In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about refeeds, defining exactly what they are, why they are necessary, how often to incorporate them, how to incorporate them and more.
What Is A Refeed?
A refeed is a strategic and temporary increase in calories in order to increase metabolism and boost fat burning with the goal of ultimately achieving our body composition goals.
A refeed aims to counteract the potentially negative effects of calorie restriction. These include lower hormone levels, increased hunger, fatigue and hitting a weight loss plateau.
Refeed Days Versus Cheat Days
While they might be perceived as the same thing, there is a marked difference between refeed days and cheat days.
Refeed days involve planning and controlled food and calorie intake. Cheat days involve no planning and uncontrolled food and calorie intake.
Why Are Refeeds Necessary?
The more fat we carry, the higher our levels of leptin, the less hungry we get and thus the more calories we burn. The less fat we carry, the lower our levels of leptin, the more hungry we get and thus the less calories we burn. This latter process is known as Adaptive Thermogenesis.
Therefore, the purpose of a refeed is to increase levels of leptin, which in turn decreases hunger, increases metabolism and ultimately increases calorie expenditure.
How Often Should You Refeed?
As a general rule, the more fat you carry, the higher your levels of leptin will be, the less often you will need to refeed and the less fat you carry, the lower your levels of leptin will be and the more you will need to refeed.
Too many refeeds can lead to unnecessary fat gain. Too little refeeds can lead to a plateau in fat loss.
Below is a table summarising how often men and women should look to incorporate refeeds into their training program. It is shows in relation to their body fat percentage.
|Body Fat %||Frequency|
|Men Below 10%||Weekly|
|Women Below 18%||Weekly|
|Men Above 15%||Monthly|
|Women Above 25%||Monthly|
It’s important to note that the frequency one should refeed is unique to each individual. Thus, the table above is not set in stone and should be used as a framework. The key to knowing when to refeed is by being attuned to the needs of your body and monitoring performance.
Factors that should be considered include a plateau in fat loss, decreased energy levels, decreased motivation, fatigue and impaired sleep.
How To Refeed
How one structures their refeed is unique to each individual. However, there are some basic universal principles that everyone can follow.
Leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism ― the process of carbohydrates being converted into glucose ― compared to that of proteins and fats.
Therefore, the key to an effective refeed is to maximise calories from carbohydrates, maintaining appropriate calories from protein and minimising calories from fat.
It is generally recommended to eat 100-150% of one’s maintenance calories on a refeed day.
Refeeds are a strategic and temporary increase in calorie consumption used to counteract the effects of calorie restriction.
As a general rule, the more fat one carries, the more often they should incorporate refeeds into their training program. Refeeds should consist of majority carbohydrates, appropriate protein and minimum fat.