Steff Noble, Pro Prep Head Coach, WNBF Pro
Bodybuilding is a rigorous pursuit that requires careful attention to diet and nutrition. In the quest for a chiseled physique, bodybuilders often employ various strategies to optimise their training and nutrition plans. One such strategy gaining popularity is the concept of refeed days.
Let’s explore the benefits and delve into the science behind refeed days in the context of bodybuilding diets…
Refeed days, also known as high-carb days, are planned increases in calorie and carbohydrate intake within a bodybuilder’s diet. These structured breaks from the usual calorie deficit can yield several advantageous outcomes for physique-oriented individuals. By temporarily increasing caloric intake, refeed days help counteract the negative effects of prolonged dieting while supporting muscle growth and overall well-being.
One of the primary benefits of refeed days lies in their effect on metabolism. During periods of calorie restriction, the body tends to adapt by reducing metabolic rate to conserve energy. This adaptive response can impede further fat loss and make continued progress challenging. However, refeed days interrupt this metabolic slowdown. By providing a temporary increase in calorie intake, particularly from carbohydrates, refeed days stimulate the production of leptin—a hormone responsible for regulating hunger, metabolism, and energy expenditure.
Leptin levels decline as body fat decreases, signaling the body to conserve energy. By boosting leptin levels through refeed days, bodybuilders can help restore metabolic rate, prevent or mitigate plateaus, and promote continued fat loss. Additionally, refeeds replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver. Adequate glycogen levels enhance workout performance, allowing bodybuilders to train with higher intensity and volume, ultimately supporting muscle preservation and growth.
Refeed days also offer psychological benefits. Dieting for prolonged periods can lead to psychological stress, feelings of deprivation, and reduced adherence. Refeeds provide a mental break from strict dietary restrictions and offer a temporary respite by allowing bodybuilders to indulge in foods they enjoy. This psychological relief can enhance adherence to long-term dieting plans, ultimately promoting sustainable progress and reducing the risk of binge eating or abandoning the diet altogether.
What’s the research behind this?
Scientific research has provided further insights into the benefits of refeed days for bodybuilders. Studies have shown that refeeds can positively influence various hormones related to appetite control and satiety. For example, refeeding has been found to decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin and increase levels of peptide YY, a hormone that promotes feelings of fullness. These hormonal changes can help mitigate hunger pangs and cravings, making it easier to adhere to the diet during periods of caloric restriction.
How often should you program in a refeed?
The frequency and duration of refeed days may vary depending on individual goals and dietary protocols. Some bodybuilders may incorporate regular, structured refeeds, such as a high-carb day once a week, while others may opt for intermittent refeeds spread out over a longer period. The specific approach chosen should align with the individual’s preferences, progress, and overall dietary strategy.
However, it is essential to approach refeed days with caution and planning. While indulging in high-calorie and high-carbohydrate foods may be tempting, it is crucial to prioritize the quality of the carbohydrates consumed. Opting for nutrient-dense, whole-food sources such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is essential to support overall health and maintain the desired body composition.
It’s worth noting that refeed days are not a magic bullet for bodybuilding success. They are most effective when integrated into a well-structured and balanced diet and training program. Moreover, individual responses to refeed days may vary, and what works for one person may not yield the same results for another. Consulting with a knowledgeable fitness professional or registered dietitian can provide personalised guidance and ensure that refeed days