Refeeding to lose body fat…
When spending prolonged periods dieting, it can become increasingly difficult to keep losing fat, not to mention that energy levels are at an all time low!
When in a caloric deficit for too long, especially those who are already lean (below 10% body fat) it can be extremely difficult to stay in a calorie deficit without feeling utterly miserable both mentally and physically. The body becomes depleted of physical energy, strength starts to decline, workouts suffer, and motivation is at an all time low.
If you push your body to extremes i.e. when dieting for long periods, the balance of hormones changes within your body and your stomach and brain will keep reminding you to eat. Every other thought is about food. This is a survival mechanism to protect you from starvation.
The reality is that most people will never reach this point because it takes enormous will power, inevitably it’s a losing battle and at some point there needs to be at least a temporary break from dieting. This could be a week or day or even just a meal e.g. a cheat or refeed meal.
My Personal Experience Of Strict Dieting…
I’ve only ever been to this extreme once a couple of summers ago and it was horrible. I stayed around 7% body fat for a week and then gave up. Subsequently I ended up binging on food because my body was so depleted of energy that when I started to eat I couldn’t stop! This is common amongst physique athletes and professional bodybuilders, who are more likely to rebound after competition due to the physical and mental stress of competing.
They may be on stage looking ridiculously lean, with big beaming smiles, but there’s a big battle taking place on the inside, and this low level of body fat is not sustainable long term.
One thing i’ve started to incorporate into my regime when on a fat loss phase is ‘refeed meals’. When dieting takes it’s toll and energy, motivation and workouts suffer I will have a very high calorie meal. The meal is usually anything from 1,000 – 3,000 calories depending on my energy levels.
The leaner I get the more frequently I’ll have a refeed. During the summer towards the end of my 12 week fat loss phase I would be having 2 refeed meals per week (Wednesday and Sundays). After the calorie spike i’d then go and do a big workout the next day, to ensure that I used the calories to train hard and start heading back into a calorie deficit which is required to continue losing fat.
The meals usually consist of high calorie foods, my favourite at the moment is peanut butter on rice cakes, with honey, banana and whey protein.
Some people like to order Pizza and eat take-aways but personally I prefer to try and keep my refeeds more nutritious. I find it hard to control my portion sizes with hedonic foods, I over eat them! My body is also sensitive to many processed foods which cause inflammation, water retention and a bloated, leaky gut.
How to Incorporate Refeeds…
If you’re on a fat loss program or about to go on a fat loss phase use refeeds only when you need them. When you are struggling, when you feel sluggish and strength starts to decline rapidly.
Inevitably when you are in a calorie deficit for long bouts it’s going to be difficult, your body is running out of energy and the going gets tough.
Use refeeds as a tool which can be used to boost energy, fill up muscle glycogen and provide a well needed rest from restriction. Don’t pick foods which you have no control over i.e. for me I can’t eat a piece of chocolate (I have to eat the whole bar and then go and get another one! lol!). Choose your foods wisely.