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Dieting Strategies: A Refeed

Ever heard of the term “refeed” being thrown around in the fitness or nutrition space, but really not sure what it exactly was or why someone would need it? This post is here to give you all you need to know about the what, the why, and the how when it comes to utilizing this common dieting strategy for a POSITIVE outcome.

Before we dive in, be sure to go read this post that introduces this “mini series” if you will so that you have a good foundation before diving into each of the specific strategies we’re covering.

WHAT is a refeed?

A refeed is a designated length of time where an individual’s calories are increased and brought back up to maintenance (or a close percentage of their maintenance). A typical length for this kind of strategy is anywhere from 1 to 3 days. Most commonly, carbohydrates will be the most manipulated macronutrient during this specified length of time. Research finds that carbohydrate over-feeding can increase leptin levels (which is the one of the hormones responsible for hunger and satiety) more significantly than fat over-feeding can.

Another cool thing about using a refeed during a dieting phase is that due to its relatively short length, they are often implemented more often (as long as biofeedback gives a green light). And that leads us right into the next question that you probably have…

“WHEN do you know you should implement a refeed?”

As coaches, there are several variables we are looking at each week and there are THREE things that, if noticed, may lead us to implement a refeed.

  • Adherence issues. If we are noticing that adherence is off – meaning that outlined goals aren’t being hit (nutrition, training, cardio, etc.) for multiple days a week and/or consecutive weeks – then providing a short break to allow for a higher calorie intake may be helpful.

  • A plateau. If things are stagnant, either with body composition or performance, then increasing calories for a short time may be needed (more on the science of that shortly)

  • Prolonged recovery. If soreness or increased fatigued is seen to be last longer or more frequent in between training sessions, then increasing calories could help with recovery and performance.

So…what are the benefits of increasing calories for a day (or 3) in a row?

From the points above, you may have gotten a glimpse of the just how helpful this dieting strategy can be for someone in a deficit/fat loss phase, but let’s get a bit more “science-based”, if you will, so that you can better understand how it all ties together.

Psychologically, a refeed helps replenish glycogen stores and can help improve hunger hormones. When in a deficit phase, both of these things are greatly impacted the longer you spend in this phase. Glycogen is the body’s main source of energy and stored in both the liver and in muscle tissue. It’s stored in the form of glucose (which comes from carbohydrates) and when this specific macronutrient is lowered during a deficit phase, these stores within the body can also become slightly depleted.

Deficit or fat loss phases aren’t necessarily the easiest for some. Mentally, being more restricted in HOW much they are able to eat can take a toll depending on how aggressive and/or long this deficit phase has been. When it comes to the mental side of things, a refeed can be seen as beneficial when someone may just need a quick “break” from dieting and lower calories to regain focus and adherence. Those two combined will help that individual remain consistent throughout the dieting phase.

When the body is physically and mentally “fed”, these two combined can improve performance output (strength, endurance, and recovery), while also up-regulating a host of other bodily systems so that the individual can see further results when the refeed ends and the deficit calories resume.


Learn something new today? We sure hope so! Be sure to check back soon as we continue working through different dieting strategies that we, as coaches on the Audacious Athletes coaching team, may use with our clients.

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