Your body HATES change.
It doesn’t care that you want a set of visible abdominals.
It also doesn’t care that you will be happier, feel more attractive and be a much more confident person when in possession of a physique that looks strong, lean, powerful and like it lifts.
Survival is your body’s #1 priority.
And reduced food consumption in the quest for a chiseled mid-section is perceived as a threat to its survival.
Fat loss is associated with reduced quantities of the hormone ‘leptin’, which tells the brain that you might be starving to death. This results in a series of changes in the body to help get you to eat more and expend less energy – increased hunger being one of the main changes – which can halt fat loss dead in its tracks.
So what we need is a way to remain in a calorie deficit, whilst offsetting the the signal that we’re ‘starving to death’….
And a great way to do this is to have a couple of ‘Re-Feed’ days a week.
What is a re-feed day?
A re-feed day is simply a day eating at maintenance calories, or even a slight calorie surplus on at 1-2 days a week.
Your maintenance calories is simply the number of calories your body requires in order to sustain it’s current bodyweight, and can be worked out approximately as follows:
Bodyweight (in lbs) x 14-16
If you’re more active, pick the higher number and if you’re less active, then pick the lower number.
For most people, a suitable calorie deficit will be eating at around 80% of their maintenance calories, so a re-feed day, on average, will be an additional 500-700kcal (depending on bodyweight and activity levels).
For example, a 90kg man (198lbs) –
Maintenance calories: 198 x 16 = 3168kcal
Calorie deficit (80% maintenance): 2534kcal
So in this example, the guy would eat 2534kcal 5 days a week and then enjoy 2 days of a higher calorie intake on the 2 other days.
On these days when he’s not eating a calorie deficit, fat loss almost certainly won’t happen. But this is ok – the average calorie intake for the week will still be a deficit, which means he’ll still continue to lose body fat over time.
Do you NEED to have them?
Some people are more than capable of getting awesome results without feeling like they need to have a re-feed day.
And if that’s the case with you, then NO – you don’t need one.
But, the moment you start to experience any of the negatives of prolonged calorie restriction, which include:
- Massive hunger/appetite
- Poor energy levels and excessive fatigue
- Wild cravings
- Poor gym performance
- Sleep disruption
- Lowered body temperature
Then I would have a re-feed day immediately, because if you try and battle through all the negative consequences, unfortunately, the longer you’ll need to spend at a higher calorie intake before you return to normal.
But by having 1-2 re-feed days a week, you should avoid experiencing any of the negative effects of dieting to any kind of extreme degree.
Other advantages of a re-feed day
As well as helping to keep the brain happy that there’s no major changes occurring in the body, re-feed days can also help us to remain sane.
Spending all day every day in a calorie deficit is ultimately a form of stress, and after a while, it can be a pretty miserable experience – because you’re hungry all the time, all you can think about is food and your energy levels start to diminish.
So a re-feed day enables us to have a bit of ‘time off’, and this will not only help to de-stress the body physically, but it’s also a huge benefit to our psychological health and well-being as you’re given more freedom to enjoy the foods that you may be limiting yourself from eating on other days.
Furthermore, by losing body fat without any extreme misery and retaining your sanity, you will now have a plan that’s very sustainable.
So instead of having a plan that you can stick to for only 3 weeks because you get so hungry and feel tired all the time, you now have one that you can stick to indefinitely and out of those 2, which do you think will give you the better results?
When and What to Eat?
When you have a re-feed day is entirely up to you.
You can either plan them in advance, which is especially useful if you’ve got a social event in the diary that will likely involve eating a higher number of calories OR you can base it on how you feel and have them when you think your body needs the additional energy.
In terms of what to eat on a re-feed day, your main focus should be carbohydrates, since these will quickly tell the brain that energy is available and you’re not dying.
Plus, some of the most delicious foods on earth are higher in carbs.
So on your re-feed day, feel free to get your additional calories from foods such as: –
- Ice cream
- French toast
Of course, your additional calories don’t have to come from ‘junk’ sources, but if you want to, then go for it.
It’s not an excuse to binge out all day long, but will entitle you to eat larger quantities of calorie-dense foods that you may be eating in more restricted quantities on other days during the week.
Use re-feed days to allow yourself days of a higher calorie intake to prevent your hunger from getting out of control and to make your fat loss nutrition plan as sustainable as possible.