Do Refeeds Work?
Diet trends are cyclical.
Refeeds...the claim is that continued or prolonged dieting causes damage to the metabolism and that we unintentionally loose a lot of muscle along with fat.
If we limit calories aggressively for a period of time and follow that with a period of maintenance, we might be able to curb the damage to muscle, hormones, muscle glycogen, muscle protein synthesis, signaling psychology, or some other unknown affect ….it is pretty speculative, no matter how many times your favorite diet Guru rants about insulin sensitivity.
But does it work more than a consistent reduction in calories alone?
Weight loss is a complicated topic with many variables but we can easily condense it down into energy consumed versus energy burned.
Doctor Bill Campbell is a scientist at USF, he actually tested this hypothesis on a well-controlled intrusion study, calories, protein, and even training we're reasonably well controlled across a 7-week intervention, in a sample of 27 subjects with background and training.
One group was given a diet with 25% daily calorie deficit and the other was given a 35% deficit during the week with a carbohydrate only received during the weekend. Both groups were able to lose roughly the same amount of fat in 7 weeks study.
They did find a small but significant difference in the refeed group in terms of muscle mass preservation relative to the continuous deficit group, but we can't ignore the variation between individuals in both groups.
Some individuals in both groups lost muscle while others were able to gain muscle.
There are a lot of practical constraints to doing good experimental information science but this study did a good job to leverage available resources to reduce the influence of biases.
As always we need to be cautious when we attempt to apply population based studies to individuals. If you are well trained, someone lean, consuming a relatively high amount of protein, and find a weekly refeed schedule more sustainable than we have no reason to say that this won't work for you.
If you aren't sure how to figure this all out by yourself HYBRID Nutrition is here for you. When you join the team you get access to our professional coaches who guide you through the whole process and help you achieve your goals.