Keto Refeeds for Bodybuilding: The Definitive Guide

Jun 22, 2024
Keto Refeed

There’s a ton of confusion about refeeds for bodybuilding — especially if you’re following a ketogenic prep.

Are refeed days just cheat days? How do they work without carbs? What technically are refeeds anyway?

Refeeds are something to get excited about when you’ve been in a strict calorie deficit. They can be the secret game-changer for outsmarting weight loss plateaus, extending your cut, and reaching your body composition goals (without compromising your mental health).

So, let’s talk about the science powering this incredible tool in your kit.

What is a Refeed Day?  ๐Ÿค”

A refeed is a brief overfeeding period in which your caloric intake is raised slightly above your maintenance calories.[*]

Refeed days are often called “diet breaks,” but I find that term too misleading. This isn’t a free-for-all hall pass to start binging on carbs and throw your whole nutrition strategy off course.

They are designed with specific purposes in mind. They’re also well-planned and well-calculated. You control the timing, calorie increase, macronutrient intake goals, and duration to optimize your body’s response.

Refeed Days are NOT Cheat Days  โŒ

A cheat day is an (often) unplanned binge where you eat as much of whatever you want for as long as you want. These usually high-carb cheat meals are escapes from your ketogenic diet. 

Cheat days derail your progress and kick you out of ketosis, forcing you to start all over again. That’s the very opposite of what we’re going for here.

Traditional High-Carb vs. Keto Refeeds  ๐Ÿฝ๏ธ

If you’re used to high-carb refeeds on a traditional bodybuilding prep, things are going to be much different on a ketogenic refeed protocol.

The surge of carbohydrates in traditional refeeds replenishes glycogen stores drained by low calorie intakes and challenging workouts. 

However, we are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum with our ketogenic approach. Ketosis switches your body from using glucose to leveraging ketones as its primary energy source. 

Translation: There is no inherent benefit from deriving energy from carbohydrates once you are truly, deeply fat-adapted. 

So rather than boost carbohydrate intake, ketogenic caloric refeeds leverage a strategic increase in dietary fats and protein. 

๐ŸŽ“  Master the basics with this Beginner’s Guide to Keto Bodybuilding Macros (Beyond the Bro Science).

Are the Benefits of Keto Refeeds for Bodybuilding Legit?

Approaching your weight loss goals from a simple energy balance perspective (calories in/calories out) doesn’t consider the effect a low-calorie intake has on your satiety hormones, calorie-burning potential, muscle preservation, or mental health.

Refeeds attack on all fronts so dieters can:

Preserve Hard-Earned Muscle Gains  ๐Ÿ‹๏ธ

According to researchers, prolonged calorie restriction triggers greater losses of lean body mass (including muscle).[*][*] And this isn’t just bad news for your physique goals.

The largest chunk of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) or daily calorie-burning comes from your basal metabolic rate (BMR).[*]

Since muscle burns more calories than fat at rest, losing muscle means you’ll start torching fewer calories and struggle to budge the scale.[*]

Ketosis takes the crown in this sense because it effortlessly ignites fat-burning and fat loss specifically.[*][*][*] It also preserves your hard-won muscle gains during calorie restriction.[*][*] So refeeds keep this magic going.

Get the full rundown in this guide: Can You Build Muscle On Keto? Science Says Yes!

Outsmart Metabolic Adaptation  ๐Ÿ”ฅ

Our bodies have evolved to adapt to times when food is scarce, down-regulating our metabolism and conserving calories instead of burning them.

Known as adaptive thermogenesis, it’s one of the driving reasons bodybuilders experience weight loss plateaus on a prolonged low-calorie diet plan.[*] Your body just gets used to working with less.

Consider this: In one study of men with healthy body weights, 24 weeks of energy restriction caused a 40% reduction in their baseline energy expenditure.[*] The researchers blamed adaptive thermogenesis for at least 15% of that metabolic slowdown.

The workaround? Scientists say a temporary spike in calories during a refeed may result in “superior weight loss outcomes” compared to staying on an intense caloric restriction for long, uninterrupted periods of time.[*]

Now, it’s only a temporary boost in metabolism because we’re still in a net caloric deficit overall. Still, any proverbial stoking of those flames will be welcome at this point. 

Optimize Ghrelin and Leptin Levels  โš–๏ธ

Your hunger/satiety hormones play a massive role in achieving your ideal body fat percentage. Ignore them, and they’ll work against you. Dial them in, and they can make life much easier.

Let’s start with ghrelin. Known as the “hunger hormone,” it increases your drive to eat during caloric restriction (cue the unbearable cravings).[*] However, ghrelin drops post-refeed to quell those hunger pangs.

Leptin works in tandem with ghrelin. Dubbed the “satiety hormone,” leptin helps regulate your hunger and metabolism.[*] It tells your body that you’re full after food intake, so you avoid overeating.

Research shows that even though calorie restriction sparks a drop in fat mass, it also causes leptin levels to tank.[*] In one study, just three days of calorie-slashing dropped leptin by almost 60%![*]

Low leptin levels make you feel like you’re never truly satiated, so you feel more ravenous and frustrated with your calorie deficit. Thankfully, it’s very responsive to short-term overfeeding.[*

Ketosis blocks most weight-loss-induced ghrelin spikes and leptin drops.[*] Refeeds bulk those defenses so your hormones don’t sabotage your hard work.

Keep Your Head In the Game  ๐ŸŽฏ

The success of any diet ultimately comes down to how well you can stick to it. 

By this phase in your bodybuilding prep, your body and mind are both exhausted. You may be moodier, crankier, or have zero motivation to hit the racks. 

This is totally normal. But those crummy feelings threaten your ability to stick through this weight loss phase.[*]

Keto refeeds provide a temporary mental break from the constant pressure you've been under thus far. You’ll start to look forward to this oasis during the week of being in your food desert. They’ll help you stick to your calorie deficit longer to finally reach the finish line. 

Prep Your Body for Phase 5  ๐Ÿ’ซ

Since we will implement ketogenic caloric refeeds during peak week in Phase 5, we can use the refeeds in Phase 4 as a testing ground. By the time we get to that critical peak week window, we’ll know what worked (or didn’t) during these first refeeds and set ourselves up for success.

๐Ÿ‘€  Want a sneak peek? Explore the 7 Phases of Keto Bodybuilding here.

Now, before your excitement turns into a feeding frenzy, let's discuss:

How To Implement a Refeed Like a Champ

You’ll score a detailed, step-by-step video guide to refeeds in my Savage System Premium Course. Here’s an overview to get you started:

1. Don’t Jump the Gun: Premature Refeeds Will Backfire  ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Refeeds enter the picture during the final prep stages, typically between the last two to six weeks. I cannot stress this enough:

You will not respond well to refeeds if you introduce them too early. Start them before you’re ready, and you’ll basically short-circuit your body's ability to make any progress.

How do you know when it’s the right time to jump on the refeed train? I outline the top signs to look for in my Savage System Premium Course.

2. Increase Your Fat and Protein Macros  ๐Ÿ“ˆ

We don’t technically need carbs, so we won’t waste precious calories on them. We will increase our fat and protein — the foundation of our keto bodybuilding macros.

I’ll walk you through the calculations you need to bump up your fat and protein using your current energy intake in my Savage System Premium Course

3. Enjoy Your Refeeds  ๐Ÿ˜‹

While refeeds are very strategic and calculated, they’re also like giving your body a high-five for all its hard work. So you should savor them and be creative. Use these extra calories to make a meal you'll be excited about and actually look forward to (within your range). 

Relax, be present with your meal, and tune in to your feelings. You’ll use this biofeedback to:

4. Measure + Analyze the Refeed’s Impact  ๐Ÿ“

The trick to making refeeds work for you is being objective about how they impact your body.

It’s pretty difficult to be objective when your hunger and desire to eat are amplified. You want those extra calories, but you may need to take some back if you’re not getting the desired results. Finding your optimal balance takes willpower and a keen understanding of your body.

๐Ÿคจ  How can you tell when a refeed’s working? I’ll share some signs to watch for and further manipulations to achieve your ideal body composition in my Savage System Premium Course.

Conquer Refeeds with My Proven Blueprint for Domination!

Refeeds are a game-changer on your bodybuilding journey, but their nuances can be tricky to maneuver on your own. This blueprint outlines the science-backed benefits and the basics, so now you’re ready for the next level: enrolling in my Savage System Premium Course.

You’ll secure LIFETIME access to our ENTIRE COURSE LIBRARY (200+ videos), PLUS exclusive downloads, discounts, and perks. 

You’ll even snag access to my COMPANION COURSES and personal prep documentation so you can see exactly what manipulations I made through every week of my contest prep and reverse diet.

Don’t destroy your progress with a subpar refeed strategy — sign up for my results-driven course to learn how to leverage them to unleash your inner savage and forge your shredded physique!  ๐Ÿ’ช

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