Before talking about the difference between the two, I have to tell you that they are not the same thing. In fact, quite the opposite.
A cheat day means not counting your calories and not worrying about the macronutrients targets. Basically eating whatever you want.
It is a satisfying thing, since you need a break from counting calories and being careful what you eat all the time.
On the other hand, a carb re-feed day is more strategic and controlled. You count the calories, know exactly what you need to eat and follow the macro targets.
Generally, a ca re-feed day is fitting for someone very lean is often in a calorie deficit. Being in this state for a longer time, means that your muscle carb levels are extremely low. On a carb re-feed day you increase your carb intake by 50% or more, depending on how lean you are.
You also need to drop your protein intake and keep the fat intake as low as you can, so you ensure you will boost your leptin levels, instead of storing fat.
Leptin acts good combined with glucose, which means you should consume the extra calories through carbs, which in turn becomes glucose. The point here is to replenish the glycogen stores and boost your metabolism.
Below we will show you an example of a carb re-feed day suitable for a person weighing around 180 – 200lbs and leads an active life.
Usual macronutrients and calories:
- Protein: 220 g
- Calories: 2300 kcal
- Fats: 77 g
- Carbs: 180 g
Re-feed day macronutrients and calories:
- Protein: 190 g
- Calories: 2610kcal (or higher)
- Fats: 50 g
- Carbs: 350 g (or higher)
The numbers above are just an example and might not be suitable for everyone. I advise you to experiment. Increase the carbs intake gradually and see how the body reacts.
What should you choose: a re-feed day or a cheat day?
This depends on a couple of things, but the most important thing you need to consider is your goal.
When should you choose a cheat day?
- If you are in a calorie surplus
- If you haven’t consumed a high amount of calories on other days
- If you are happy having a proper nutrition 6 days a week and one day off
- If you need a break from counting macros and calories
When should you choose a re – feed day?
- If you are very lean and you need to re-fuel your body after a week of calorie deficit
- If you are preparing for a competition so you can prepare the body for the week of intense dieting
- If you have hit a plateau and haven’t progressed in your weight loss process.
Our conclusion is that the difference between these two days are big and you should choose the one which suits you the best.