Refeed days are a popular way for people to take a temporary break from their diet, and they can be beneficial for long term weight loss goals.
But how often should you have a refeed day?
Knowing how often to have a refeed day is important for seeing the best results.
In fact, timing is probably the most important thing when it comes to a refeed!
It’s beneficial to have a refeed day every two weeks as this allows you to have a short break from dieting without derailing your results.
It also helps to restore leptin levels which helps for further weight loss.
However, the frequency of refeed days depends on other factors too, including your body fat percentage. As I’ll go on to explain, you may need to have refeed days more or less often.
From reading this article you will understand:
– How often you should have a refeed day
– Signs that you need to have a refeed day
– What to eat during a refeed day
Table of Contents
How Often Should You Have a Refeed Day?
The frequency of refeed days varies depending on factors such as your body fat percentage and the amount of time you have been dieting for.
Most people will benefit from refeed days every two weeks. However, it varies depending on body fat percentage.
Those with lower body fat percentages should have refeed days weekly or twice weekly, and those with higher body fat percentages should have them every three or four weeks.
For many people, refeed days should be done every two weeks. Consuming a calorie deficit can be challenging and taking a temporary break is beneficial for people’s wellbeing.
Short breaks have also been shown to help people stick to their diets longer term.
Therefore, having a refeed day every two weeks allows for a short break from calorie restriction and if done properly it won’t detrimentally affect your weight loss progress.
Refeed days should also be done every two weeks because when consuming a calorie deficit leptin levels start to decline.
Leptin is a hormone that plays a critical role in determining appetite as well as fat burning.
When leptin levels are low, it signals to the body to consume more and slow calorie burning.
As a result, people hit a weight loss plateau and experience increased appetite which makes it harder to stick to their diet.
Leptin levels can be increased through carbohydrate consumption. However, this needs to be done regularly otherwise levels fall again.
Having a refeed day every two weeks should be enough to prevent a plateau.
Though, check out the next section where I’ve explained signs that you need to have a refeed day.
Whilst having a refeed day every two weeks is enough for most people, it does vary depending on your body fat percentage.
For those with higher body fat percentages, refeed days can be done less frequently.
This is because those with higher body fat percentages will have higher leptin levels. Therefore, it takes longer for leptin levels to decline when losing weight.
Those with higher body fat levels will also face far fewer drawbacks (hunger pangs, low energy levels, mood swings, etc…) that come with a calorie deficit in the short term.
For men with body fat percentages above 15%, and women with body fat percentages above 25%, refeed days should be done every four weeks.
In comparison, those with a lower body fat percentage (of 10% or lower for men and 18% or lower for men) should have refeed days more frequently.
This is because those with lower body fat percentages have less adipose tissue, or body fat, which means that they have less leptin resistance.
As a result, leptin levels will decline much faster with weight loss.
For those with lower body fat percentages, refeed days should be done weekly or twice a week.
See also – Refeed days vs diet breaks
If you want to know more about how refeed days work then check out this video:
Signs You Need a Refeed Day
- You’ve been dieting for a while
- You’ve stopped losing weight
- You’re craving carbs
- You’re struggling to exercise
Four key signs that you should have a refeed day are:
1. You’ve Been Dieting for a While
Firstly, if you’ve been consuming a calorie deficit for a couple of weeks then it’s time to have a refeed day.
Although consuming additional calories during a diet may seem like the wrong thing to do, refeed days help to support weight loss and ultimately lead to better long term results.
Therefore, if you’ve been dieting for a few weeks it’s beneficial to take a temporary break and consume additional carbs.
When to take a refeed day will depend on your body fat percentage.
Those with a higher body fat percentage should have refeed days every four weeks, whilst those with moderate levels of body fat should have refeed days every two weeks.
Those with low body fat percentages should have refeed days more often either on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
2. You’ve Stopped Losing Weight
Secondly, you should have a refeed day if you’ve hit a plateau when losing weight.
Signs of a weight loss plateau include only losing small amounts, or not losing any weight, despite maintaining a consistent calorie deficit.
Whilst it’s normal for levels of weight loss to fluctuate during a diet, if you haven’t noticed any weight loss for a couple of weeks then this is a sign of a plateau.
** Important **
Weight fluctuates daily. There are countless reasons for this so if you’re tracking weight you should be tracking a weekly average body weight.
This will give a more accurate and true body weight. If your average weekly weight doesn’t drop then this is when you have likely hit a weight loss plateau.
Weight loss plateaus can be caused by low leptin levels as your body enters a form of survival mode and stops burning as many calories.
Having a refeed day increases leptin levels and signals to the body that it doesn’t need to be in a form of survival mode. As a result, the body continues to lose weight.
3. You’re Craving Carbs
Thirdly, you should consider a refeed day if you’re craving carbs.
We all experience cravings during a diet but if you find yourself constantly thinking about carbs then having a refeed day can help to address this.
Carb cravings can be a strong indicator of depleted glycogen levels so it’s important to recognize when you are craving something due to physiological depletion and not just because of mental cravings.
Yes, it’s natural to crave pasta or ice cream when dieting but that doesn’t mean your body needs it!
As I mentioned before, sticking to a calorie deficit can be challenging and taking temporary breaks can positively affect wellbeing and help you to stick to your diet for longer.
4. You’re Struggling to Exercise
Fourthly, if you’re struggling to exercise then you may need to have a refeed day.
When consuming a calorie deficit, glycogen levels decline.
Glycogen is what’s known as a ‘long-chain carbohydrate’ and it is stored in muscles to be used as an energy source during physical activity.
When consuming a calorie deficit or low carb diet, glycogen stores decrease and your body’s ability to store more becomes limited.
By increasing carbohydrate intake during a refeed day you can restore these glycogen stores, which supports energy levels and better performance during exercise.
What Should I Eat on a Refeed Day?
On refeed days you should eat your typical diet but with a 20% calorie increase with the majority coming from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates should be your priority as they work best at elevating leptin levels in comparison to protein and fats.
Whilst carbs have a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss, there are many great options that can have during a refeed day. This includes pasta, rice, potatoes, oats, and bananas.
However, this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t consume any protein or fat. You would continue to consume your usual intake of protein and fat.
During refeed days you should increase your calorie consumption by roughly 20%.
For example, if your usual calorie intake is 2,500 a day then you should have an additional 500 calories during a refeed day.
As mentioned though, these additional calories should mainly be from carbohydrates.
Weight loss plateaus, cravings, and the need for a break are all common when dieting. If you can relate to any of these then check out our other articles diving into these issues on a diet: