Why Refeed or Cheat Meals are a thing of the past
“Will I get a refeed or cheat meal?” is a commonly asked question from prospective and current clients here at The Cut, which will be addressed in this article along with our reasoning and thought process. We have a package to suit your goals and needs from leading a more active and healthy lifestyle to transforming your physique, but our foremost priority will always be health.
Let’s start with the word Cheat; to us it has only negative connotations. It implies that someone is doing something wrong, ultimately developing a bad relationship with food and a binge-like habit. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with food, we advise there are no good or bad foods; food is food. There are of course more nutritionally dense foods with lower caloric density. A healthy relationship with food is key to not only maintaining goals but to lead a happy, healthy life.
I had the pleasure of meeting and attending a workshop with Anna Sward and she posted a blog which clearly illustrates the problem with the idea of ‘Eating Clean’: You can read the full blog here “…Instead of promoting the notion that there is a way of eating that is ‘clean’ and another that is ‘unclean/dirty’. We should be encouraging education. And do our best to inspire others to fall in love with nutrition, dense foods and cooking from scratch. Because of the positive impact that can have on our bodies and consequently, on our everyday lives…”
Whenever you have strictly adhered to a nutrition plan, more often than not you will start craving less nutritionally-dense foods. Especially if you are trying to get “super lean” and you will understand how affecting these food cravings can be.
Why do food cravings happen?
If you have ever followed a nutrition plan with the intention to drastically reduce body fat you have probably experienced a plethora of cravings and feeling the need to binge. Craving foods that are energy dense and not “typically diet food” is pretty normal, particularly at the start of the process. These cravings could be due to an imbalance 0f hormones as your body is trying to resist changing and losing body fat. Also there is the emotional side to deal with. When eating some of your favourite foods endorphins are released, making you feel good, so naturally wanting more.“Food cravings arise to satisfy emotional needs, such as calming stress and reducing anxiety,” says Drewnowski, a well-known researcher on taste and food preferences.
Cheat meals can serve as a “diet break”. A meal/day to look forward to when you can take your foot off the pedal from dieting. Generally cheat meals are when someone doesn’t really take the nutrient quality into consideration and typically chooses junk food such as chocolate, pizzas, crisps etc. Our general belief is that if you need a weekly “diet break” then you are on too much of a restrictive plan. We are certainly not saying you should never eat these foods, but if the goal is fat loss then you have to be in a calorie deficit (period). 2000 calories+ of pizza (who can manage just a slice??) consumed in one meal will soon bring up your daily average consumption across the week, which makes progress difficult.
You probably have enough events throughout the year where avoiding these high calorie binges are impossible so it would make sense to coincide cheat meals here. Factoring a weekly one on top of this stacks the odds of actually progressing highly against you.
What is a Refeed?
A refeed is a more controlled calorie increase than a cheat meal. The calories generally coming by way of more carbs. The purpose of a refeed is to replenish glycogen (energy stores) which is depleted from dieting and on low carbs. When training hard and in a calorie deficit your body is being put under stress. A carb refeed may be needed to get over this. Low carb diets such as keto or paleo would be instances when carb refeeds would be needed more. There are potential signs of needing a refeed such as poor performance in the gym, feeling exhausted and slow recovery to name a few.
For the most part we tend to steer away from cheat meals and re-feed meals/days. Why? In our opinion these approaches tend to be connected to nutrition protocols that are on a massive calorie deficit and emphasis on getting as quick a result as possible. Therefore we favour approaches that give you as much food as possible whilst still achieving your specific goal. This approach we believe is more sustainable and looks after your health and wellbeing.
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