Going back to my poll i posted last week ‘Do re-feeds/cheat meals help you burn more body fat? In short Yes they do, but not by magically kicking your metabolism into overdrive or boosting ‘fat burning hormones’.  All the evidence suggests that cheat meals do not make a significant impact on leptin or cortisol levels, suggesting they offer more of a psychological benefit than a physiological one

– Weight of the evidence indicates that changing leptin levels through refeeds will not reduce the risk of your body adapting to a calorie deficit (adaptive thermogenesis)

-Leptin will not be restored to baseline levels until the cumulative energy deficit is restored (i.e., weight is regained)

-Refeeds may slightly decrease weight-loss induced appetite, perhaps through temporary increases in leptin.  The effect is likely small

-Appetite will still be strongly elevated above baseline levels if cumulative energy deficit is not restored


CORTISOL- (regulates a wide spectrum of processes, including metabolism and immune system)

-Weight of the evidence indicates that cortisol does not increase with dieting

-Most studies show that increasing carbohydrate intake does not decrease cortisol. The concept of “cortisol-induced fluid retention” and flushing of fluid retention with refeeds/diet breaks is not supported by most of the evidence

If most evidence indicates little to no hormonal or physiological benefit to refeeds or cheat meals, why do they seem to work in practise? It’s more likely to down to psychological benefits, including

  • Mental break from dieting, which may enhance long-term adherence
  • Easier to adhere to a higher calorie intake due to dieting- induced elevated hunger levels
  • The increase in leptin may help with hunger, even though hunger will still be elevated above initial pre-diet levels

All of the above will help to improve dietary adherence, which will help you to lose more body fat long term, not the ‘cheat meal’ that ‘increase your metabolism.

Psychology over physiology for fat loss results