Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jun

Carb Refeeding and Weight Loss

sweetpotatoesPart of the allure of the Primal eating plan is that it’s effortless. There’s no calorie counting, no stressing over macronutrient intakes – eating PB simply means choosing to eat real, whole foods that man has been eating for tens of thousands of years. You can go higher carb or lower carb (I initially recommend low carb, just because it makes losing weight and stabilizing your metabolism incredibly easy, especially for folks coming off the SAD), and as long as you’re eating real foods you’ll be getting healthier and losing body fat.

This isn’t enough for everyone, though. To go back to yesterday’s “hormones as software” analogy, some people are hackers who relish digging deep into the fine print of software manuals discussing human nutrition and hormonal responses. Others – the bulk of my readership – are cool with using their standard-issue, factory Mac or PC to reap the basic benefits of Primal living, while others prefer learning Unix and taking night classes in comp sci down at the local community college after work. They’re the ones who spend the time to fiddle with the programming language of our bodies in order to become real hormonal hackers. I get that. I love that stuff, too, if only to able to take the information and distill it for a large audience. Though one can see tremendous results with minimal effort following the simple principles of the Primal Blueprint (i.e. how I approach my own eating habits and how I recommend others do as well) digging deeper into the science of leptin and how carb refeeds impact leptin levels can unlock an entirely new level of fat loss (and understanding of why that fat loss is occurring).

All this leptin and carb refeeding stuff was prompted by reader questions; I get a fair amount of questions about carb refeeds, and, because the PB is a moderate to low-carb plan, people (understandably so) tend to assume that carbohydrate refeeding contradicts its basic tenets. They make an incorrect assumption.

As mentioned earlier, the Primal Blueprint is the simplest, most enjoyable, most sustainable way to normalize your weight, a description borne out by my own experiences and the experiences of my readers. If you don’t want to fret over every last macronutrient as you lose weight steadily, a low carb, high fat, moderate protein Primal eating plan will do the trick. That said, I am not overly concerned with getting folks to 6% body fat, nor am I interested in producing champion body builders. I have nothing against getting as lean as possible; it’s just not my focus. Turning the Primal Blueprint into a super-leaning out program would mean changing its inherent nature as an effortless system without weighing and measuring. You see, I’m concerned with helping people reach their natural genetic potential through sustainable lifestyle behaviors. And for most people, their natural genetic potential is pretty damn good – lean, strong, fit, healthy. Very few people can achieve that ultra-ripped, Men’s Health cover model look without significant, painstaking adherence to a strictly regimented program.

Carb loading or carb refeeds can be used, quite effectively, by those interested in dropping the last couple body fat percentage points. I wouldn’t recommend it for overweight individuals. For them, sticking with a low carb, Primal eating plan is the easiest, safest way to drop the pounds. And you can do it with Primal foods.

The purpose, as I see it, of carb refeeds is the restoration of leptin levels in the dieter. As we know, caloric restriction reduces leptin levels. With lower leptin comes increased hunger and reduced adherence to a diet. Cravings arise. Energy wanes, immunity suffers. The lack of leptin elicits the cascade of hormones that down regulate metabolism and energy expenditure. Your muscles use less energy and become more efficient – but weaker and less effective. Menstruation and fertility become issues. Dropping calories even more just makes the problem worse. You need to restore leptin, at least for a bit, to right the path. A carb refeed can help you achieve this.

Who needs to refeed? No one “needs” a carb refeed, especially if he or she is feeling good, looking good, and continuing to lose weight with plenty of energy. I never consciously stuff myself with carbs, and I’m doing okay. Remember, too, that a low-carb eating plan doesn’t equal a low calorie eating plan. If your weight loss has stalled, however, and hunger is a constant issue, no matter the depths of your caloric restriction, it may be wise to consider a periodic carbohydrate refeed. If you lack energy throughout the day and your immune system is suffering, you might need to restore your leptin levels with a carb refeed.

Here’s the quick and dirty Primal way to do it:

On your heaviest training days (heavy lifting, sprinting, anything that results in glycogen depletion), increase your carbohydrates and limit your fat intake. Yes, limit your fat intake to around 50g (eyeball it – don’t demolish that stick of butter today). Don’t cut it out altogether, mind you, but emphasize carbs over fat. Fat doesn’t have much of a short-term effect on leptin, and, since we want to increase leptin in the short-term without gorging on overall calories, limiting fat and emphasizing carbohydrate is the way to go. Don’t do much to your protein intake. Just keep it relatively normal. Limit your refeeds to once, maybe twice a week, and always after really big workouts, but really go for it. Eat a lot of yams, sweet potatoes, fruit, plantains, squash – any Primal source of starchy carb will do the trick (grains and legumes are still problematic, so keep away). Eat more total calories than you’d normally eat and way more carbohydrate calories than you’d normally eat – at least 250 g-300 g worth. Finish your refeed day with a decent chunk of lean protein (chicken breast, cottage cheese).

You’ll probably get that bloated, water-weight feeling the following day, especially if your diet is relatively low-carb, but that will go away after a day or so. Leptin will rise (independent of fat storage), glycogen will replenish, and your appetite will normalize. Since you’re already fairly lean with low circulating leptin (and, remember: you should be relatively lean before employing refeeds), your leptin senstivity will be high. The leptin bounce won’t be enough to dull your leptin receptors; that generally only happens with the obese, who have chronically elevated leptin.

There are other methods. Some experts recommend two or three day-long carb binges. Others say a week long refeed works best. I don’t know about you, but that seems like too much work. I honestly can’t see myself giving up pastured butter and ribeyes for a week straight. Starch without fat gets real old, real fast.

I may not find refeeds necessary for my goals, but I recognize that they can help people reach their goals. Everyone’s different. I can’t guarantee my way will work – you may have to get super strict and follow Martin Berkhan’s or Lyle McDonald’s methods to reach your desired level of leanness. Still, the Primal refeed is worth experimenting with, especially if you’ve reached a plateau lasting a month or more. I’m a big fan of steady, gradual weight loss, and the leaner you get the slower it gets, but it’s not for everyone. The above recommendations simply represent a way you can adhere to the Primal eating plan and still tinker with carb refeeds without overly disrupting your usual diet.

If you’re still having trouble reconciling the refeed notion with your idea of Grok’s lifestyle, just imagine you found a bushel of mangos, or happened upon a particularly fruitful trove of edible roots. You think Grok would have tossed those mangos to avoid the carbohydrates?

Let me know how it works out for you!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. At what body fat levels (meaning please answer for both men and women) is one lean enough to begin benefitting from refeeds? In other words, what do you mean by “lean”?

    Naomi wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • At least 15% for men and 20% for women. Start with a carb refeed every 4th day on a heavy workout day. By keeping fat low and sugar low, you should have a more defined look the next day.

      For an even leaner look, you can do a ‘dry’ carb feed by limiting water intake. Because you are refeeding and up-regulating leptin, water will be drawn from outside to inside the muscle. If you drink too much water, you’ll just look puffy.

      Sterling wrote on June 18th, 2010
      • YES I highly suggest keeping sugar low or very minimal (fruits) I thought it could help so I ate 4 servings of fruit and I Was sugar loaded and the next day the too much sugar left me lethargic make sure to just eat perhaps one extra fruit that you already currently eat. Your body off with the squashes, sweet potatoes.

        Alyssa Monique wrote on April 27th, 2012
    • Good question! And at what body fat % should someone NOT carb reload? I am at 20% body fat right now.

      Asif wrote on July 21st, 2013
  2. Huh, this is very interesting. The other things I’ve read about carb refeeds (possibly from Lyle) say to go as low-fat and high carb as possible, which just seemed hard to me! Eating a sweet potato without drowning it in butter, or a salad without evoo/balsamic dressing just isn’t as appealing. 50g of fat is enough to let you add some butter and evoo into the mix though. That, and eating 250-300 carbs in one day without resorting to grain consumption equals a crap-ton of food (literally…).

    Thanks for putting your two cents in about the refeed/leptin issue though, I’ve been wondering about it with all the questions circulating in the forums!

    Hannah wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • Funny how different people have different problems. I’ve been eating 100 net carbs a day in just carrots. Sitting down to 1,000 primal carbs per meal isn’t much of a problem for me.

      Grok wrote on June 19th, 2010
      • Are you orange? I eat a lot of carrots and the rough patches on my skin (knuckles, knees, etc) are all orange. It’s funny. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, too, which probably contributes to the coloring.

        michael wrote on June 25th, 2013
        • Yes carrots and sweet pots will make your skin orange. The longer you keep feeding yourself these foods the longer it takes to rid yourself of it once you remove them from your diet.

          Caver wrote on July 26th, 2013
        • Funny I read somewhere that women who want to look tanner drink lots of carrot juice. I thought that was just a myth! :)

          KSH wrote on January 8th, 2014
    • Hannah, I absolutely enjoy eating lots of fat instead of low-fat carb refeeds. So much more flavor, as well as consistent energy when you prioritize fat over carbs. There’s no doubt that carb loading once a week helps my performance, though.

      Abel James wrote on October 26th, 2011
  3. Perfect answers to my questions from yesterday’s post!

    My only concern with advocating refeeds is that there are probably many of us who aren’t truly as low carb as we might think. In such cases the whole refeed idea is probably minimally helpful, if at all, and serves more as an excuse to carb out without the guilt.

    I think I will just steer clear and keep on the main Primal pathway.

    Rodney wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • I agree with Rodney. Just like Mark said, this is really almost too advanced/nit picky to really focus on, when just sticking to the PB is all most people will need.

      Those who really could benefit from this should know who they are, if you aren’t sure, chances are you should not get caught up in the idea of this, and avoid it altogether. Don’t try to give yourself excuses to carb it up.

      Rip City wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • What he said. For me the risk of “carbing up” (insulin spike, fat gain) isn’t worth the possible benefit… and as Mark said himself in the post, “I wouldn’t recommend [carb refeeding] for overweight individuals. For them, sticking with a low carb, Primal eating plan is the easiest, safest way to drop the pounds.”

      Griff wrote on June 18th, 2010
      • As long as you dont go over the amount of carbs your body can hold, you will not gain fat. Only if you go over will the body store extra carbs as fat if not used as energy. These carb refeeds work wonders for those who can work them. In the end its all about numbers.

        Rob wrote on June 19th, 2010
        • What do you mean by “the amount of carbs your body can hold?” How does one determine how much her body can hold? I don’t want my body to store superfluous carbohydrates as fat. Very curious…

          Kelly wrote on October 10th, 2013
      • Insulin doesn’t cause fat gain. The accumulation of adipose tissue is caused by a surplus of energy in the human body or, stated another way, when caloric intake exceeds caloric output. Net fat accumulation won’t occur without this one, necessary requirement. Insulin or no insulin, may or may not lead to fat gain. It depends entirely on energy balance. Fat can be gained via mechanisms of ASP (acylation stimulation protein) with or without presence of insulin. Carb-phobia is a behavior best forgotten. Yes insulin blunts lipolysis in a dose dependent relationship, which simply means if glucose/protein is consumed and insulin is elevated, fat-mobilizing is temporarily blunted (because body will favor glucose), but many make the mistake of confusing this with net energy balance. I know, this is simplified physiology but, to suggest insulin causes fat gain is heinous. Protein spikes insulin, to a considerable degree too…does protein cause fat gain? (Well again, in the context of energy surplus, arguably, but it isn’t the protein that’s being shuttled to fat stores).

        NR wrote on February 8th, 2012
      • I absolutely agree! I use carb/calorie cycling to get ready for physique shows, where I cycle in 4 – 6 no carb days interspersed with a medium and a high carb day. No carbs and low calories is pretty hard to pull off, and not particularly enjoyable unless you have very strong motivation. The longer, slower, incremental process of the PB diet is a way better program for the majority of the population!

        Michelle wrote on June 28th, 2012
      • Do you not understand the importance of Leptin? If you starve your body of carbs you are basically killing your metabolism and wasting your time in the gym. Even Mark Sisson is not accepting that.

        Marc wrote on November 25th, 2013
  4. I have had clients experience great success with refeeding days, or carb cycling. After a period of caloric restriction I generally have them have a cheat day where they can refuel on all the carbs they love but aren’t allowed normally. I follow that day with a fasting day and a bunch of activity. Not only will the refeeding increase leptin levels and prime them for fat burning but the caloric deficit created the following day by fasting and activity will greatly help their cause.

    Susan Campbell wrote on June 18th, 2010
  5. Mark, what do you recommend for someone who is very lean, and doing something like crossfit 5-6 times a week. I am currently low-carb (about 45g a day not counting post-wo) while taking in a post workout recovery shake w/ 45g carbs in the form of bananas and raw grass-fed milk. Should I also carb re-feed one or two days a week due to the volume of training? or should I only re-feed once a month or so?

    Nick R. wrote on June 18th, 2010
  6. This is really interesting. I never thought to try eating loads of carbs one day a week. I’m still a tiny bit underweight, crave carbs, and every now and then have a day where my energy is low. I might just have to try this.

    Normally I try eating more carbs consistently, but then end up with GERD symptoms and carb addiction.

    Kat wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • Ok I realize everyone reading this is looking at it from a losing weight perspective. But I’m more interested in one carb-load day, then a week moderate-carb, since I find carbs help me gain weight.

      Just hoping a carb-load day doesn’t make me addicted to them more.

      Kat wrote on June 18th, 2010
      • Kat, keep in mind that you need to earn those carbs. So, you need to stay primal in eating and workouts. A plus to carb feeding especially later towards the day is increased seratonin which helps your relax before bed.

        Kishore wrote on June 18th, 2010
        • Yep, I have recently changed my workouts. I used to only do walking, yoga and light weight training. Now I’m incorporating more primal workouts. I would do the carb thing as Mark suggests after a big workout.

          I don’t think ‘earning’ the carbs is as important for someone trying to gain weight though. I need to gain both fat and muscle.

          Kat wrote on June 18th, 2010
  7. …cool with using their standard-issue, factory Mac or PC to reap the basic benefits of Primal living, while others prefer learning Unix and taking night classes…
    Mark, I just love the way that you & your worker bees write. You speak plainly so it can’t help but make sense, & you speak to our geeky inner nerds too ;-)

    Peggy wrote on June 18th, 2010
  8. I’d like to know the extent to which a carb re-feed is a good idea for those of us suffering from hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s. From what I understand low FT3s are the culprit for us, but might this help? I’m going to try it a few times.

    Jessica Slattery wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • My Mom has hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s. I’ve been trying to find some good Primal info for her. Is there anything you can offer up?

      Todd wrote on June 18th, 2010
      • I would love to see a complete guide to hypothyroidism.

        I know there are many correctable causes, including iodine/selenium/zinc issues, and even eating a diet high in sugar. I am sure there are others I haven’t heard about…yet.

        Maybe a nice guide of how to proceed with mineral supplementation, diet changes, etc in order to try to get off a lifetime of medicine.

        Rodney wrote on June 18th, 2010
  9. Mark, Why not the carb refeed pre “big” workout? Or better yet divide the high carb meal in two, straddling the workout.

    Also I wonder why you continue to reference Berkhan and McDonald. Both of these fellows are so insulting to and dismissive of the Paleo/Primal crowd. We are, in their words, “Paleo-tards”, worthy of insultingly profane responses.

    Robb Wolf trains world-class athletes, via a thoroughly researched and field-tested Paleo/Primal approach, and does so graciously and humbly.

    chris wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • For what its worth, Martin’s a lot more Paleo friendly than Lyle. True they can be harsh, but in both cases they’ve done their homework, and it would be silly to dismiss or ignore them simply because they hurt our feelings. Truth be told, following their work has helped keep me from calcifying my nutrition ideas into dogma.

      Hugh wrote on June 18th, 2010
      • My contention was that Mark need not “plug” them because they are arguably antagonistic to Mark’s evolutionary approach. In other words what do you find with Berkhan or McDonald that you can’t find with Wolf or Sisson. I’m of the mind that machismo ought to be ignored. Anyhow it’s Mark’s world here and he is certainly free to advertise whomever he wishes.

        chris wrote on June 18th, 2010
        • Oh and you know who is really great, very smart, thorough researcher, helpful, open-minded, etc.?

          Keith over at

          http://theorytopractice.wordpress.com/

          under appreciated Paleo resource IMHO

          chris wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • That’s because the authors mentioned believe a lot of people in the paleo-world are blind followers, and lack the ability to think critically. They aren’t entirely wrong though. Example: many people in this community believe, in the context of a normally functioning endocrine system, that insulin makes one obese. Or that dietary fat won’t ever accumulate as adipose tissue on a low-carb diet. This is why they laugh at much of the thinking on these forums.

      NR wrote on February 8th, 2012
  10. Dr Mauro Pasquale, an accomplished powerlifter, wrote thoroughly about this strategy in The Anabolic Diet. It’s a great read for athletes.

    nathan wrote on June 18th, 2010
  11. “If…hunger is a constant issue, no matter the depths of your caloric restriction, it may be wise to consider a periodic carbohydrate refeed.”

    I thought this was interesting. Unless I am not understanding it correctly, this seems backward to me. I refeed when I adjust to the restricted caloric intake and I am NOT hungry any more.

    When I go on a slight caloric restriction, I always feel just a little bit hungry (certainly not starving) and I lose fat fairly quickly. After a few days though, fat loss stalls with the concurrent feeling of being satiated from the same diminished amount of calories. To me this seems to indicate that my metabolism is slowing down and needs to be revved back up with a higher carbohydrate/calorie day. I don’t further restrict food intake because I am doing intense training and need the calories to recover; I just want my metabolism to keep up.

    I actually just did a refeed yesterday. It was my heavy squat day followed by sprints and I felt I could use the extra calories. I enjoyed about a half gallon of whole raw milk throughout the day(sorry, Mark, not Primal I know). This morning, however, after the same breakfast I have had all week, I am noticeably more hungry and know that I am back on track to accomplish my goal of 6% body fat while preserving as much muscle mass as possible.

    Anybody else take this approach?

    Kevin Simons wrote on June 18th, 2010
  12. very good post. I try to explain this concept to my clients many times but very few get it. They’re always asking me how I easily maintain my body fat level between 7 and 9 % and eat carbs frequently. I’m going to link to this post for sure. thanks for the post

    john Rawlins wrote on June 18th, 2010
  13. Interesting concept and I like the scientific basis of it. With PB, it does often seem like I’m a walking science experiment trying to gauge the signals of gene expression with changes to my diet and exercise.

    Janet wrote on June 18th, 2010
  14. I’m of a petite frame & height (5’0) 115 lbs. I think lol; yet try to maintain my weight by my activity levels. If I know I’m going to be very active, I just eat a little more carbs foods. If not I just eat them less & along w/ the other primal foods.

    Its comforting to know that once you know how much to eat, what to eat & when to eat (by listening to your body & eating when your hungry) you can maintain the extra weight off for good. ;-)

    Carrying a trail pack of nuts, seeds & dried fruits along w/ other fresh fruits w/ me helps me keep from eating out. Being prepared is the key lol.

    I don’t even “write” down or keep track of calories or carbs either. I don’t even have a weighing scale at home lol. It also just feel great & glad to have lost lots of extra weight eating primal foods & sticking to it. Great post Mark. Always learning from others comments too. Thanks :-D

    Madeline wrote on June 18th, 2010
  15. Interesting post. From my observation (which may be flawed) it seems that most men I know take more easily to lowcarb and lose weight MUCH faster than many women. More women (but certainly not all) seem to have more problems with being tired at times on lowcarb, especially very low carb and I suspect that women more naturally retain fat than most men. Women were not designed to look like men, neither with big bulging wheat pot bellies, but nor with big bulging rippling muscles and very low body fat. I think it bares keeping in mind that women can have very different reactions than men.

    I think it wise for people to listen and consider what their body tells them. If you feel tired and run down a lot, even after a reasonable adjustment period has passed, then your diet probably needs adjusting, perhaps with a bit more healthy carbs (ie not with unfermented grains), especially if you are an active individual. There is still much we don’t know about genetic predispositions, permanent side effects of decades of grain eating, gender differences, and what exactly happens inside each of us as we eat each individual type of food.

    In the absence of perfected knowledge, primal eating is a good guideline, but the Kitavans and the Masai eat very different types of foods, yet both are far healthier than most Americans. But on the flip side, it’s worth noting that although all the primitive lifestyles seemed to yield healthier individuals than the American lifestyle, there were variations amoung health and strength between the tribes as well. The primitive tribes did not necesarily always know how to eat in the healthiest way possible for them. They too were sometimes victims of ignorance, tradition, and what was available in their environment.

    I recall one cannabalist tribe that was almost wiped out by creutzfeldt-jakob disease due to their preference for eating the tissue of the dead. It was only through the intervention of western knowledge of the disease that saved them. Perhaps in the end, what we usually see are tribes that at least developed habits healthy enough to allow them to survive sometimes harsh natural conditions. These were the ones mostly likely to survive and pass on their traditions. Whereas in the west, most of us have lifestyles so cushy that we can be quite sickly and still survive.

    Eva wrote on June 18th, 2010
  16. I’m still way overweight but suffered and accidental carb refeeding this past week and noted similar benefits. I do a lot of intermittent fasting and I wonder if those of us who IF can benefit from refeedings regardless of weight. I seem to experience a nice surge in both energy and weight loss after the eating accident. :)

    Grol wrote on June 18th, 2010
  17. I agree that carb loading can be a great tool. I have used it in the past with great success.

    Jean-Patrick wrote on June 18th, 2010
  18. Obviously white bread has no nutrients and spikes insulin compared to sweet potatoes, yams, and other healthy tubers, but white bread has no grains. It does have gluten and I understand gluten can be addictive. Can anyone explain the science about how gluten can become addictive?

    Mat Herold wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • Check out this article for more on gluten.

      http://www.patienthealthyself.info/files/Celiac_Disease_Wheat.pdf

      Sue wrote on June 19th, 2010
    • Mat,

      Look up gluten as an exorphin (includes casein as well). It essentially acts as an opiate on the brain and hence has similar addictive potential.

      Jamie wrote on June 20th, 2010
    • I think before you go asking about gluten, it would be good to understand that white bread is made of bleached, refined (bran removed) wheat flour. As in it is made of grains. It is because it contains grains that it contains gluten.

      Ginger wrote on July 3rd, 2010
    • my understanding is the gliadin protein that’s the addictor. Not 100%. Check out Dr. William Davis’ “Wheat Belly”

      craig almaguer wrote on June 7th, 2012
    • Mat – white bread is made from strong white flour which is made from wheat (a grain) and contains gluten. The strength of the flour indicates the strength of the gluten content of that bread. The gluten gives the bread its structure.

      Janet wrote on August 13th, 2013
  19. Great post Mark. Maybe you or someone else can give me a good idea what to do.
    My BF is between 10 to 12%. I have doubled my good fat intake from 50 to 85g a day to 100 to 130g a day to increase my energy. Haven’t noticed any more energy, though. Carb intake is between 40g to 60g daily (fitday.com tells me this). Protein is between 100g to 130g daily. Crossfit twice a week. In my mid fifties. Would reloading carbs a couple times a week make a difference in my energy level?
    Been eating more starch such as sweet potatoes and squash (about 1/2 c a day). Notice puffy look around stomach area. Like to reduce BF to 8%.

    David wrote on June 18th, 2010
  20. I have never heard of carb reefeeding. It is a neat idea. I am not one who is trying to lose weight and I am not realy interested in loading up on carbs duirng a single day or week.

    I eat a sweet potato once ina while and larabars too. I also regularly consume close to 150 grams of carbs since I eat a lot of veggies and fruits.

    But, nonetheless, I may try this someday – you never know!

    Primal Toad wrote on June 18th, 2010
    • It works out really good. I can go from eatting 20 grams of carbs a day to eatting 550 grams of carbs (one day), and not gain a pound. The body has some really neat chemistry working on all this.

      Rob wrote on June 19th, 2010
  21. I’ve done this before on The Anabolic Diet it worked great at the time but I would make it a junk fest and eat everything in site for 24-48hrs I felt sick and bloated for days – but funny enough I leaned out and put on muscle.

    What Mark prescribes above would be a great tool if training is very intense and goals are above average. It definitely will make a difference based on the foods used for the carb-ups.

    Nathan wrote on June 19th, 2010
  22. I may have to try this. I’m one of the unlucky few who didn’t seem to get the “big results” when I went primal. I started it about halfway through my first round of P90X. (Not really primal, I know.) I lost maybe 7 or 8 pounds. Not bad, but could stand to lose another 8-10. My BF is still close to 20%. I’d like to get it closer to 15%. Nothing is happening! I’m just stuck and have been for quite some time. We’ll see if this jump starts anything!

    Jenny wrote on June 19th, 2010
    • Hey Jenny,

      I’m having similar issues as you. Was wondering how the carb feeding worked for use. I’m stuck at 20%.

      Thanks!

      Lex wrote on November 2nd, 2010
  23. OK, this was an informative post for me. I am not trying to lose weight necessarily, just fat. I strength train 5 times per week and cardio (20-30 min) twice per week. Some days I work harder than others. I limit my carbs to less than 50g per day and often don’t even approach that. I feel fine, have plenty of energy….but I’ve been like this for almost a year. 5 feet tall, 102-105 lbs, and 18-19% body fat. Why am I not burning more fat? Why is it sticking around?

    I tried to do refeeds, but I did it on a rest day over the weekend. Weekly 24-hour fasts seem to not make a difference either.

    So, I will try this….I will try to eat more carb and less fat on the days I do both strength and cardio, since those are the days I’m working the hardest.

    At this point I’ve basically decided to accept that I’ve reached my genetic potential and should just be satisfied with looking better than 90% of the women out there my age who’ve reproduced (33 with one kid). But what can I say, I’m a perfectionist and want to look like I walked out of a women’s fitness magazine.

    Jamie wrote on June 19th, 2010
    • Hi!

      I was wondering how the carb refeed worked for you…?
      Thx!

      Lex wrote on November 2nd, 2010
    • “I strength train 5 times per week and cardio (20-30 min) twice per week.”

      you need to cut down on all this working out and crank up the intensity. working out 5 times per week tells me you are not providing adequate stimulus to bring about further changes. it’s not needed. 2 full body workouts per week and 2 x 45 min walks will do(you don’t want the cardio cutting into you’re muscle recovery). Also recovery is more than just muscles. it’s your internal organs that need a break, intense workouts put a lot of stress on your internals. progress comes about during the recovery phase.

      We want results not frequent visits to the gym!

      try this approach for stubborn fat loss,

      http://www.leangains.com/2010/06/intermittent-fasting-and-stubborn-body.html

      Robert C. Morreale wrote on June 7th, 2011
  24. Martin Berkhan is NOT anti-paleo in any way. Where did you get that from?? Seriously guys get your facts straight.

    John Nakamura wrote on June 19th, 2010
  25. Jamie, the ‘prob’ may be simply that you are now at your natural healthy body weight, even if you happen to have a current cultural preference to be thinner (and perhaps less healthy) Sometimes weight loss is healthier and sometimes it isn’t. I remembering seeing a show on althletes and it turned out many of these super ‘fit’ young swomen had the bones of a 60 year old. Even though they looked super fit and ripped on the outside, the high carbs and low body fat were leaching the calcium out of their bone and causing internal damage to their organs. Such low body fat is not normal for women. These women will face serious health consequences as they age, especially if they maintain such a life style. I think one of the big advantages of primal eating is it promotes the development of a natural HEALTHY body weight that is right for each particular individual.
    -Eva

    Eva wrote on June 19th, 2010
    • Thanks, Eva. You make a very good point. :)

      Jamie wrote on June 21st, 2010
      • Perhaps you do to much cardio and have elevated cortisol levels. Try some hard sprints once or twice a weak. Five days of steady state cardio may be too much for your body. Just a thought.

        Aaron Curl wrote on June 22nd, 2010
  26. This is interesting–I’ve never given much thought to carb refeeds before. Always thought low-carb was it until I reach my goal. Thanks for an insightful and thoughtful article.

    JohnT wrote on June 19th, 2010
  27. Ive noticed since having 1-2 days a week higher in carbs (150g-200g) has actually helped me lose weight. I was starting to plateau after about 4 months eating 90% primal. I added in some sweet potato, or other sharchy root (beets) and bam!! My weight loss continues! Ive even noticed eating 100-150g of naturally sourced carbohydrates (potatos, fruit) dont really have much affect on my anymore. When I eat any grain however, i bloat up like a baloon. Id reccomend a 1-2 day refeed for those who are struggling with the last few lbs! definitely! great article!

    Athena wrote on June 19th, 2010
  28. Do you know how this would work with someone with diabetes? I’m worried about getting dangerous blood sugar levels.

    Helen wrote on June 20th, 2010
    • Carb refeeds are in no way intended for anybody with diabetes. Ever.

      That would be like a peanut butter refeed for somebody who is allergic to peanut butter.

      chima_p wrote on June 20th, 2010
  29. Periodic carb refeeding is part of Rob Faigin’s Natural Hormonal Enhancement. He gives suggested amounts for athletes and non-athletes. Years ago (before reading Faigin) I was low-carb for 6 months, hit the wall bigtime, hungry every minute of the day; my thyroid was depressed. Low-carbing is catabolic; you need the occasional high-carb meal to get anabolic again. It was months before I regained my energy, and most of the weight I lost flew back on.

    Anyway, my DH has been on Faigin cycling for about 2 years now and has lost 45 lbs and kept it off, even while eating the weekly pizza. I’ve lost 27 lbs since January (and I’m a sedentary woman in her 60s). I can tell when I’m ready for my carb-load: I’m hungry in a way that my usual meat and veggies don’t satisfy.

    Faigin’s carb-loads are low in protein and fat; he recommends starch rather than sugar/fruit. They are not an excuse to eat just any awful sort of stuff (no twinkies, in other words). It is always the last meal of the day, twice a week. It’s really working for me. I’m VLC the rest of the time.

    ColoGrassFed wrote on June 20th, 2010
  30. This was a good primer on refeeding, Mark.

    I am not sure why people think I am dismissive of paleo. I have previously said that the paleo diet is a great model for a lifestyle approach to nutrition. Very conducive for health and maintenance of a lean physique. I am only critical of extremists in most nutritional camps.

    The Primal Blueprint style of paleo seems very liberal and doable. The way Mark describes paleo here, potatoes and cottage cheese being “ok”, is very close to how me and most of my clients eat: whole foods only, not very heavy on grains, minimum of supplements etc.

    Anyway, just wanted to clear that up.

    Martin Berkhan wrote on June 20th, 2010
    • “am not sure why people think I am dismissive of paleo”

      Because they haven’t read your stuff ;) You clearly have a great system out of the box thinkers (like Mark) can recognize.

      I like poking around your site. Keep up the work.

      Grok wrote on June 20th, 2010
    • Yes I agree your site is great.

      Your articles are in my reading rotation when I should be working.

      You seem to know your stuff you should write a book or something….

      chima_p wrote on June 20th, 2010
  31. We just started cutting out grains and going low carb last Thursday. My husband went through grain withdrawals yesterday and got the shakes. We were eating plenty, I went through the same thing a day before him. This refeed sounds like it may be great. I would love to get through a month without having to do this, but if we can’t then a refeed may be very benificial.

    angie wrote on June 20th, 2010
    • Well, you absolutely should not refeed for a while. Your body is changing from a sugar furnace to a fat furnace. Introducing carbs again to soon would not help at all only hurt.

      Aaron Curl wrote on June 22nd, 2010
  32. Great article on the benefits of carb refeeds. That made perfect scientific sense. Also good point about giving a program that is for the masses. You are right that the bulk of the people are not looking for even 10% body fat. I have a question. Does the body lose sensitivity to carb refeeding after say doing it for a couple of weeks. What has your experience with this been?

    Paramjit wrote on June 20th, 2010
  33. This website is a religion! Primal eating? Give me a break. Paleo diets are a joke!

    Dom wrote on June 21st, 2010
    • Don’t knock it until you try it, dude. I’ve lost over 90 pounds in 10 months, regularized and normalized my blood sugars, normalized my cholesterol, and eliminated my arthritis, migraines and IBS. When you’ve tried the Primal Challenge for a month, you’ll see changes you can’t deny. I dropped 26 pounds in the first month alone.

      Griff wrote on June 21st, 2010
  34. I wonder, can we really feed the people of the world without replying on grains?

    Why does it seem that asian countries, where rice is a staple, don’t seem to have problems with obesity?

    Rich wrote on June 24th, 2010
    • No, we can’t. But we never should have had this size of population in the first place. And have you looked at the Asians in modern societies any time recently? Heart disease, obesity, diabetes – they’re all skyrocketing there.

      Griff wrote on June 24th, 2010
  35. Hi Mark. I reintroduced more carbs into my diet recently. Around 150g (only starchy veges, fruits etc), which not high compared to western standards is high for low carb. However, I did it because I was just feeling so hungry, depressed and low in energy all the time. So far I feel much much better. I still have the fat too. It seems to be working. Maybe it was the leptin?

    Dan wrote on June 26th, 2010
  36. What about refeed on rest days? I follow a 3on/1off program (crossfit).

    Normally i can time a refeed so it falls on a workout day, but sometimes after a particularly intense workout, I might take an extra rest day or whatever.

    Anybody have any comments/thoughts on a off-day refeed?

    Thanks!

    John wrote on June 29th, 2010
    • I’m interested in knowing if a carb refeed is effective or not on rest days as well.

      Vicki wrote on June 30th, 2010
  37. Vicki,

    “I’m interested in knowing if a carb refeed is effective or not on rest days as well.”

    It’s effective in the sense that it will have the same metabolic effects, but with regards to nutrient paritioning (where the calories go) it’s definitely more favorable to have refeeds after your training.

    Martin Berkhan wrote on June 30th, 2010
  38. i went low carb since last thursday and it helped me break my plateu, i was not overweight to begin with, but now i’m on a fast track to eliminating all my body fat (incredibly close) and building muscle… THANKS MARK

    Cesar wrote on July 12th, 2010
  39. Great post Mark. I like the layman terminology and your approach to describing a complex endocrinology lesson.

    I’ve recently hit a one month plateau eating modest low carb (100-150g per day). I’m going to try this approach, but with the more neurotic approach the Martin outlines. I’m a neurotic person, and it works for me;)

    I know in the past when I’ve bumped my carbs, I feel like Superman on crack. Euphoric, to say the least.

    Derek wrote on September 5th, 2010
  40. I have been low carb for the past week, below 20g per day. My energy levels are good, and I’m leaning out nicely. I am between 12-15% bf and want to lean out and get to 6-8% bf. I crossfit 6 days a week. I wanted to do a carb refeed every 10 days. Would it be too soon to implement that? I wonder if the cost of raising leptin levels outweighs the cost of not allowing my body to rely heavily on fat for fuel rather than carbohydrate for fuel. Is having the refeed this early going to take me out of the predominant fat for fuel mode, and how long should I go before I have one?

    Alex wrote on September 7th, 2010

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