MY 8 STEPS TO THE ULTIMATE REFEED MEAL
Oh yeeees! My favorite word! You all know that I’m a FAN of the ‘refeed’ meal. I schedule these meals regularly for myself and for my clients on an individual basis.
Nutrition and diet are undoubtedly the most psychologically demanding aspects of a health and fitness regime, particularly as the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into years on the path to reaching your health and fitness goals. I wasn’t always able to have a refeed meal. When I first started my fitness journey I was totally obsessed with tracking and weighing every single thing I ate. It was stressful, controlling and not any fun. As a Professional Fitness Athlete competing in multiple events every year and having to maintain a body fat under 10% I started to develop a very unhealthy relationship with food. I suffered from episodes of over restriction and binge eating, yo-yo dieting and had a focus on calories instead of nutrition. It took many years to overcome this … after hundreds of food failures and over 40 professional competitions I had a massive mindset shift and conquered this. I can now have a weekly refeed meal and stay in the game without digressing from my fitness goals or healthy focus with nutrition. Enjoying a healthy lifestyle means not obsessing. It means having a healthy relationship with food which is part of an overall balanced lifestyle. You can win this battle too. Let’s decide if this meal is right for you.
What is a ‘Refeed Meal’?
A refeed meal is a monitored/controlled increase of macronutrients and calories for a specific period of time. Depending on your specific body and goals it may be one meal, a number of hours or and entire refeed day
Generally speaking, most refeed meals will involve an increase in carbohydrate intake and a corresponding slight decrease in protein and fat intake. Refeed meals are not a case of gorging yourself on carbs until you feel sick, but instead consuming an elevated yet calculated amount of carbohydrates over a predetermined period of time.
Why do refeed meals?
On a fat loss program for the past X amount of days you have been eating less than your body requires. This causes the following to occur:
- Puts you in a calorie deficit. When your metabolism asks for more than you are putting in, it has to make up the extra in calories.
- Eventually your metabolism will slow down to match your new lower calorie intake. This time frame is different for everyone and many factors will affect how fast this occurs. Once your metabolism matches this low calorie intake fat loss will stop and then you hit a plateau.
- You have also depleted the amount of glycogen in your muscles by eating low calories and carbohydrate foods and have now created a larger than normal sensitivity to carbs. Your muscles are depleted of glycogen from weight training and are craving carbs to restore those empty glycogen stores (insulin sensitivity). This is the optimal time for carbs to be used to feed your muscles and not your waistline.
Aside from achieving fat loss on a fat loss program, eating clean, whole foods you will start to experience other benefits including improvement in gut health, less bloating and gas, improved digestion, stronger immune system, better cognitive function and sleep quality. All these and other improvements occur because you are cutting out poor quality foods that are void of nutrition and you may have actually developed sensitivities to without even knowing. These foods may cause inflammation within your body resulting in a bloated stomach, disruptive sleep, blemished skin, low mood or even brain fog. By starting to improve your health from the inside out you will help your body to function optimally. Winning!
Refeed meals are designed to keep your body burning body fat. A refeed meal is normally used in fat loss plans to bring someone out of a calorie deficit, ideally boosting metabolism and levels of a hormone called leptin, stopping both from dropping too low or crashing. Leptin is a hormone predominantly made by adipose or fat cells that help to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger and have a positive effect on your metabolism and mood , therefore speeding up fat loss and improving mental wellbeing. Sign me up for that!
Carbohydrates are generally used in refeed meals because they replenish glycogen stores, support insulin sensitivity, boost metabolic rate and increase our fat loss hormone levels. The reduction of protein and fat intake during refeeds controls the total caloric intake and promotes muscle glycogen replenishment instead of body fat storage from the excess carbohydrates. There is no harm done to your body and the refeed will have a desired effect on your metabolism and hormones. Because carbohydrates have a big impact on our hunger hormones (ghrelin & leptin) and our metabolism, cutting them out for a long period of time will cause your metabolism to slow and fat loss to also slow or stop.
It should be noted that this is not a ‘CHEAT MEAL’ or ‘CHEAT DAY’ as it’s not ‘cheating’ on your meal plan and it’s not a meal where you go Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson style and binge on a stack of pancakes, four family-size pizzas and a container full of chocolate brownies! This type of a meal is going to have detrimental effects on you physically and mentally. And we’ve all done this before (me included!). Your healthy gut health flora gets destroyed, you may feel sick and will very likely have feelings of guilt around this meal. It also can be difficult to get back on the healthy wagon after eating like this. This is not a healthy or positive experience and one we want to work to avoid from occurring. This refeed meal is a scheduled meal for you to guiltlessly enjoy a carb-based meal; staying within your specific calorie and/or macro guidelines, and to reboot your body to continue to achieve fat loss while remaining in control (or I say, staying in the game!)
My 8 Steps to the Ideal Refeed Meal
Step 1. Your coach will help you determine how often you can have this meal. The leaner you are and the more often you train the more frequently a refeed meal will work in your favor.
When I start a client on a fat loss plan I usually like people to be on low carbs for 14 days before they are allowed a refeed meal. Then depending on body fat percentage and training schedule, refeeds will be anywhere from every 2 weeks to every 3 days. It all depends on current body fat and insulin sensitivity. The more body fat you have the less often you need a refeed, the leaner you are, the more often you’ll need it.
Step 2. Plan what you’re going to have in advance. Either look up the menu before heading to the restaurant or plan what you will cook; this way you will make the right choice and not be rushed and choose a meal that doesn’t work in favor or will cause you to feel guilty afterwards if you failed.
Step 3. Determine your carb allotment. The first time is a bit of a test. The morning after your refeed is the best time to determine how you look and feel. You should wake up in the morning feeling energized and a little bit flatter, tighter and leaner. DO NOT step on the scale as your scale weight will be up 4-6 Lbs of water weight.
Use your eyes and look in the mirror to asses:
If you wake up feeling leaner then you got it right! The next time you can try to eat a bit more carbs (~20%) than last time and reassess.
If you wake up the same it can go either way so next time increase by 20% more carbs than last time and reassess.
If you wake up feeling softer you had a little too much. Next time reduce carbs (~20%) and reassess or you may have had a refeed too early as your body didn’t need it yet.
If you wake up bloated and feel off, you ate something that doesn’t agree with you; avoid that food next time. If you eat something you are sensitive to it will more than likely cause your stomach to bloat, increase inflammation and cause you to hold more water. Avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs; if you want sugar have the real thing as it will be much healthier on your digestive system.Rice and gluten-free options are your best choices!
Step 4. Make the best choice you can. And if you can’t track everything don’t stress; make your best guess and stay in the game without binging. This is an indulgent meal not a blowout so choose a meal that is higher in carbohydrates, moderate protein and lower in fats. Just because it’s a refeed meal doesn’t mean you can go crazy and eat whatever you like. We are still focused on fat loss, good quality carbs for recovery, improving health and getting you your ideal body. Use this meal to have foods you haven’t been able to have such as rice, sweet potato, lean burger with a gluten-free bunm, quinoa or gluten-free pizza if you can handle dairy. These are all good choices. Aim to stay away from trans fats, deep fried foods, gluten, heavy refined sugar, too much salt and processed foods.
Step 5. Eat your protein first. As with every meal you have you still need to hit your protein goal, so eat your protein first. Women are still looking for a minimum of 100+g of lean meat and men 200g of lean meat. This will also help prevent overeating as you’ll feel full. My go-to meal is usually a lean burger with gluten-free bun (if I can chose), baked sweet potato fries, salad or vegetables and a small dessert.
Step 6. When your butt leaves the chair, no more eating. This is not a cheat day! Choose your meal, sit down to that meal and when its finished or you leave your seat for any reason, it’s over! Stay mindful, focused on your goals and STAY IN THE GAME! Enjoy yourself but remember your goals!
Step 7. Drink 1-2 L of water after this meal to help flush excess sodium.
Step 8. Make sure you’ve exercised on the day you’re having your refeed meal and it’s ideal that it replaces your last two meals of the day. It can be mentally really difficult to stay on track with your nutrition if you start your day with a refeed.
Knowing HOW MUCH, WHAT and WHEN to eat are paramount to achieving your fitness goals. I hope this has helped you understand how to refeed and if this meal is right for you. Do you need help establishing a healthy relationship with food and to live your best life? As a Fitness Coach and Sports Nutritionist I don’t teach a ‘method’, I teach the principles. I give the tools and empowerment that help achieve a sustainable healthy & happy fitness journey so my clients can DOMINATE everyday. Apply to join my team! I offer online Competition Prep or Healthy Lifestyle Coaching to an exclusive team of 15 people/month. Email Ryall@RyallFitness.com for more information. Here’s to HEALTHY, HAPPY LIVING! #RyFitSquad