Refeed After 5 Day Fast: 7 Rules To Follow & What To Eat

The 5 days of fasting are over, now what do you do? You should do 5 days of gradual refeeding to get you back to a normal intake! 

The refeeding period is arguably more important than the fasting period itself because if we don’t refeed properly we could experience severe digestive issues and negative health effects.

What Should You Eat After A 5 Day Fast? After a 5 day fast, we will need at least 2 days of consuming liquid calories before returning to solid foods, as solids require more effort to digest. I also suggest limiting your carbohydrate intake initially and focusing more on protein and fat.

After reading this article you’ll learn:

5 Days Of Fasting: What Can You Expect?

After a 5 day fast, we will have depleted all our stored energy from carbohydrates because they are our body’s preferred fuel source. Once these carb stores are depleted we can expect to be burning more fat, and potentially protein, for energy.

When we first start fasting we will be burning our body’s glycogen stores (our body’s stored energy), but our body doesn’t have much glycogen stored, to begin with, typically only 12 to 24 hours worth of energy.

After our body runs out of this stored energy, it will begin breaking down fat so that it has the energy it requires to perform normal bodily functions. 

In situations where the body can no longer use fat as fuel, the body will be breaking down muscle tissue and using it for energy. This process of using our tissue as an energy source is called “Autophagy”.

For the best results, we want to avoid getting to the stage where we’re breaking down muscle tissue when we’re fasting because muscle is a very valuable tissue for us to have. The more muscle we have, the higher our metabolism is and the higher the number of calories we burn throughout the day.

So when we break down muscle tissue, we slow down our metabolism and burn fewer calories throughout the day. The likelihood of using muscle for energy when fasting is greater for those who have less fat to begin with, and for those fasting for extended periods.

Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone

Refeeding Safely & Effectively: 7 Rules To Follow

Following a 5 day fast we should follow these 7 rules:

  1. Make Replenishing Electrolytes Your Top Priority
  2. Reduce Your Calorie IntakeTo 50% Of Your Normal Intake
  3. Consume Liquids For At Least 2 Days Before Solids
  4. Keep Water Intake Low To Avoid Overhydration
  5. Prioritize Protein & Fat Rather Than Carbohydrates
  6. Start Supplementing If You Haven’t Already
  7. Do Not Consume Alcohol

If you’ve only fasted for 3 days (not 5 days), then check out my article: How To Refeed After 72 Hour Fast. My recommendations are slightly different for shorter fasting periods.

1. Make Replenishing Electrolytes Your Top Priority

Our top priority after a 5 day fast should be to replenish any lost electrolytes to avoid any health complications, such as refeeding syndrome, that can occur once we start consuming food again.

electrolytes

Our primary goal when breaking our fast should be to reduce our risk of any health and safety issues, and the main concern that we’d be facing is a refeeding syndrome, which is a condition characterized by an imbalance of our body’s fluids and electrolytes.

Refeeding syndrome symptoms can include extreme swelling (edema – which can cause swelling around the lungs and heart and compress these organs), seizures, weakness, difficulty breathing, confusion, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeats.

When refeeding from a fast we are at a higher risk of refeeding syndrome because our body’s level of electrolytes will be depleted, especially if we did not supplement with electrolytes while we were fasting.

If we do not replenish our electrolytes before consuming liquids and calories, we can increase our risk of refeeding syndrome because consuming liquids can dilute our blood even further which would reduce the electrolyte level in our bloodstream.

The other issue is that if we consume calories, particularly carbohydrates, it will cause a spike in insulin (even more than usual because we would be extremely sensitive to carbs at this point) and insulin signals our cells to start pulling electrolytes and the sugar out of our bloodstream, which once again results in lower levels of electrolytes in the blood.

When electrolytes get to a dangerously low level they can cause serious cardiac, respiratory, and neurological issues. 

To reduce our risk of refeeding syndrome we need to replenish our electrolytes first with an electrolyte supplement, before consuming any food or water. We should also consider using an electrolyte supplement while we’re fasting because it can help keep electrolytes from depleting as much.

2. Reduce Your Calorie Intake To 50% Of Your Normal Intake

After a 5 day fast, our digestive system will be unprepared to handle the same amount of calories and food bulk, therefore we should consume fewer calories initially to avoid gastrointestinal distress.

It is recommended to limit calories to around 50% of our normal intake when not fasting, this would be the equivalent of 12.5 to 17.5 calories per kilogram of bodyweight. 

This is not a long-term recommendation but it should be followed for at least 3 to 4 days after the fast to give the digestive system time to reboot and function at its normal capacity again.

For example: If I weigh 80kg, then my calorie range for the first 3 to 4 days of refeeding would be between 1000 to 1400 calories.

It would probably be best to stick to the lower end of this range initially to reduce the risk of digestive issues and to gradually increase to the higher end of this calorie range around day 3 or 4.

The lower calories will also help to prevent large spikes in insulin that can trigger refeeding syndrome, so even if we feel like our digestion isn’t too sensitive we should still stick to this calorie range initially.

3. Consume Liquids For At Least 2 Days Before Solids

To allow our digestive system to get back up to speed and produce its digestive enzymes, as usual, we should start with liquid calories before solids for at least 2 days because they are easier to digest.

Starting with liquid calories will be a more pleasant experience than trying to consume solid foods after a 5 day’s fast. 

This is because when we’re fasting we no longer undergo our regular digestive processes, therefore our body stops producing the digestive enzymes required to break down our food for energy.

So when we break our fast, our body has no digestive enzymes ready to digest our food, therefore digestion will be much more difficult and dramatically slowed. 

So if we were to consume solid foods, which are harder to digest, we would likely experience a lot of digestive discomforts and potentially abdominal pain.

Giving our body 2 days of liquid calories will give our body time to readjust so that we can consume solid foods without any unpleasant side effects.

4. Keep Water Intake Low To Avoid Overhydration

When we’re refeeding from a 5 day fast, we need to limit our water intake to prevent overhydration because increasing our fluid intake too much can lower the number of electrolytes in our blood and cause refeeding syndrome.

We shouldn’t be too concerned about consuming any additional liquids besides the liquids that are coming from our meals initially because, in the beginning, our intake should be 100% liquid.

Once we start to transition to solid foods and are consuming fewer liquids, we can start drinking water more regularly. At this point, our electrolytes should be replenished and our body will be less sensitive to carbs and we won’t have to worry so much about spikes in insulin.

5. Prioritize Protein & Fat Rather Than Carbohydrates

When we start refeeding from a 5 day fast, our primary source of nourishment should be protein followed by fats, but our carbohydrate intake should be reduced and limited to easy-to-digest options.

We should be more specific with our protein intake following the fast, especially if we suspect we were breaking down muscle tissue because we need to start doing damage control to preserve as much muscle as possible.

I recommend consuming between 0.4  to 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to ensure that we’re getting enough protein in.

For example: If I weigh 80kg then I need to be consuming between 32 to 60 grams of protein, if not more, while my calories are reduced.

After our protein intake is set, we should be focusing on getting the majority of the remaining calories from healthy sources of fat. 

Fat is being prioritized over carbs in this situation because fats do not cause an insulin response like carbohydrates do, therefore they dramatically reduce our risk of refeeding syndrome.

Having some carbs is normal as it’s not realistic to cut them out completely but they should be limited for the first 4 days. When we do choose to incorporate carbs we’ll want to opt for carbohydrates that are less likely to cause digestive issues. 

These easy-to-digest carbs are sources of carbohydrates that do not ferment in our digestive system and are known as Low FODMAP foods.

A Low FODMAP diet is typically reserved for those who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but this type of diet is useful following a fast as well because when we start consuming foods again we can experience the same symptoms as those who have IBS.

I don’t recommend sticking to a Low FODMAP diet indefinitely because these foods do have an important role in our diet when we’re back to normal eating. After 4 days of refeeding, we should be able to start introducing all foods back into our diet.

6. Start Supplementing If You Haven’t Already

When we’re fasting for an extended period we should be supplementing with electrolytes and thiamine, as these tend to be the nutrients most affected by fasting.

electrolyte supplement

If we’re not supplementing while fasting, then it is even more crucial that we do so after fasting because our levels of important nutrients could be dangerously low. 

If we’re concerned that our levels are in an unsafe range, we should seek out medical help for a blood test and replenishment.

When we’re choosing an electrolyte supplement we should make sure that the supplement contains magnesium, potassium, and phosphate because these are the electrolytes that are of greater concern.

Supplementing Thiamine is also a good idea because it is important for carbohydrate metabolism, which we will need once we start consuming carbs again following our fast.

I also recommend using a protein powder during the first few days of refeeding because it can be easily mixed into liquids to help us meet our protein requirements.

7. Do Not Consume Alcohol

It’s important to avoid alcohol while we’re refeeding because our body will not be in a position where it can handle alcohol in the same way that it can when we’re fed.

Not only are we more sensitive to the effects of alcohol during this time of refeeding, but consuming it can increase our risk of health complications because it can lead to a condition called alcoholic ketoacidosis.

This is a severe condition that occurs when our body is undernourished and we consume alcohol in excess. However, it’s important to remember that because we are severely underfed while fasting, we can develop this condition without consuming that much alcohol.

Foods To Limit Immediately After A 5 Day Fast

After a 5 day fast we should avoid:

  • Foods That Are Highly Processed
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • High FODMAP Foods

Avoid Foods That Are Highly Processed

We should avoid processed foods as much as possible while refeeding because they contain higher amounts of refined sugars and lots of sodium. 

Both sugar and sodium should be minimized because they increase our risk of refeeding syndrome by altering fluid levels and increasing our insulin response.

Avoid Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic Beverages

As I mentioned previously alcohol should be avoided at all costs when refeeding because it increases our risk of alcoholic ketoacidosis which can cause many harmful effects, with milder symptoms being: nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and hyperventilation.

To reduce our risk it’s better not to consume any alcohol until we’re back to our normal eating patterns and calorie intake.

Avoid High FODMAP Foods

To avoid any digestive discomfort while refeeding, it is best to keep our carbohydrate intake low and to avoid foods that are considered High FODMAP foods such as garlic, onion, some types of dairy, wheat, and legumes).

It is not unusual to experience symptoms of IBS (abdominal pain, diarrhea/constipation, bloating, discomfort) when refeeding, therefore we should focus on foods that are easier to digest until our digestive systems are back in action.

Refeeding After A 5 Day Fast: Sample Meal Plan

The following is a sample meal plan for an 80kg individual:

Refeed – Day 1:

Column 1Column 2
Supplement:Electrolyte Supplement
Calorie target (up to 12.5 cals/kg BW):1000 calories
Protein target (0.4-0.75 grams/kg BW):32-60 grams
Sodium:Under 1000mg
Water Intake: Minimal
Food Composition:Liquid

Sample Intake

Meal 1:

  • 3 cups low-sodium bone broth + MCT oil

Meal 2:

  • Protein Shake
    • Mix 2 scoops of protein + water

Meal 3:

  •  2 cups low-sodium bone broth + MCT oil

Note: Consuming MCT Oil with bone broth is better than taking it on an empty stomach.

Refeed – Day 2:

Column 1Column 2
Supplement:Electrolyte Supplement
Calorie target (14 cals/kg BW): 1120 calories
Protein target (0.4-0.75 grams/kg BW):32-60 grams
Sodium:Under 1000mg
Water Intake: Minimal
Food Composition:Liquid

Sample Day

Meal 1:

  • 3 cups low-sodium bone broth + 1 tbsp MCT oil

Meal 2:

  • Avocado Strawberry Smoothie
    • Blend: 1 scoop protein, ½ avocado, ½ cup strawberries, water

Meal 3:

  •  2 cups low-sodium bone broth + 1 tbsp MCT oil

Refeed – Day 3:

Column 1Column 2
Supplement:Electrolyte Supplement
Calorie target (17.5 cals/kg BW):1400 calories
Protein target (1.5-2 grams/kg BW):32-60 grams
Sodium:2000mg
Water Intake: Minimal
Food Composition:50% liquids, 50% solids

Sample Day

Meal 1:

  • 3 cups low-sodium bone broth + 1 tbsp MCT oil

Meal 2:

  • 4 oz steak
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • ½ tbsp olive oil

Meal 3:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup steamed Spinach + 1 tbsp olive oil

Meal 4:

  • Mixed Berry Avocado Protein Smoothie
    • blend 1 cup berries, ½ avocado, 1 scoop protein, water

Refeed – Day 4:

Column 1Column 2
Supplement:Electrolyte Supplement
Calorie target (at least 20 cals/kg BW):at least 1600 calories
Protein target (1.5-2 grams/kg BW):120-160 grams
Sodium:Under 2000mg
Water Intake: Moderate (~0.5 to 1 L)
Food Composition:Solids

Sample Day

Meal 1:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz brie or feta
  • 1 medium orange

Meal 2:

  • 4oz salmon
  • 1 cup steamed spinach
  • ½ cup cooked potatoes
    • Roasted with 1 tbsp olive oil

Meal 3:

  • 4 oz steak
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli + ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup white rice

Meal 4:

Refeed – Day 5:

Back to normal eating habits!

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?

Final Thoughts

It’s important to take the refeeding process seriously to ensure that we get the best results and keep ourselves safe as we return to normal eating. Although it does require some effort, it is well worth it in the end!

Check out our other refeeding articles:


About The Author

Amanda Parker
Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.