Refeeds are a powerful way to promote consistent weight loss without many of the negative side effects that go along with dieting. Prolonged calorie restriction can lead to many problems that affect your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight.
Benefits of Refeeds
- Increased Thyroid Function – refeeds produce prompt recovery of thyroid hormone (T3) after prolonged calorie restriction .
- Controlled Hunger – refeeds can boost levels of leptin, which in return will control feelings of hunger .
- Maximized Glycogen Stores – improved insulin sensitivity from calorie restriction leads to a greater capacity for muscles to store glycogen during refeeds. The extra carbs are more likely to be stored as glycogen instead of fat.
- Improved Testosterone Levels – testosterone levels are drastically reduced with prolonged energy deficits of 1,000 calories/day. Refeeds cause a quick recovery of testosterone .
A Refeed is Not a Cheat Meal
It’s important to note that cheat meals and refeeds are not one in the same. Refeeds are days of extra carbohydrates and calories up and above your typical calorie intake. However, the difference is that refeeds are controlled. They aren’t free-for-alls. You eat the same foods you normally eat, but you eat them in greater quantities.
Refeeds can work in conjunction with cheat meals, or they can be used alone to promote greater fat loss. For people that have difficulties with cheat meals, whether it’s because processed food causes them to fall off track, or it’s because uncontrolled cheat meals are slowing their progress, refeeds are an excellent alternative.
How to Implement Strategic a Refeed
There are many ways to use refeeds in your current nutrition plan. They can be planned, or they can just be used when necessary. Some of the more common refeed plans are:
- 5/2 – 5 days of calorie restriction followed by 2 days of above average calories. This plan usually coincides with the weekday/weekend schedule, and so is a great way to make your healthy eating and social schedule work together.
- 3/1 – 3 days of calorie restriction followed by 1 day of above average calories. I’m a fan of this one for people who have less fat to lose. The mid-week refeed seems to keep the fat loss flowing better on individuals with lower body fat levels. Here are more tips for losing the last 10 pounds.
- 1/1 – I labeled this as 1/1, but really it’s supposed to coincide with your workout schedule. Workout days get higher calories, and low-intensity or rest days get lower calories. If you use this method, do not go as high in calories as you normally would with more infrequent refeeds. This method is a great way to promote muscle retention and growth under calorie restricted environments.
- 2/1/3/cheat – this is a way to implement refeeds alongside cheat meals. Two days low, 1 mid-week refeed, followed by a few low calorie days, and then a cheat on the weekend. It’s a way to get the best of both worlds, but you’ll have to pay close attention that your cheat meals don’t get away from you and keep you from making progress.
A Few Thoughts
Most of the benefits of refeeds come from the increased calories and carbohydrate intake. When you increase your carbohydrate intake, you might want to drop your fat and protein intake down some.
Carbohydrates are protein-sparing, so a slightly lower level of protein will be just fine. You’ll also want to eat about 50% more calories than normal on the refeed days, with most of the extra calories coming from carbohydrates.
Finally, refeeds are best used when conventional healthy eating methods have stopped working for you. Improve the quality of your diet first. When the natural calorie restriction effect of simply changing the quality of your diet is no longer getting you results, start paying closer attention to your calorie intake. Once you hit that dreaded weight loss plateau, refeeds can be implemented to keep your progress moving forward.