How to Use a Refeed Day to Lose Weight
Plus a Refeed Calculator to Plan Your Refeed Day
Are you tired of diet plans that leave you feeling drained long before you reach your weight loss goal? If so, then a refeed day could be the weight loss solution you’re looking for.
Traditional diets rely on underfeeding or eating fewer calories than you burn. At first, this helps you lose weight, but eventually, your body goes into starvation mode. When that happens, hunger and cravings kick in, making it nearly impossible to lose more weight.
Whereas, a refeed day breaks the low-calorie cycle and prevents 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?
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.
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!
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. And on a low-calorie diet, glycogen stores get used up within a few days. Leaving 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 – a hormone that makes you feel full after you eat. So when leptin drops, you feel hungry more often. And that’s why dieting gets harder as you lose more weight.
Related: 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, 55-60% of your calories will come from carbs.
In addition, protein should be relatively high at around 23-27% 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 15-20% 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
Vegetables, Leafy Greens
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1) Friedlander, Anne L., et al. “Three weeks of caloric restriction alters protein metabolism in normal-weight, young men.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 289.3 (2005): E446-E455.
2) Chin-Chance, Catherine, Kenneth S. Polonsky, and Dale A. Schoeller. “Twenty-four-hour leptin levels respond to cumulative short-term energy imbalance and predict subsequent intake.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 85.8 (2000): 2685-2691.
3) Kolaczynski, Jerzy W., et al. “Responses of leptin to short-term fasting and refeeding in humans: a link with ketogenesis but not ketones themselves.” Diabetes 45.11 (1996): 1511-1515.
4) Champigny, Odette, and Daniel Ricquier. “Effects of fasting and refeeding on the level of uncoupling protein mRNA in rat brown adipose tissue: evidence for diet-induced and cold-induced responses.” The Journal of nutrition 120.12 (1990): 1730-1736.
5) Rosenbaum, Michael, et al. “Low-dose leptin reverses skeletal muscle, autonomic, and neuroendocrine adaptations to maintenance of reduced weight.” The Journal of clinical investigation 115.12 (2005): 3579-3586.