Let me start by saying that I apologize for the brief hiatus.
Training has picked up quite a bit in the last few months and I have not been as free to sit down and write as I would’ve liked to have been.
With it being summer time and all, everyone is hitting the gym hard and dialing in on the diet.
Both males and females are working hard to achieve that lean, mean beach bod.
If you have ever trained with me or have read this blog, you probably already know that diet is 80% of the game as far as body composition is concerned – especially if your goal is fat loss!
Having a low body fat percentage has way more to do with what you are (and aren’t) putting into your mouth than with how much you exercise.
That said, dieting sucks!
I’ll be the first to admit it.
And when I say “dieting,” I’m not talking about eating healthy.
Eating healthy food is something you should do all the time and enjoy.
What I mean by “dieting” is simply eating less food than your body requires to get through the day’s activities.
After all, that’s all that weight loss really is: losing a combination of fluid, fat, and muscle by consuming less calories than your body requires throughout a given period of time.
But it does suck big time.
And you can usually spot someone on a diet from a mile away.
That’s because they are by themselves.
Because no one wants to be around them.
Because they are miserable.
And probably being a huge a**hole to anyone who dares interact with them.
I know because I’ve been there, and you probably have to.
The main reason for this is HUNGER.
That’s because most people think weight loss is ONLY about lowering calories, and they forget that our hormonal response to the foods we eat plays an extremely significant role in our efforts to shed body fat as well.
So as the weeks go on, they eat less and less.
And get hungrier and hungrier.
And after a while, they stop losing weight.
Because as we will soon discover, although being in a calorie deficit is a huge part of losing body fat, it is not all of the equation.
Now not only are they hungry as hell, but they are no longer losing digits on the ol’ inseam .
And their level of douchebaggery officially went from around a 4 or 5 to full on Donald Trump.
So how do we combat this horrible experience that many of us have while dieting?
ENTER THE “REFEED!”
In short, a “refeed” is nothing more than consuming a ridiculous amount of food and calories periodically while dieting.
I’m glad you asked!
There are two very important hormones we need to know about before we understand the importance of “refeeding:”
Ghrelin and Leptin.
Ghrelin is one of the main hormones that stimulate hunger.
It increases before meals and decreases after, a process that has its roots in the hypothalamus.
Leptin counteracts the effects of Ghrelin and is produced by the fat, or adipose tissue, in the body.
Leptin’s main function in the body is to regulate hunger, food intake, and energy expenditure.
As Leptin levels decrease and Ghrelin levels increase in the body, hunger pangs become more severe, and cravings become that much harder to resist.
Along with always being hungry, decreased Leptin levels also signify a SLOWING metabolism.
You see, whenever you are in a hypo-caloric state, your body will start to slow all of its metabolic functions in an effort to make due with the decreased amount of energy (calories) it’s receiving from your diet.
This basically means that along with experiencing symptoms such as low energy and extreme moodiness, you will also burn little to no body fat.
Another thing to keep in mind is that chronically low Leptin levels can have some pretty adverse health effects.
Men can experience a decrease in testosterone and libido; and women can put a halt to various reproductive hormones and experience irregular menstrual cycles.
Both men and women can also experience a decrease in immune function when dieting for too long.
“No bueno,” right?
This is why “refeeds” are so vital to our weight loss goals, health, and sanity.
They help to reset our Leptin levels, as well as jump start our metabolism, hormone profile, and immune system.
Depending on how hard and long you have been dieting, as well as your body fat level, a “refeed” can occur anywhere from every 7-14 days.
It should last between 12 and 36 hours, again depending on your body fat level, and you should aim to get around 50% MORE calories than what it would take to maintain your current weight.
The majority of these calories should come in the form of starchy carbohydrates, as Leptin levels are more sensitive to glucose metabolism than any other macro nutrient.
So a male needing 2,500 daily calories per day to maintain his body weight should aim for around 3,800 calories for a day or two, depending on his fitness level and current body fat percentage, and the majority of these calories should come in the from of carbohydrates.
If you are a male over 12% body fat or a female over 22%, I would recommend a “refeed” every 10-14 days.
Once you get around 10% for men and 20% for women, you can INCREASE your “refeeds” to once per week.
Remember, Leptin is secreted from our adipose (fat) tissue.
The less body fat you have, the more often you will have to “encourage” it’s release.
In other words, the leaner you get, the more you can stuff your face with delicious, carb heavy foods and actually get more ripped!
Pretty cool stuff, right?
I myself enjoy a weekly refeed from Saturday evening to Sunday evening.
I take this time to enjoy eating out and trying new foods that I wouldn’t regularly eat during the week.
Not only am I giving myself a break mentally and enjoying life, but I am also reaping the benefits I listed above from this weekly “spike” in calories.
It’s truly a win-win!
So if you or anyone you know have been dieting for weeks, or even months, and have not experienced the fat loss you or they have longed for, this may be the reason why.
If you have gone months on a hypo-caloric diet and have been training regularly without a “refeed,” you may need to take a week off from dieting and extend your first “refeed” to a full week or more.
A great way to test if you need to do this is to take your temperature as soon as you wake up in the morning.
If it reads anything BELOW 98.6 degrees, your metabolism is not running properly.
You will need to eat at 50% above your maintenance daily calories until you are testing at 98.6 or better.
Sure, you may experience a slight increase in body fat, but you’ll be taking 1 step back to take 3 forward in the long run.
Take the time to fix your metabolism and reset your Leptin levels.
Your sanity, waist line, and the people around you will thank you for it!