' Refeed Day ', the secret of athletes to define the muscles

It works like "a hybrid car in which you are constantly using the electric mode and one day you turn on the engine to make it between gasoline: It hits a boom, it recharges everything and turns it off". With this automobile metaphor explains the expert in sports nutrition Barbara Sanchez What is the refeed Day, a concept that refers to a period of recharge of carbohydrates that sandwiched in the routine of a diet hypocaloric. This type of low-calorie diet is usually done on the basis of a medium or high protein intake, low in fat and minimum carbohydrates, which enhances weight loss and increases muscle definition. The refeed Day, a period that usually lasts between 5 hours and 2 days, is a welcome exception to the routine that also has the curious effect of defining the musculature. It's all advantages, isn't it?

This strategy may sound extravagant to the common mortals, but is well known in the World of sport. The parenthesis in the diet produces a chute of energy that allows athletes to improve performance and be more efficient and intense in the exercise. This promotes, in turn, fat burning and prevents loss of muscle mass; As long as there are glycogen reserves the body throws less of other resources to optimize its operation. This molecule is the most effective and easy-to-use fuel for, among other things, ensuring the correct functioning of the nervous system and the brain, is stored in the muscles and the liver, and comes from the glucose that the organism gets from carbohydrates.

At the aesthetic level, the load of carbohydrates makes the muscles (which are authentic life insurance when properly cared for) expand, perceive more defined and with greater mass. This explains that "it is usually done before photo shoots, for example", to show a more marked physique, says the expert in sports nutrition Sergio Espinar. But it won't always make you look stronger. The change is noticeable when the individual has a low body fat index but, when it is high, that appearance improvement is not perceptible. In addition, there are discordant voices regarding its usefulness outside of the sets, such as that of the medical specialist in sports medicine José Antonio Villegas, who emphasizes the passenger character of the benefit: "The muscles swell, you notice more, you have more performance and Psychologically you feel better, but stored glycogen is lost and you return to the same situation. " So is this recharge of carbohydrates just a mirage or is it really worth it?

After the ' refeed ', you'll get fat... But forget the scale

The restriction of carbohydrates in low-calorie diets is usually effective only in the short term, but to stop contributing to the organism this essential nutrient promotes metabolic adaptations that have notable effects in the medium and long term. By incorporating fewer calories, the body activates the saving mode and consumes less, so that the fat loss stagnates.

Some hormones like thyroid and leptin come into play here. The latter, produced by fatty cells, adipocytes, has the functions of regulating appetite (to more quantity, less feeling of hunger) and increase energy expenditure. The deficit of carbohydrates and a low percentage of body fat minimize their segregation and, therefore, energy expenditure, but ingest this nutrient to be saved will not burn calories dramatically. A study published in the journal The International Journal of Obesity concluded that an overfeeding of carbohydrates for three days increased to 28% leptin and 7% energy consumption, which would burn about 150 calories a day. The figure is not very significant if one takes into account that an individual of about 60 kilos walking at a moderate rate consumes between 60 and 70 calories in half an hour.

On the other hand, if what the person is looking for with a hypocaloric diet combined with the refeed is losing weight, it must be clear that, after that caloric intake, you will have to forget the scale. Espinar warns that this parameter is unreliable in these cases and that it can lead to misunderstandings about the effectiveness of the procedure: "People get scared because they realize that it has gone up a kilo and a half, but it is water and glycogen. The moment you reduce carbohydrates again you lower the weight, "he notes.

Breaking the diet is good for not leaving it

However favored you look in the mirror after a refeed day, the greatest benefit of recharge is not in the physiological plane but in the psychological: it facilitates adherence to the diet and reduces the chances of abandonment. Deprivation of certain foods will be more tolerable if there is a horizon in which access to them is opened, albeit in a limited and controlled manner. "People think: ' Okay, I'm going to sacrifice a week and a half eating a few carbs, but then I'm going to have a refeed."

But it is important not to confuse it with the concept of cheat meal, which refers to a parenthesis in which gorging of whims and get rid of a restrictive diet. "There are people who think it's about eating ice cream, chocolate and pizzas, but the refeed should be low in fat." In fact, the "menu" consists of the consumption standardised within a protocol of high doses of hydrates (especially of slow absorption) like rice, quinoa, oats and bread.

And although there is no universal recipe for when and for how long to put the refeedinto practice, almost all experts agree to take into account the body Fat Index, physical activity and sex as the main parameters for calculating it. "It is not the same an athlete with 10% body fat that a person of 55 years walk twice a week," argues Sergio Espinar. In any case, among the people who follow a planned training It is recommended that the recharge of hydrates be done in the days of intense sessions, to replenish the exhausted fuel.

If you choose to plan a refeed day, Jaime Almazán advocates first to make an individualized study that also takes into account variables such as basal metabolism (which depends on the caloric expenditure of vital functions) and is "influenced by Genetic factors, by higher levels of cortisone in blood, which is a hormone that is responsible for the response to stress, which promotes the acceleration of long-term energy consumption... As well as by other elements like the psychoemotional ones. "

In any case, it is necessary to understand that the macronutrients (among which are carbohydrates) are the unbreakable red lines for a diet in their nutritional pacts by governing a slender, but also healthy organism. The need to introduce the refeed in the hypocaloric regimes evidence that dispensing with one of the basic components implies pulling the blanket by one end to uncover the other.

Digestion Consumes calories

One aspect to consider when evaluating the nutritional composition of what we eat is the thermogenesis induced by the diet, which is the amount of calories consumed to process food. After ingestion, a chain starts up with digestion and continues to absorb and metabolize. This energy cost is higher in the protein, which consumes 25% of the calories, using one in four in its conversion into amino acids, which implies a more complex intracellular work. In the case of carbohydrates that figure is close to 10%, relative to the transformation in glucose and storage as glycogen. In the case of fats the percentage is minimum, 2-3%, because in this case it accumulates directly as adipose tissue.