Ketosis is a natural metabolic function within the body that is achieved by cutting your carbohydrate intake. When carbohydrates are removed from the diet, the body is no longer able to use glucose as a fuel source and is forced to adapt. Ketosis is a state in which the body is burning fat as the sole energy source. The idea of the ketogenic diet was developed by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic in 1924 with the intention of treating epilepsy. Within the last decade the ketogenic diet has become a major player in the health and fitness industry, with low carbohydrate and ketogenic diets becoming a staple for those looking to lose fat and get shredded.
The Importance of a Refeed
During a prolonged diet, especially one that severely manipulates the ratio of macro-nutrients the body is often put under stress that results in abnormal hormone levels. Intense or prolonged dieting can have an effect on thyroid hormones and leptin levels. To avoid this hormonal imbalance refeed days and “cheat meals” are often incorporated.
The ketogenic diet is unique in the way that it uses fat for energy due to the lack of glucose in the body. Although this is an effective way to lose body-fat, it often is associated with decreased intensity inside the gym. To avoid this fatigue during workouts, a weekly refeed day is used to replenish glycogen in the muscles.
Since there is no glycogen in the body when in ketosis, any carbohydrates consumed are flushed directly to the muscles. This is the reasoning behind how a refeed day is possible without kicking the body out of ketosis. As long as carbohydrate intake is managed to a level that fills muscle glycogen completely, while not consuming any additional carbohydrates that would be stored in the body, the refeed day will not kick you out of ketosis. Although there is a fine line between too little and too many carbohydrates, a little trial and error will allow you to maximize your fat loss.
How to Plan a Refeed
Before we get into how to plan a refeed day, determining when a refeed day is needed is critical. As body fat levels decrease, more refeed days are able to be used effectively. If you are above 20% body fat a refeed day is not necessary and could potentially hinder your weight loss goals. For people between 10% and 15% body fat should plan on having a refeed day every 7-10 days to maintain normal hormone levels and refill muscle glycogen. When body fat levels begin to reach levels under 10% more refeed days are able to be incorporated effectively.
Duration of the refeed and the total consumption of carbohydrates during the refeed are the key factors when planning to maximize your refeed day. The optimal duration of a refeed period is 36 hours, during which 4-6 grams of carbohydrates per pound of lean body mass should be consumed. Using these guidelines a 185 pound male with 12% body fat should consume 650 to 975 grams of carbohydrates within this 36 hour period.
To maximize the benefits of a refeed day an intense, depletion workout should be completed directly before the refeed begins. This exhausting workout will increase enzyme activity and resynthesis rates, which make the first 6 hours following this workout the most critical.
When it comes to carbohydrate sources it can vary depending on timing. During the first 24 hours of the refeed the body is able to utilize higher glycemic index carbohydrates, such as simple sugars, to more effectively replenish glycogen. During the last 12 hours of the refeed slower digesting carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and oatmeal are more effective at promoting glycogen re-synthesis while avoiding any unnecessary fat gain.
Ketosis can be a great way to lose fat, but as I have mentioned there are a number of factors to take into account to make sure you perform this diet safely and effectively. The refeed is an important part of the ketogenic diet, to replenish glycogen in your muscles. Try this diet and see the results.