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How to Use a Refeed Day to Lose Weight

Are you tired of diet plans that leave you feeling drained before you reach your weight loss goal? If so, then a refeed day could be the solution you’re looking for.

Whereas traditional diets rely on prolonged calorie restriction to lose weight, a refeed day breaks the low-calorie cycle. In this way, refeeds prevent the unwanted side effects of dieting.

With this strategy, you will lose more weight and feel more satisfied at the same time.

What is a Refeed Day?

In simple terms, refeeding is when you temporarily increase your calorie intake. Specifically, you eat slightly more calories than you burn in a day. But a refeed is not the same as a cheat day where you eat whatever you want.

Refeed vs Cheat Day
A cheat day is when you overindulge in junk foods that aren’t part of your diet. Whereas a refeed day is a strategic high calorie day with mostly healthy foods.

Studies show that prolonged low-calorie diets decrease your metabolism and cause hormonal imbalances. For that reason, the goal of a refeed is to counteract the negative effects that dieting has on your body.

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3 Benefits of a Refeed Day

1. Boost Metabolism

In order to burn fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit. But when you eat too few calories for too long, your body sees it as a time of food scarcity.

More significantly, it responds by getting rid of muscle and holding on to fat in order to conserve energy1. This is the exact opposite of what we want to accomplish when dieting!

Why Calorie Deficit Diets Don’t Work (and What Does Work)

In contrast, when you increase your calorie intake, your body thinks food is plentiful and has no need to conserve energy. As a result, your metabolism stays high and you continue burning fat.

2. Replenish Energy

Another key point is that your body stores carbohydrates in your muscles for an immediate energy source. These stored carbs are called glycogen.

On a low-calorie diet, glycogen stores get used up within a few days. And that leaves you feeling drained and depleted.

In this situation, a refeed replenishes your glycogen supply which gives you an immediate energy boost.

3. Prevent Hunger & Cravings

When you lose weight, your body produces less leptin. When leptin drops, you feel hungry more often. And that’s why dieting gets harder as you lose more weight.

Increase Leptin for Weight Loss

While science is still uncovering how leptin works, several studies suggest that leptin rises after a high-calorie day3,4,5. As a result, you reduce hunger and eat less following a refeed2. And that helps you lose more weight.

How to Refeed

It’s important to realize that a refeed day should be planned beforehand. And it’s is not an excuse to binge eat junk food. In other words, we don’t get to decide today is a refeed day when Glenn shows up with a box of Krispie Kreme!

Instead, you should treat it as part of your diet plan. Which means you’re still tracking macros and calories and eating mostly healthy foods.

With that said, you can be a little more flexible with food choices on your refeed day. It’s a chance to take a “break” and enjoy a meal with family and friends that normally isn’t part of your diet.

The key is to stay in control of how much you eat and how often you refeed.

Refeed Calorie Target

As mentioned, you should target a specific number of calories in order to get the benefits of a refeed without getting off course. To do this, you need to know how many calories you actually burn in a day. This is called your TDEE or total daily energy expenditure.

Once you know your TDEE, you just add about 5-10% more calories. That way you have a calorie surplus without spilling over into fat gain.

Refeed Day Macros

Normally a weight loss diet consists of relatively low carbohydrates. On your refeed day, however, 50-55% of your calories will come from carbs.

In addition, protein should be relatively high at around 25-30% of calories. Since protein synthesis goes up when you eat protein with carbs. In other words, you build more lean muscle.

Conversely, you should decrease fat on refeed days to 20-25% of calories. Because if you eat fat when carbs are high, it’s more likely to be stored as body fat. Yet another reason to avoid high-fat junk foods during a refeed.

How Often to Refeed

As part of a weight loss diet, it’s common to have one refeed day per week. However, your frequency could be different depending on your body type and goals.

For example, if you’re an ectomorph trying to gain muscle while burning fat, then you may do better with two refeeds per week. On the other hand, if you’re an endomorph trying to lose as much fat as possible then you may have more success with more than 7 days between refeeds.

Although you do have some flexibility, I don’t recommend doing more than 10 days of low calories between refeeds. Because it only takes a few days for your metabolism and leptin levels to drop in response to a calorie shortage.

Refeed Day Food List

Again, most of your refeed calories will come from carbs. And in this case, you will benefit from choosing fast digesting high glycemic carbs.

In addition, you should get your protein from lean meats or protein powders. As always, be sure to include some leafy greens and veggies to get your vitamins.

  • Rice, Rice Cakes, Rice Cereal

  • Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes

  • Fruit, Fruit Spread, Fruit Juice

  • Grains, Oats

  • Lean Meats

  • Vegetables, Leafy Greens

  • Junk Foods

  • Fatty Meats

  • Butter

  • Dairy

  • Oils

  • Nuts, Seeds

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About the Author

Jeremy Fox  –  Founder of Nutritioneering, Engineer, CPT, Bodybuilder, Coach

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