Refeeds vs. cheats
Refeeds vs cheats

Refeeds vs. cheats

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Summer is coming, so that means that the fit-Netherlands is starting to cut back massively. That is why I want to devote a number of articles to how you can best tackle this. We want to lose fat mass while maintaining muscle mass as much as possible. To achieve this, we cannot just go on a hunger diet, since the body wants to survive. The best way to know for sure that you won't survive in nature is to waste energy; energy is needed for all processes that keep us alive! We will therefore have to ensure that we empty our energy reserves (fat), without the body compensating too much in reducing the amount of energy-demanding tissue.

What is the best way to use your cardio if you have to do it at all? What is the best approach in terms of training method; higher in reps and less break, or do you want to keep training hard? In addition, diet with weight loss naturally plays a huge role; Without the right food, we are guaranteed to lose muscle mass, no matter how hard you train. Without the right nutrition we will not be able to get everything out of our training, which is so important during a cut phase. But we will not lose weight without the right diet.

Also on the weekly Ask me anything on instagram I see more and more questions about this topic, especially about refeeds and cheats. That is why I want to devote this article to that.

Jan Willem Pose

The difference between Refeeds and Cheats

Since we are dealing here with a diet method, the terms are of course somewhat more vague than in physiology, for example; no one will argue what a stomach is, or a bicep. The definition of this is pretty clear. However, the definition of a cheat or a refeed is a bit more open to interpretation. For the sake of clarity of this article, however, I would like to lay down the definition before continuing. From my experience as a coach and as a bodybuilder, these are:

A cheat is a meal (or day, more on this later) with primarily a mental purpose; being able to keep up the next week, weeks or maybe even a month, tight on schedule. Of course there will also be physiological effects, such as charging the glycogen stores (again, more on this later), but these are not the main objective.

A refeed is usually a meal (or day / days) at which the macros ratio is adjusted in favor of carbohydrates; charging the glycogen reserves is the main objective, possibly with the temporary removal of the stressful energy shortage.

Cheatmeal or cheatday

When it is wise to plan a refeed or cheat, I want to go into more detail, but before we go any further, I want to talk about cheatDAYS first. As I have said many times, there is no good reason to schedule entire cheat days. There are a lot of reasons why this would be a bad idea!

These range from a possibly excessive irritation of your digestive tract, to a complete derailment and getting stuck in the 'cheat mindset'. In addition, you want to spend your calories as efficiently as possible in a cut phase and work with a plan; cheatdays certainly do not fit in here.

Do you have a dinner or a birthday? Scheduling a cheatmeal can then be quite possible if there is room for it in the plan that you have drawn, but a cheatday is of no use and may cost you weeks of progression.

Refeeds oatmeal

Why refeeden and how do you approach that?

Refeeds definitely have their place in cut phases and can certainly help you towards your goals. However, it is good to ask yourself if you really need a refeed, or if you just want some breathing space for a while. Are you very miserable, do you retain a lot of moisture, do you sleep poorly and are your glycogen stores empty? Or do you just want more food? A diet phase is by definition unpleasant, certainly towards the lower fat percentages; keep this in mind. Feelings of discomfort, hunger and hunger are not necessarily indicators that you need a refeed.

When you are in calorie restriction you will slowly empty your glycogen stores, especially if you train hard / hard. The intensity of your workouts will suffer as a result, the sense of connection with the muscles you train will decrease and your focus may suffer. In addition, stress hormones and insulin are an extension of each other; insulin helps to store energy in reserves, stress hormones help to release energy from reserves. When glycogen stores become very low, the stress response required to release energy from reserves may be greater; this can result in fluid retention, which masks your progress on the scales.

A refeed (the length of which depends largely on your goals and your amount of muscle mass) can consist of one meal but could also take several days; during the refeed your carbohydrate intake will be considerably increased, while protein intake is moderately high and fat intake low; in this way you keep the chance of storing fat low, while you do benefit from the positive effects.

'Lose weight faster by eating more'

After a long period of cutting, there is a good chance that you will weigh less after a refeed; because your body gets temporary relief from stress, you will likely lose a lot of fluids. I think this is also where the myth comes from that you 'have to eat more to lose weight'. Of course this has nothing to do with extra fat loss.

After a refeed, your glycogen reserves are again reasonably to well replenished, you may sleep better, and you will see that you can (temporarily) generate more output in the gym; for that reason it is good to take your training periodization into account; in a block where you have heavy workouts, more frequent refeeds may be needed. In addition, I would recommend planning your toughest workouts (probably your legdays) the first day or days after your refeed. That way you also make optimal use of the extra output that you can generate.

In addition, I want to advise you to do your refeed with carbohydrate sources that you already have in your diet lately. Chances are that your intestines will not appreciate a huge flood of carbs that you have not eaten for a while. For example, I once walked around for days with an enormous bloated feeling because I did this wrong. Extremely windy, abdominal pain and not being able to give yourself an attitude are not the results we look for when planning a refeed.

In addition, opt for the easily digestible carbohydrates and also take dietary fiber into account!

Jan Willem Bench press

Why cheating and tips to limit the damage

"Cheat" has a very negative connotation; however, this does not always have to be the case. However, it is good to keep the above explanation in mind; where a refeed has a very clear (physiological) purpose and is bound by rules, that is much less the case with a cheat.

In principle you take a cheatmeal (days have been abolished from today, agreed?) So that you can maintain the upcoming period to stay on schedule. More for the mental recharging than the physical.

I would like to give you some advice so that you limit the damage caused by your cheats. Because a cheatmeal (let alone a day!) Can literally screw up a week of progression! If you go beyond yourself and eliminate 5000 kcal of junk on top of your maintenance, this means that you have to use a deficit of 10 kcal per day for 500 days to undo that cheat.

Enjoy your MEAL cheat

So my first advice is: limit your cheat to 1 meal and eat to enjoy it. Don't make it a competition, don't go cheating in an unlimited sushi restaurant; certainly after a longer period of giving up, you will always eat more than you initially intended and you will always regret it afterwards. Rather choose a good restaurant or think ahead of time what you really want. Going hungry for your cheat without a plan is going to result in coming home with bags of chips and chocolate that you might not even feel like.

Be aware of what you eat

The second advice I want to give you is to be somewhat selective with the foods you choose; as I have already explained with the refeeds, it can seriously irritate your digestive tract if they suddenly get a whole slew of food that they have not responded to; think also about allergens and additives! If you normally always eat very clean 2000 kcal a day, I dare to tell you on a note that 4000 kcal of chips, fries and ice cream will cause a lot of stomach pain.

You can earn a refeed, not cheats

The third advice: You can earn a refeed by training heavily, sinking well into body fat. The refeed, as discussed above, will certainly also have positive effects on your body and your workouts in the coming period. A refeed can therefore serve as a reward.

You don't really deserve a cheat; a diet phase without cheats will lead to better results than a diet phase with cheats, if we ignore the mental aspect. It is good to realize that because nowadays there is a whole culture around cheatmeals and talking about it. Apart from a mental break, there is no reason to hold a cheat. A cheat is not a reward for a period of heavy cutting or hard training.

Mental relief is not guaranteed

The final advice: a cheat can be a point for mental recharging, but it might just as well lead to a complete breakthrough in the other direction, and your relationship with food or your diet will completely ruin. Read the article about 'the weekend'agree that I have written before if you have not already done so. For this reason it is good to plan your cheats and think about your choices. So don't go all out in a hunger mindset.

One method that I apply to clients (when they need it and when the space is available) is to plan a free space per day; you can spend this free space on whatever you want, without feeling guilty about it. He is included in your daily energy consumption. You can also save this space so that you can eat something bigger every other day, for example.

In this way you ensure that you are not constantly craving for certain foods while you are not allowed to eat them. Everything is allowed, as long as you implant it.

refeeds rice

Refeeds vs. Cheats in short


(Regular) refeeds certainly have their place in a diet phase and can definitely contribute to better results.

Your refeeds consist mainly of carbohydrates, average protein and low fat. You assemble them from carbohydrate sources that are already present in your diet lately and preferably easily digestible sources. Fructose and lactose have a place, but mainly choose starch / glucose.

Refeeds can ensure better performance in the gym and a better, harder, fuller look.


Cheatmeals are allowed, but they are certainly not necessary for good results and have the purely mental function of recharging a little in order to be able to maintain a subsequent diet. They can partly have the same effect as a refeed, but are by definition less focused on this result. The chance of negative effects such as abdominal pain, having trouble starting to cut again or putting on extra fat, is greater than with refeeds and it is advisable to define your cheat; for example: 1 main course and 1 dessert.

Unlimited food, at home or in a restaurant is never advisable.

Jan Willem van der Klis

Instagram: @Jay_Whey

This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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