If you have been dieting for a while and suddenly have hit a wall, it’s very likely that you are experiencing low leptin levels.
Leptin’s main function in the body is regulating both hunger, food intake and energy expenditure. As leptin levels fall, the greater your cravings become for all those yummy foods that you used to eat before you started dieting that you probably think are “cheats” or off limits.
If you are experiencing more cravings on a daily basis, know that this is actually your body responding to a physiological signal, not just your mind playing nasty games with you and making your life miserable.
Along with hunger pangs, leptin also signifies a slowing metabolism. Whenever you are on low calorie diet for a long period of time, your body will begin to slow its metabolic functions in an effort to ‘make due’ with the amount of fuel that it is being given. Know what this means for you? Little or no fat loss. Not a good situation.
So, you want to periodically kick your leptin levels back up to avoid hunger and the slowed metabolism. Some people will chose to have cheat days in an effort to accomplish this goal, which is basically a meal or whole day of professed binging on everything in sight.
Cheat days are not best course of action however. Leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism so when doing a refeed, you will benefit much more if the majority of your excess calories are coming from good sources of carbohydrates that will turn into glucose. When done this way, leptin levels will show a significant rise over if you had eaten a surplus of calories coming from more protein or fat.
Usually, a refeed should consist of 20-50% more calories than required for maintenance.
The downside to a refeed is that sometimes you will have to accept a larger number on the scale the next day or 2, but, looking on the bright side, when you go back to your diet, your metabolism will be roaring again and you should jump start the fat loss process. White starchy carbs are best in a refeed since they are metabolized faster than fibrous, slow digesting carbs. This is the time to have those yummy pancakes, pasta and french bread that you have been depriving yourself of!
Health benefits come out of a refeed as well. One is increased immune function. The longer and harder we diet, the more stress we place on our body and the more we risk getting an illness. Without adequate calories, the immune system cannot perform up to par and therefore cannot fight of invading organisms as well.
On the days of a refeed you should not increase your workout volume at all or else you will be partly defeating the purpose of this process. It may be psychologically tempting, you may think you should try and burn off all these extra calories, however by doing this you will just set yourself back further and won’t accomplish much. Try and take it easy and let your muscles suck up all these extra nutrients, storing them for later use and getting your metabolism back running.
Refeeds are very hard for dieters to wrap their head around. They feel like they are going to gain weight and feel guilty about eating delicious foods that have been taboo for so long. But when you include refeeds and see a drastic improvement the following week – once you resume your training and diet plan – you will be convinced that refeeds aren’t a scary thing and are necessary if you hope to achieve all your goals.
Consider a customized nutrition plan and take the guess work out of how many calories you should be consuming in order to lose weight.