If you’ve been following a low carb diet for a while and have been experiencing weight loss plateaus, hormone imbalances, low energy, or a decline in athletic performance, you might want to consider implementing strategic carbohydrate refeeds.
A carb refeed is an intentional increase in carbohydrate consumption, often done on a periodic basis such as daily or weekly. These refeeds are an effective strategy for minimizing potential negative hormonal or metabolic effects from long term low carbohydrate intake.
Why Carb Refeeds Are Important
Carbohydrates and Insulin
We know that carbs have an impact on the hormone insulin. And when our bodies don’t respond properly to insulin, we increase our risk for disease (metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Alzheimer’s, and more).
Insulin is responsible for telling our cells (mostly muscle, liver, and fat cells) to soak up sugar from the bloodstream. If your cells don’t respond, the level of sugar in your blood remains high and can begin to have toxic effects. This is called “insulin resistance”.
One way we can become resistant to insulin is from eating carbohydrate-rich foods in excess, especially from refined, heavily processed sources. These foods result in excess glucose in the blood, leading to chronically elevated blood sugar and cells that eventually become resistance to insulin signalling. Chronically elevated blood sugar is a serious problem in and of itself, but so is becoming resistant to insulin, as it serves many important functions in the body.
Insulin Isn’t All Bad
Just because insulin resistance sucks doesn’t mean we should immediately demonize insulin. Insulin is talking to so many more things than just muscle, liver, and fat cells. It’s also a signaling hormone for the:
- Thyroid — up-regulating enzymes that stimulates beneficial thyroid hormone conversions
- Bones — modulating osteoblast activity to promote bone growth
- Brain — binding to brain cell receptors to help regulate hunger, adiposity, neuro-inflammation, and some cognitive functions