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Refeed Days vs Diet Breaks

Refeed Days vs Diet Breaks (Which Should You Consider)

Refeed days and diet breaks are popular approaches for maximizing fat loss

Though they share similarities and are used to get the same end result, refeed days and diet breaks are very different.

Refeed days are, like the name suggests, done for a day or two.

They involve increasing carbohydrate consumption and increasing your daily calorie intake back to maintenance levels. 

In comparison, a diet break usually lasts for a week or two.

During this time, calorie intake is increased through the consumption of carbohydrates as well as protein and fat.

Both refeed days and diet breaks have their own pros and cons. Knowing which to consider using is important to get the best results. 

Overall, it depends on what your goals are, how quickly you want to see them, and what works for your diet.

From reading this article, you’ll understand:

– What refeed days and diet breaks are
– The pros and cons of refeed days and diet breaks
– Whether refeed days or diet breaks are better for weight loss

What Are Refeeds

Refeed days and diet breaks are used interchangeably. 

However, whilst they do share some similarities, refeed days and diet breaks are not the same thing.

A refeed day, or refeed days, involve temporarily increasing carbohydrate consumption. 

Instead of being in a calorie deficit, during a refeed day you would eat additional carbs and increase your overall calorie consumption by around 10 to 20%.

Refeed days are done to improve long term weight loss and body composition results. 

Consuming a calorie deficit initially produces weight loss, typically fat loss. However, this can plateau or stop as the body enters a form of starvation mode.

Essentially, as fat loss takes place leptin (a hormone) levels decline. 

Low leptin levels signal the body to slow the metabolism and increase your appetite to prevent further weight loss.

By temporarily increasing carbohydrate consumption, the idea is to raise leptin levels and avoid hitting a weight loss plateau. 

Refeed days are also used to keep training performance optimal. A calorie deficit combined with regular resistance training will deplete muscle glycogen (the energy source for muscle contractions). 

Lower levels of muscle glycogen will mean you fatigue quicker during workouts and will also tend to “burn out” on a diet phase much quicker. 

Replenishing your muscle glycogen with some days of increased carbohydrate intake will allow for longer term performance in the gym. 

The harder you can train in the gym, the better your fat loss and body transformation results will be!

The frequency of refeed days varies depending on your body fat percentage. 

See related – How often should you have a refeed day

Those with moderate levels of body fat are advised to take them every 6-8 weeks whereas those with low body fat levels may need to take a refeed every 3-4 weeks.

The frequency and duration of refeed days also depends on how long you have been dieting for. 

For the first few weeks of dieting you should see continued weight loss without refeed days. 

After a month or so, refeed days should be implemented to see lasting results. 

What Are Diet Breaks

A diet break involves temporarily increasing calorie consumption over a period of one to two weeks – though they can be longer. 

Instead of sticking to your usual calorie deficit, during a diet break you would increase your calorie consumption to your maintenance level.

During a diet break there also aren’t the same restrictions on what you eat.

The idea behind a diet break is that losing weight over a prolonged period of time will give more sustainable results than rapid weight loss, and that taking a break will help you return to, and stick with, your diet.

The frequency of a diet break depends on different factors including your goals and timeline with losing weight, as well as your motivation. 

In general, people incorporate diet breaks every 2 to 3 months.

Refeed Days vs Diet Breaks: Comparison

Refeed days and diet breaks come with their own advantages and disadvantages. 

When choosing between them it’s important to consider these and which works best for you based on your goals and individual body composition. 

Diet Break Advantages

  1. Flexibility
  2. Mental break from dieting
  3. Helps to stick to your diet
  4. Increased energy

During a diet break, your diet is far more flexible. 

As you aren’t sticking to a rigid calorie deficit or macro count there is more freedom on what foods you eat and the quantities that you’re eating.

Just note that a diet break should not be confused with a binge or cheat. You want to eat close to maintenance calories and still stick to 80%-90% of the foods and meals that you would typically eat – you just have the allowance to eat slightly more.

Having greater flexibility also provides a mental break from dieting. 

Continually monitoring what you’re consuming and its calorie content can be exhausting. 

Whilst many of us start out feeling motivated and energized, after a couple of weeks or months it can feel exhausting.

Taking a break at this point can be beneficial as it ensures that you don’t feel burnt out over time. 

This ultimately leads to better results as the longer people can still to a dieting phase, the better the end physique. 

Taking a break can also help you to stick to your diet when not on a diet break. As I mentioned, continuous dieting is exhausting and is unsustainable long-term. 

Studies show that taking a short, temporary break from dieting can help to support longer term fat loss and body composition changes.

So by employing a diet break you can see better results overall.

Another advantage of a diet break is that returning to maintenance level calories increases energy levels. 

When consuming a calorie deficit our bodies are being stretched thin. Having additional calories will result in more energy which can be used to maximize workouts.

Diet Break Disadvantages

  1. Prolonged dieting
  2. May encourage binge eating

The main disadvantage of a diet break is that it will prolong weight loss. During a diet break you aren’t consuming a calorie deficit so won’t see weight loss results during these weeks. 

Some people may also gain weight during diet breaks.

See also – Fasting after a binge day (to lose weight)

Therefore, if you want to lose weight over a shorter timeline then diet breaks aren’t suitable for you.

The other disadvantage of a diet break is that they can be misused. 

During diet breaks there is greater freedom on what foods you eat. However, sometimes people treat this like a cheat day and overconsume high calorie foods which can promote binge eating behavior. 

Refeed Day Advantages

  1. Increased leptin levels
  2. Decreased hunger
  3. Faster weight loss
  4. Increased energy

During a refeed day, you increase calorie intake through consuming additional carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates have been shown to be most effective in increasing leptin levels, in comparison to other macronutrients.

Increasing leptin levels can help to combat weight loss plateaus which helps to support long term weight loss, specifically fat loss.

Increasing leptin levels also helps to reduce hunger and cravings, making it easier to stick to a calorie deficit.

Additionally, as carbohydrates play a critical role in energy production, refeed days can support higher energy levels.

During a calorie deficit people can experience fatigue, tiredness, and low motivation levels. 

Having a refeed day can help to combat this by replenishing glycogen levels. 

Glycogen is a long-chain carbohydrate that’s stored in the muscles to be used as an energy source during exercise. 

Increasing energy levels can help to improve workouts, further supporting weight loss.

As refeed days are shorter than diet breaks, they support faster weight loss. If you want to lose weight over a short period of time, then refeed days are more suitable.

Refeed Day Disadvantages

  1. Strict
  2. Require planning

Refeed days don’t provide the same amount of freedom that diet breaks do. 

As the focus is on consuming additional carbohydrates, the amount of flexibility that you have around what foods you can eat is limited.

Also, as refeed days involve increasing calorie consumption by a set amount (usually around 10 to 20%) you still need to track what you’re eating and its macro split. 

As a result, refeed days require more planning and aren’t as flexible. 

Refeed Days vs Diet Breaks: Verdict

Both refeed days and diet breaks are tools that can be used to aid a fat loss phase. 

While this is a comparison article, it’s important to note that refeed days and diet breaks are not the same thing. 

People get confused about what to use (maybe the reason why you are here) and these two dieting strategies often get grouped together as though they are the same thing. 

Hopefully from reading this article you’ve seen that there are advantages and disadvantages to each method. 

If performance and short term fat loss is your goal then refeed days may be more beneficial, especially if you’ve been doing a diet that is low in carbs (<100g per day). 

A refeed can also be used if you have been doing an incredibly long fat loss phase, have a low body fat percentage below 10%, and are trying to lose a final few lbs of fat. 

Refeed days are something you’ll often see used by professional bodybuilders or combat sport athletes trying to make a certain bodyweight target without sacrificing too much in terms of performance. 

For a diet break, people who have a lot of body fat (or body weight) to lose would be best utilizing this. 

This is also a strategy best used by the general population who aren’t trying to hit extreme body composition goals like a bodybuilder would be. 

Diet breaks can help average people just looking to lose some extra body fit or improve their diet and eating habits. 

They do this by giving you a temporary (though still monitored) break from what you might consider to be a strict diet. 

The mental break, greater flexibility with food choices and physical break from not having to consume a calorie deficit each day are definitely ideal for those who want to improve their body composition but aren’t fitness fanatics. 

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