In my previous article, I stated that carbs have a profound effect on the metabolism and brain, both in the short-term and long-term. However, people that need to lose fat, still have to cut calories at some point.
There is nothing wrong with dieting in general. Some people really do need to lose fat and doing so would greatly enhance their mood, physique, and health. But there is a right way to diet and a wrong way to diet. The people that keep their weight off and look amazing, do things the right way because they showed patience, kept all their muscle mass and lost exclusively pounds of fat and not just “scale weight.”
Picture your metabolism as a fire. A fire will keep on burning as long as it has logs fueling it. What happens when you stop feeding logs to the fire? – It burns out. Basically dieting without temporarily “stoking the fire” with more logs, will stop working. Carb refeeds serve as the logs for the fire (metabolism) to keep it going strong.
There have been many variations of carb refeeds, but I want to keep it as simple as possible. Many people overcomplicate things for no good reason. If they would stick to the basics you would still get the majority of the results. Let’s use an example of someone who weighs 200 lbs who wants to lose fat:
- Keep protein and fat constant on this day. These should be the same every day anyway. For this person, protein would be 200 grams and fat would be 67 grams for a total of 1400 calories. (Note – you could definitely get away with lowering protein and fat on this day if you wanted to maybe 150 grams of protein and 50 grams of fat for this person, but its not needed. Keeping them constant makes things much easier.)
- Double the amount of carbs you normally eat. For this person, a normal day of carbs = 150 g since his calories = 10 x bodyweight (about 2000 calories) on his normal fat loss day. So on the carb refeed day, their carbs would raise to 300g and bring their calorie total to 2600 calories. On this day their carbs and calories are much higher than usual, but the metabolism greatly benefits.
- Recall de novo lipogenesis (the process of carbs converting to fat) is very inefficient, unless you eat a lot of dietary fat on this day. So don’t expect any fat spillover on this day. More than likely you metabolism will just burn off the extra carbs as heat. If you muscle definition is blurred the next day then its most likely just excess subcutaneous water that will easily be flushed out on your diet days.
- The general rule is to do this once a week for most people. For very obese individuals, they could probably get away with 1 refeed every 2 weeks. For very lean individuals, once every 2-3 days seems optimal.
- Remember carbs are not fattening at all by themselves, but they do prevent the burning of fat, so obviously to lose fat you need to reduce them.
- The main benefits behind this is to stoke the metabolism, refill muscle glycogen, restore hormones, prevent an overly catabolic environment, reduced cortisol and enhance leptin (which tells your body to release fat for energy). Leptin gets suppressed big time on diets, so when you eat a lot carbs on this day, leptin gets back to normal, which allows the person to keep losing fat effectively.
- Carb sources – Need to be primarily glucose based starches. Oatmeal, potatoes, rice, bread, pasta. Note – technically any low sugar carb source will work even if it’s not as healthy. For example, low fat crackers, pizza, cereal, low fat chips, waffles, pancakes and other junk food will break down to glucose the same as any other starch. The key is to keep sugar and fruit low and focus mainly on glucose as this has all the benefits you are looking for. 80% glucose and 20% sucrose is recommended.
- If you have dieted a very long time (usually 2 months or more) and are pretty lean, to begin with then one refeed day may not be enough. At this point, it is usually recommended that 2-3 days in a row of carb refeeding is necessary. Some recommend 2 weeks, but usually, there is a point of diminishing returns after 3 days. 2 weeks of refeeding would lead to serious fat gain. Once 3 days is up then you can resume burning fat again. A good sign to look for after refeeding is a general disinterest in food. This is a sure sign your body has had enough and doesn’t crave anymore food or carbs.
- Cheat meals usually don’t benefit leptin all that much, especially if its high in fat and not that high in carbs. This is because research shows you need at least 5 hours of overfeeding.
Bottom Line – Carb refeeds keep fat loss diets working to their full potential. Many dieters that skip this day will hit a wall somewhere down the road in the diet and wonder why they can’t lose weight anymore. By eating slightly over maintenance with lots of glucose based starches once a week, you can avoid these plateaus, keep the metabolism revved, your hormones healthy and lose fat quicker than people that “dont need to do them.”