secretion of Leptin which in turn affects energy balance and weight change. A study (5) found that;
- When at their set point, individuals produce a given amount of leptin and in turn maintain a state of energy balance.
- Weight gain results in an increased plasma leptin level, which elicits a biologic response characterized in part by a state of negative energy balance
- Weight loss among both lean and obese subjects results in decreased plasma levels of leptin, which lead to a state of positive energy balance
Now the problem arises when you react to the effects of adaptive thermogenesis and decreased Leptin by;
- Increasing activity
- Reducing calories
Although it seems like a logical response to a decreasing daily calorie need, it is, in fact, counterproductive as any additional fat loss is short-lived whilst the increase in the side effects of being in a calorie deficit is much greater;
- Decreased leptin levels (and an increase in hunger)
- Reduced resting metabolic rate
- Reduced activity levels
- A worse mood
- Lower motivation
As a result, most people quit, vowing that fat loss doesn’t work for them.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
There is a better way, a more effective way to overcome your set point and reverse the effects of adaptive thermogenesis and decreased Leptin levels.
The answer is refeed days.
What Are Refeeds?
A refeed is commonly described as a planned increase in calories (a little over maintenance) used when dieting to negate some of the downsides of eating in a calorie deficit.
They do this in 2 main ways;
- Boosting Leptin levels which suppress hunger and encourage the creation of a calorie deficit and in turn weight loss
- Provide mental reprieve from the rigours of dieting which improves long-term adherence to a calorie deficit
When it comes to refeeding, you want to prioritise a high carbohydrate intake.
Eating a high carb intake also has the additional benefit of increasing glycogen stores in your muscles and fuelling your workout performance. (8)
With all of this in mind let’s look at how to set up your refeed day.
How To Setup A Refeed
When it comes to refeed days the first step is to determine how often you should do it. The answer to this question is based on your current situation.
This because the leaner you are and the longer you’ve been in a calorie deficit the more likely you are to be suffering from metabolic adaptation. (9)
The guidelines are as follows;
20% Bodyfat Or More = Refeed once every month
15 – 20% Bodyfat = Refeed every 2 weeks
10 – 15% Bodyfat = Refeed once a week
10% Bodyfat Or Less = Refeed twice a week
To set yourself up for the refeed you want to raise your calories to a little above maintenance (200 calories over is fine) and then set up your macronutrients as follows:
- Protein = 0.8 – 1g per lb of bodyweight
- Fats = as low as possible (30-40g is what’s largely recommended)
- Carbs = everything else goes to carbs
It’s as simple as that.
Keep your protein constant, fats low, carbohydrates high and refeed your way to leanness.
A normal side effect of dieting is a reduction in daily energy expenditure and the slowing of weight loss.
As a result, many people think they can’t lose weight and give up on their goals. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
By using strategic refeed days you can help to minimise the impact of these effects and sustain weight loss.
Setup your refeed in 3 simple steps;
- Determine how often you need to refeed
- Increase your calories to maintenance level on your refeed day
- Prioritise a high carbohydrate, normal protein and low fat
- Go back to your calorie deficit & reap the benefits of a successful refeed