On A Low Carb Diet? Choose 'Carb Refeeding' Over Cheat Meals To Boost Fat Loss

Carb refeeding may look similar to cheat meals, but the two have very different benefits and results. Here's why carb refeeding may be better for fat loss than cheat meals for a low-carb diet.

NDTV Food Desk  |  Updated: February 19, 2020 17:39 IST

On A Low Carb Diet? Choose 'Carb Refeeding' Over Cheat Meals To Boost Fat Loss

The purpose of carb refeeding is to prolong your adherence to your respective low carb diets.

  • Carb refeeding means re-introducing carbs in your meals while on a diet
  • Cheat meals and refeeding are both done to prolong adherence
  • Low carb diets reduce the amount of carbohydrate from our meal

Unless you've been living under a rock, you must know about the ketogenic diet, which has been making news since last year. The ketogenic diet is a low carb and high fat diet that has become trendy for weight loss. It's currently the most popular low carb out there, but it's not the only one. There are a number of other low carb diets, which promise weight loss, a boost in fat burning capacity of the body and increased metabolism, including the paleo diet. Low carb diets basically systematically reduce the amount of carbohydrates from a dieter's meal, in order to reduce their daily calorie count. Carb refeeding is popular with people following low carb diets and you might have heard about the term in context to keto, paleo and other diets. But what is it?

Carb refeeding, at face value, is just the process of periodically re-introducing carbohydrates in your meals, while on a diet. This definition makes carb refeeding look similar to cheat days or cheat meals, which essentially mean allowing yourself to indulge the food lover in you and gorge on your favourite carbs like pastas, pizzas and cheeseburgers. However, there's a difference between carb refeeding and observing cheat days and although, one can argue in the favour of both, the former maybe more beneficial for fat loss than the latter.

Carb Refeeding Versus Cheat Meals On A Low Carb Diet

The purpose of both carb refeeding and cheat meals is to prolong your adherence to your respective low carb diets. But both these dietary exercises come with different benefits and different results. Carb refeeding is a process that targets the hormone leptin, while cheat days target dopamine. Leptin is a hormone that regulates levels of hunger and satiety in the body. It is said to be secreted from fat cells and is said to signal the brain when the body is full. Meanwhile, dopamine belongs to a class of happiness hormones that are meant to reduce stress and uplift our mood. This is why cheating on your diet once in a while makes you feel so good.


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Low Carb Diet: Cheat meals may do more harm than good

When you're on a fat loss phase, you would be better off following a carb refeeding than observing a cheat meal, as the former focusses on the right kind of macronutrients that your body needs to boost its satiety levels. Another benefit of carb refeeding is that it gives a boost to your depleted muscle glycogen stores that are affected during the prolonged low-carb diet. A cheat meal, on the other hand, is rich in fats and can hinder your fat loss progress. The fat from the meal can get stored in your body and take you back to square one, rather than enhancing your progress.

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Benefits of Carb Refeeding

Carb refeeding does not only help you physically stay fit, it may also help in keeping you mentally active and sound. How, you may ask? Because your mind and brain too reacts to what you eat. So, here are some benefits that carb refeeding may provide:

  • Although carbs may expand that waistline, the nutrient also contracts stress level. Carbohydrates are known to induce relaxation, satiety, and happiness. Mental relaxation is important for overall well-being. Overeating carbs also helps you sleep peacefully, which helps your tired body rest and recharge. 
  • Carb refeeding amps and livens up a boring diet plan. It gives you something to look forward to - to plan your carbs 'cheat day' and prepare the menu for it. This impending carbs refeeding also motivates you to stick to your usual diet with consolation that you would get to eat your favourite meals soon. 
  • Carb refeeding helps you stay active because that's what carbs do. The occasional dose of the nutrient helps you beat lethargy and stay active, which in turn helps you lose weight. 
  • Carb refeeds help you get sound sleep. Sleep problems like insomnia can give rise to a number of health issues like mental and physical fatigue. The occasional carb refeeds will help your mind rest and relax at night and let you wake up feeling fresh and active. 

When And How Many Times You Can Go For Carb Refeeding

It's always better to consult your dietitian or nutritionist to chart out your carb refeeding schedule. The number of times of how often how you can go for carb refeeds normally varies from person to person and depends on an individual's height, weight and health condition. Although, there no fixed rules about carb refeeding, a general rule of thumb may be applied. Usually, nutritionists across the globe suggest the following- 

Men under 10% / Women under 15% body fat: 3-4 refeeds per month
Men between 11-15% / Women between 16-20% body fat:  1-2 refeeds per month
Men above 16% / Women over 21% body fat: 1 refeed per month

Remember, the above-mentioned information may not apply or suit your individual needs. Set your carb refeeding targets as per your own bodily needs. 

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Eat healthy, lean carbs like oats and quinoa for carb refeeds

Foods To Eat For Carbs Refeeding

Try to focus on lean carbs with minimal fat and starch content. Some of these foods are - rice, roti, potatoes, fruits, grains like oats. Avoid heavy carbs like fried foods, cakes, breads, and heavy foods made of refined grains and flours. These foods have high fat as well as starch content. We know how much you love your pizza and pasta and those yummy desserts. Try to avoid them as much as possible and go for better, healthy carbs instead. 

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So, if you're on a low carb diet, you are better of observing a mindful carb refeeding day, than a cheat day. Consult your nutritionist for expert tips and advice on how to go about carb refeeding, in order to properly boost fat loss and metabolism.

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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