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The term cheat meal and refeed meal are used interchangeably and they shouldn’t! There are HUGE differences between the two, I will elaborate on them.

Let me do just that…

Let’s look at cheat meal. Like I was taught in college English 101, if you do not know what a word means, break it up. Cheat: to deceive or trick, act dishonestly or unfairly, to avoid. Meal: the food eaten on a regular occasion, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

To me, those two words combined as one, are no good (but hey, that is my opinion).

The honest truth, I believe cheat meals should never be used. Every meal should have a purpose. Now, if you are following a nutrition plan and cannot get to your next meal, or you are at a family gathering and there is nothing in sight that slightly resembles food from your plan, no big deal. This is where a refeed meal comes in.

What is a refeed meal?!

Well, the reality of the situation is, there isn’t a definitive definition of the word “refeed meal”. To some people it’s simply an excuse to gorge themselves on rarely eaten foods, while others, it serves a more strategic end. The specific meaning in the nutrition circle is defined as a short-term, planned period of eating. Usually the focus is on specific macronutrients (carbohydrates & protein) involving a surplus of calories, often incorporated during a fat-loss phase.

The science behind the refeed meal goes like this, “a refeed day lies within the leptin-boosting power from a short-term boost in calories. Leptin, a hormone that regulates satiety and energy intake, decreases when body-fat levels go down and carbohydrate intake gets reduced. As a result, hunger levels rise and satiety is reduced. Ideally, the goal of a refeed day should be to promote a rise in leptin levels to better help adherence to a specific diet”.

When you’re well into a fat loss deficit, your carbohydrate stores within your muscles are often quit low. A properly constructed refeed day will help to replenish these glycogen stores, rather than supporting your fat stores. However, a cheat day containing an abundance of high-fat foods will primarily promote fat gain rather than refilling your carbohydrate stores. A high-fat meal (cheat meal) has been demonstrated to promote a dip in leptin levels for up to 24 hours, resulting in a backslid with your fat loss program.

Rather than diving headfirst into a free-for-all day, focusing on building a healthy relationship with food is key for long-term health and success. Tired of tilapia or burned out on brown rice? Go enjoy a nice out-of-the-norm meal, and get back on track the next day—or, better yet, the NEXT MEAL.

Here is my rule of thumb when it comes to refeed meals. However, this may not apply to everyone.

  • If your body fat is 25% or higher, limit refeeds to once every 4-6 weeks
  • If your body fat is between 15-20%, limit refeeds to once every 2-3 weeks.
  • If your body fat is between 10-15%, refeed once every 1-2 weeks.
  • If your body fat is below 10%, you may want to incorporate a refeed day up to twice per week.

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