Refeeds and Leptin

The following article was written by Yakabebe


Refeeds are typically done while cutting; that is, creating a caloric deficit so your body is forced to rely on fat as an energy source. Most people on any low carb diet (less than 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day) or implementing any extreme caloric deficit should incorporate a refeed.

Refeeds are used to raise Leptin, refill muscle and liver glycogen, as well as providing sanity release from dieting as your body is temporarily thrown into a state of metabolic balance.

A Quick, Layman’s Explanation of Leptin

Leptin is considered an anti-starvation/metabolic balance hormone. As your Leptin levels decrease, the signal is sent to inform that your body is going into starvation mode. As your body goes into starvation mode we all know what happens—your fat loss slows down immensely or in some cases to a screeching halt. So in order to kick fat loss into gear again, you need to raise Leptin.

Common sense dictates that the body seeks balance, and if you endeavor to upset that balance – you have to outwit your body. We were built for survival, and unfortunately for the fitness/bodybuilding-oriented folk, “survival” didn’t mean 170 pounds of ripped mass at 6% bodyfat.

I can’t count have many people have asked this the question of why they lost fat after cheating. They have been so good and clean on their diets for weeks and results slowed down, they got frustrated, they cheated and 2 days later woke up lighter and leaner than before the cheat. Main reason right there, they raised Leptin. Raising Leptin levels will give your body the kick-start it needs for the next few days to keep you out of starvation mode as you diet. As long as your body is out of starvation mode, the faster the fat loss, and the less likely you are to lose LBM, while suffering on all counts in the process. Like I said above, this a brief explanation and there is so much info on Leptin so please read Par’s articles for a more detailed and scientific explanation.

How Leptin Works

The way leptin works is relatively simple, this hormone is produced by the body’s fat cells. The more bodyfat they carry, the more leptin they produce. Leptin is carried through the bloodstream and into the brain, where it sends a signal to the hypothalamus, the brain area that controls when and how much we eat. The fat cells use leptin to “tell” the brain how much body fat they carry. Lots of leptin tells the brain that we have plenty of fat stored, while low levels of leptin tell the brain that fat stores are low and that we are at risk of starvation.

This schematic shows how leptin is supposed to work:


Eat Your Way Out of Metabolic Hell

So, now you are probably thinking, “How do I increase Leptin?” Ready for this………..Eat lots of Carbs. I’m not necessarily talking slow burning carbs here either folks. I know, most of you reading this right now are thinking is she talking about? Simple explanation: The way to raise Leptin is to actually spill over into your fat cells.

Yes, I said it, SPILL OVER!! In order to fill your muscle glycogen you need carbs, once your glycogen stores are full, you are now spilling over into your fat cells. 1 Step Backwards for 2 Steps Forward. Remember folks you can’t get fat in 1 day. This is not a new method of fat loss either. Bodybuilders are doing this everywhere and with fantastic results. A Refeed Day is NOT and I repeat NOT a cheat day. There are rules to this that should be followed to avoid gaining fat during the refeed

Typically a refeed is done every 4-5 days, although the frequency of the refeeds can be adjusted to suit the person. The lower the caloric deficit you’ve managed to create, and the lower your BF%, the more often you should refeed. Why? Because your leptin levels plummet as your calories drop and your bodyfat decreases; remember, we want to stay out of starvation mode.

How do you know when you should refeed more often, or less often? Unfortunately, it’s a personal process of trial and error; no two people are alike, and the general refeed plan is just that—general. If you find yourself constantly obsessed with food, and if you’re losing a significant amount of muscle and strength, you may have to refeed more often (perhaps every 2 to 3 days).

A refeed may also be shorter or longer in duration. For instance, some prefer to refeed for 24 hours, in which case they may consume anywhere from 25 to 50% above their maintenance caloric intake. For shorter refeeds, such as those that last for 6 to 10 hours, people often do not count their calories; rather, they pack down as much as they can within the designated time-frame to ensure that their fat cells have a hefty bag of new fuel to stoke the metabolic furnace with.

Appropriate Foods For a Refeed

During your refeed, you should aim for around 1G of protein per Pound of body weight, keeping your sources of fat to a minimum, so you are only taking the fats that are in your proteins and carbs. Now, here is the fun part: CARBS! Yes, lots and lots and lots of carbs. Not necessarily brown rice, sweet potatoes and oats here either:

  • Bagels
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Ice Cream
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Crackers

Yes, all the things we crave If its low fat or fat free, have at it! Remember, no additional fats.

You should keep fructose to a minimum though. Sticking to 50-100G [for fructose, probably lower, like 25%] for the day is plenty. Remember sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose so seeing that we need to watch our fructose, staying away from sucrose (table sugar) is probably best. Yes, in order to elevate our levels of leptin, we want to spill over muscle, not liver glycogen.

Wrapping It Up

Now, don’t bother stepping on the scale the next day—you will be heavier. Remember, carbs make you hold water but in a day or two it will be all gone and your body will burning fat like mad again.

Some of you being scared of other carb sources may opt to refeed with slow burning carbs and that’s fine. Just keep in mind its going to take a hell of alot more oatmeal to raise Leptin than 1 bowl full, and if you’re doing a relatively short refeed, you may want to reconsider your food choices; a short refeed absolutely requires a drastic increase in your calories, as well as the consumption of refined carb sources.

The fiber in the slow burning carbs can be counter-productive when trying to raise leptin, that’s why we use refined carbs. Refined carbs raise Leptin much quicker and you won’t feel like a stuffed pig all day for having to eat 3C of oats to equal what 1 bagel could have done. And for those of you who are scared, it’s up to you to look at the entire picture, especially in light of how the body seeks balance. Then, if you truly understand the issue, you will no longer fear the calculated nature of a refeed, even if it requires you to consume those foods that are typically—-at least in your mind—-forbidden.

Note: Anybody who is carb-cycling does not need to follow this refeed protocol. Carb-cycling diets use the high carb days (every 2 days) to raise Leptin.

1 Response

  1. weakboy

    Excellent article, wish this was posted before I started lean bulking lol. How long should fats be on a refeed? I’ve seen numbers as low as .1-.2g of fat per lb.


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