Having a refeed day is the hallmark of carb cycling – a noteworthy way to jump-start your metabolism for fast weight loss.
In fact, refeeding is important for weight loss on a low-carb diet. It allows your body to reset your basal metabolism, keeps weight loss from plateauing, and keeps hunger at bay.
And yet so many people new to carb cycling make serious mistakes handling refeed days, causing their diet to lose momentum.
This article will explore the ins and outs of refeed days and keep you from making rookie mistakes.
Cheat Day vs. Refeed
Some beginners erroneously refer to their refeed days as “cheat” days.
While technically true, since you’re allowing yourself a day (or two) of high carbs amidst a flow of low-carb days, it’s not a free pass to eat anything you want.
Let’s define the two for contrast.
A refeed day is a planned period of time dedicated to overfeeding. It is short-term only, and normally, it’s focused on taking in certain macronutrients.
The goal is to increase your current intake of calories for a short time before restricting calories in a longer-term phase.
On the other hand, a “cheat” day is a free-for-all. There is no planning or tracking of nutrients, macro or otherwise.
It is expected you’ll exceed your normal caloric intake on these days, but there’s no rhyme or reason to how much or how often you’ll eat.
The focus of this kind of day is on the quantity of the food consumed, rather than the quality.
As you can see, there are similarities here, but the refeed day is much more carefully planned and considered.
Avoiding Mistakes on Refeed Days
It’s easy to make mistakes handling your refeed days, especially if you’re new to the idea of carb-cycling.
However, if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can sidestep most errors and keep your weight loss from plateauing.
Here are some of the most common mistakes rookies make.
#1. How Many Carbs to Refeed
Generally, refeeds can range from 300 to 1000 grams of carbs in a day, with the upper limit normally belonging to bodybuilders and other athletes who are “cutting weight” for competitions.
How many carbs you use on your refeed days depends on a number of factors, including genetics, muscle mass, amount of weight to lose, and metabolic rate.
You should also consider how hard you’re working out and how long you’ve been on a low-carb diet.
If you have a high carb day and the resultant energy boost doesn’t last you more than two days, then you didn’t eat enough.
Conversely, if you have a refeed day and feel bloated, nauseated, or grumpy the next day – you’ve eaten way too much.
#2. Not Staying Low-Carb for Long Enough
You need to deplete your glycogen (energy) stores before you give yourself a refeed day.
This means working out, or at least incorporating some movement into your day. The harder you work out, the more often you can refeed.
The number of days between refeeds depends on how much cardio you do, how hard you work out, how much you need to lose, if you’ve plateaued already, metabolic speed, hormonal changes, and other factors.
This is not an exact science.
Those with slow metabolisms can go a week to ten days with refeeding.
If your metabolism is lightning-fast, however, you may only make it two to four days before you need those high carbs.
Everyone’s body is different, so you’re really going to have to experiment with this.
Try this: do three days of low-carb then one refeed day. If you don’t see any weight loss, add a few days of low-carb before refeeding and see if your results change.
Confusing Cheat and Refeed Days
Earlier, we outlined the difference between cheat and refeed days.
Too many people on low-carb diets see their refeed days as a way to eat whatever they want, without paying attention to nutrition or calorie count.
You should still be counting carbs (and calories) on refeed days to get the full benefit of carb cycling. In fact, you can easily consume 10,000 calories in a single day without realizing you’re doing it.
To avoid this, do a controlled refeed, where you focus on counting carbs and other macronutrients, while still allowing yourself the freedom to eat some foods normally outside your low-carb boundaries.
Taking It Slow for Maximum Results
The best way to avoid refeed day mistakes is to listen to your body and take the time to discover what works for you.
If you systematically map out your refeed days and record the results, you’ll learn the exact combination of carbs, calories, and macronutrients that will give your weight loss the biggest boost.