Refeeds (A fancy way to say high carb days) are one or two days of the week where you will double or triple your carbohydrate intake when following a fat loss diet, in an attempt to mitigate some of the negative side effects caused by caloric restriction.
A common misconception that is often perpetuated by diet gurus about refeeds, is their ability to raise leptin (satiety hormone). This hormone is made by fat cells to regulate the amount of fat stored in our body.
In other words:
More carbs = More leptin
High leptin = less appetite
Less appetite = less calories ingested
Less calories ingested = less fat stored.
The drop in leptin is a survival mechanism that tells us to eat and not starve to death. And because dieting is in essence a controlled starvation, our leptin levels will drop to avoid this 'starvation'. So the idea behind refeeds was to have a high carb day or a cheat day — like some "guru's" suggest — to raise leptin, restart your metabolism and turn your body into a fat burning machine! But, this simply isn't true, although carbohydrates do have the ability to raise leptin, a 5 to 24 hour refeed is not sufficient to 'tell' the brain that you're fed, and leptin levels will once again drop shortly after.
But this does not mean that refeeds don’t have a place in our diet. They can increase serotonin (happy hormone), lower cortisol (stress hormone), give you an energy boost, restore glycogen, increase thyroid function, decrease catabolism and serve as a mental break from dieting. So they still serve purpose.
But keep in mind, a refeed is NOT a cheat day, it is not an excuse to overindulge or binge. You will have a lot more room to fit in 'treats' that you don't usually eat, but a refeed must be structured and controlled to avoid counteracting your weekly calorie deficit.
So when can I implement refeeds? That depends on a few things…
1) The amount of body fat you have.
2) The amount of time you've been dieting.
3) Your sense of hunger.
4) Your energy levels.
Taking into consideration these 4 factors, we can then determine how and when we can add refeeds to our diet.
Refeeds are one day of the week when you will increase your carbohydrate intake significantly. This increase can be between (1.5 – 3 x daily carb intake). A general guideline is increasing your carbs by (2 x daily carb intake). This means that if you're eating 200g a day, on your refeed day you will increase this to 400g of carbs. Protein and fat can stay the same.
Refeeds are more of a 'how you feel' kind of thing, since the longer you diet for, the harder things become. This is when they come into play, to help you ease the process of dieting.
For those of you that have just started a fat loss phase, they wont be necessary. Only after about a couple of months into your diet should you start adding these high carb days once every week or two. This is when your energy levels will start plummeting and hunger will likely become an issue.
For those of you under 15% (men) 20% (women) body fat or have been dieting for about 3 or so months can consider adding refeeds once a week.
And for those under 10% (men) 15% (women) body fat or that have been dieting for quite some time now and likely have a low carb-high protein intake can consider adding them even twice a week, because at this point dieting is at its most problematic state. Your energy levels are probably suffering and strength wise you're feeling weak, so adding these high carb days can help counter act these negative side effects of a fat loss diet. And remember, refeeds are NOT cheat days, and macros should still be accounted for!