I get a ton of questions about refeeds wanting to know how to set them up, how much to have, and interesting enough here lately more questions over having multiple refeeds a week which I want to touch on today to help people understand it better. In most situations I believe people have it backwards. Here’s what I have learned over the years and use with most of my clients.
First lets talk about the primary goals of a refeed. They boost leptin (which boost metab), they refill glycogen to help fuel workouts and also help against muscle loss, and they can give a nice mental break from being at a deficit. Refeeds can either be eating back to maintenance cals, or slightly over to promote growth. When dieting I have seen better results getting my clients back to maintenance versus going over to promote growth.
Lets also talk about 2 very important topics that you wont see most people posting or talking about. 1. The difference in muscle loss when you are lean at the end of a diet and when you are in the first half of the diet is very different. This is HUGE to understand. The higher your body fat is, the harder it is to lose muscle. The leaner you are, the easier it is for your body to tap into muscle and burn it. Keep this in mind as I go. 2. Leptin is the hormone that helps boost metabolism, and it’s made in the fat cells- when you are higher body fat leptin levels are HIGH, as you diet and get leaner leptin levels LOWER. This is important to understand that as you get leaner you need to boost leptin MORE OFTEN to boost metabolism because you have less of it available.
When dieting, if someone has just straight calories across the board every day in a caloric deficit, their metab adapts to those calories because they are not giving their body a boost in leptin with a refeed. IMO the worst way to diet is to eat the same cals every day. Think about cookie cutter diets given out to all the same people. The best way to keep metab boosted and from adapting is to throw a higher calorie day back in, to maintenance cals for example. Maybe you are dieting on 225 carbs and your maintenance you started from was 300 carbs a month ago. Going back to 300 carbs would boost leptin/metab but not store as fat and set you behind. I have seen the refeeds work to help people hit new lows as well when they had just been on all days in a deficit.
Here’s the way I recommend starting people. When body fat and leptin is higher in the beginning of a diet 1 refeed day will work, or two smaller refeed days. (I actually am starting a lot more of my clients on 2 small refeeds a week these days, 2 higher cal days that are back to maintenance). Then as you get leaner and leaner you really need to make sure you have at least 2 refeeds a week. Why? As you diet and get leaner your metab will naturally slow, hitting a refeed every 3-4 days is going to help with metab not adapting to lower cals for 6 days for example. (note, some of you are going to have to do this to push through hard if you are a tad behind. I have a couple clients reading this right now saying MFer then why you only giving me 1 refeed a week and I am 3 weeks out!?) Remember the leaner you are, the less leptin your body makes so the more important it is to get more refeeds in.
Offseason should be the opposite, leptin will be higher because body fat levels are higher, you dont need to boost it so often. Once a week is enough. Also, now metab is humming and cals are up to maintenance or above ALL days of the week, having a refeed will lead to fat gain much easier. Refeeds less often as you are in the offseason are best.
Article provided by John Gorman Fitness and Weight loss Coach