Reverse Dieting – Is It Magic?
What is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is a buzzword that has been getting mentioned a lot lately in the fitness space.
Reverse dieting has been around for a while. The term, reverse dieting, originated from bodybuilders and physique athletes who needed a better, more healthy way to come back from the periods of restriction when training for competitions.
It is used strategically to improve body composition. The goal is to minimize fat gain while increasing calories as much as possible.
Do you want to? Should you? Why? How? When?
As always, you need to decide for yourself. You need to think it through. Is it because all the cool kids are doing it? Is it because of FOMO? Or is it because you have chronically dieted the crap out of your body. Maybe you want to build some muscle, or maybe you are at a sticking point or more commonly called a plateau, if you will. Do you want to alleviate some hormonal issues? Do any of these sound like you?
A reverse diet is when calories are increased gradually over time following a diet phase or chronic under eating. That is one reason. There could be several reasons for reverse dieting.
Who should try a reverse diet?
Typically a reverse diet works well for someone who is already relatively lean, but want to be able to eat more and not gain fat.
A reverse diet can also work well for someone who lost a lot of weight and is mentally done and needs a break.
Below, I will give you more in depth examples of what to look for when you are wondering if a reverse diet is a good fit for you.
Reverse Dieting is a method that involves slowly and strategically increasing daily food intake, all in an effort to raise your metabolism.
I’m going to help you understand what it actually means to implement reverse dieting into your nutrition and fitness lifestyle.
What to consider before trying a reverse diet:
There are many factors to consider before implementing a reverse diet.
A checklist if you will. Important things to consider. Things such as your dieting history, your mindset for sure, your goals and your current stats.
Let’s start with dieting history. Oh boy, this can be eye opening. Are you a yo-yo dieter? Do you know that that means? It means you diet, then you quit, then you overeat and gain weight. Then you diet again. And so it goes. It’s a painful situation to be in and it can be very, very frustrating.
Are you brand new to dieting? If you are brand new to dieting, you probably don’t need to reverse diet for a while. You are going to get some great outcomes, because of the fact that you are brand new. Your body should respond greatly to dieting and you should be all good.
How long have you been dieting? How low did your calories go when you were dieting? There are a lot of factors and data points that come into play when you are deciding about reverse dieting. You may be coming from a place where your body has adjusted to low calories and you really should not be lowering those calories anymore. Your body is not really responding. This can also go hand-in-hand with the yo-yo dieting.
Next up, where is your headspace? Do you believe you can do a reverse? This can be super hard sometimes, especially if your relationship with your body is not so great. You might gain weight and you will be eating more. That can sometimes be difficult. What are your expectations? What about the things you should focus on during a reverse? Are you ready to focus on getting stronger and feeling better? Are you ready to see what you body can do instead of the age old – I want to be smaller and weigh less – mindset. Ask yourself if you are ready to do that?
Maybe you are sick and tired of of dieting. You are just done. Your willpower walked out on you and the “fuck-its” have moved in with you.
Maybe you have zip for energy, you don’t want to train, you are tired all the time, your sex drive drove away and your brain is foggy as fuck.
Because these things are happening to your body, a reverse diet could help with relieving your body of some of these crap things that are happening to it right now. A reverse, by slowly increasing calories, instead of all at once, could help you with that and help to minimize fat gain.
Those things, above, are good indicators that it may be time to try a reverse diet. But you need to ask yourself a few questions first.
Again, ask yourself if you will be okay with gaining some weight, because you probably will. Are you ready to focus on the big picture? Are you looking through the long lens?
When it comes to reverse dieting the following things are NORMAL:
- You may put on a little bit of body fat – totally normal.
- You will be eating more – totally normal and part of the process.
- You will get stronger and can definitely build muscle. Normal.
- You may look leaner as you add more food – this can be very normal.
Just remember, as always, every single person is different and every single person’s body can respond differently to a reverse diet. That is why as much information you have about your body and your dieting history you can bring to the table, can make all the difference in how to go about the process.
What about your goals? What are you trying to accomplish, physique-wise. Do you want to reverse and find your maintenance and then hang out there for a while before trying another fat loss phase? Are you trying to build muscle? Do you just need a mental break?
The process of reverse dieting should take some time. This is not quick thing. It’s strategically adding more food after you have been in a fat loss phase or you have been chronically under eating. How much time? There really isn’t a concrete answer there. If you reverse for 10-12 weeks, you may get some really good benefits. But at the same time even going longer can give your body a better chance to build your metabolism.
Why should you do a reverse diet?
The reverse diet can help someone reverse out of the negative things happening to the body when someone has chronically dieted. Someone whose body has adapted – the metabolism is slowing down to adapt to those lower calories and you want to now take your body out of that. Doing this slowly allows your metabolism to adapt to adding more calories over time. This allows your metabolism time to catch up. This is done slowly and steadily so things adjust. It’s the same principle of when we diet – slow and steady wins the race. Slow is sustainable. This method is sustainable.
Our bodies like to have energy and food gives us energy. So, in theory, when we are eating enough food (meaning getting to our maintenance), our bodies are happy. Things function pretty well. This is why we feel good here. When we chronically diet, our bodies are kind of unhappy and will definitely let us know.
How should you increase your calories on a reverse diet?
Now let’s get down to the how. How should you increase your calories/macros during the reverse phase?
And again, as always, the answer everyone loves to hate on —it depends. Yep, we are all different and this may take some experimenting, just like with anything we do to our bodies.
In order to set up your reverse diet you need to take a few steps. Find what your CURRENT maintenance calories are. Remember end of diet maintenance is different from the start of your diet phase. You can find that information at TDEE Calculator . Start there and then gradually increase your calories.
Something that works for me, is an increase of 3-5 fat grams and 15-20 carbs. I will usually do this for a few weeks to see how my body is responding. But, remember, your body might not like that. Sometimes increasing less than that, say around 60-80 calories per day works well for people. With my numbers that is around 85-125 calories. It’s still not crazy and seems to work well, for me.
Also remember when you are reversing you definitely should still be tracking all your food and keep track of your weight. You may also want to keep measurements and take pictures to see how your body is progressing. Again, the more data you collect, the better you will be able to assess. It’s not a magic potion. It still takes work and effort.
With your macros, you can keep your protein the same as it was before or you can decrease slightly if you want. Carbohydrates and fats can be how you prefer, but I like to keep the calorie hike to mostly carbs and a little bit of fat. That seems to work well for me.
It’s your body, it’s your rules, it’s in your control. Nancy Drew that shit and see what your body does. That really is the only way. You have to experiment and test and try. The more data you can collect, the better you will be able to assess what is happening with your body.
Reverse dieting isn’t some magic thing. It’s a way to put your body in a better position to be able to lose fat when you do go back into a fat loss phase. It can take a long time. Period. A person needs to be patient.
A reverse diet can help a person maintain weight loss and improve their metabolic rate over time. That is the beauty of reverse dieting. You can eat more food. Who wouldn’t want that. I certainly do.
Metabolic adaptation is your body’s response to less food. This causes your Basal Metabolic Rate to decline. You are usually more tired and working out can be a struggle. You expend less energy and your digestion slows.
Reverse dieting is good because that means your body can adapt in the other direction too. It’s very cool how amazing the human body is. It causes you basal metabolic rate to go up. Your work capacity can increase and your NEAT can also increase. Get that extra movement and steps in.
The results you may notice during a reverse diet:
When you are adding more food, you should start to notice better strength training sessions, because obviously more food equals more energy. You should start to get stronger and build more muscle. You don’t need a crap ton of cardio here either. If you get your normal steps in, say around 8 to 10 thousand, that really is all you need.
You won’t feel as restricted with your food because you will be eating more in general and you can fit in more of the treats you like. It’s easier to fit them in. I don’t know about you, but I love being less restrictive and more able to fit in things I love.
You should start to feel less grumpy, less hangry, more energetic, happier and overall healthier.
You can use the adaptation of the reverse to your advantage, you can see really good results. By really good results, I mean improving body composition. You want to lose fat and bring about that nice muscle mass.
Now the burning question, how long should you reverse diet?
You will keep adding calories every week until you start to see your weight moving out of maintenance and actually into a gain. Then you back off slightly and let your body become weight stable. That may mean your weight may fluctuate 3-5 pounds. Mine fluctuates around 3 pounds right now and I consider myself to be in maintenance. I have also seen where “they” say you should reverse for as long as you were in a deficit. So, let’s say you were in a true deficit for 12 weeks, then reverse out for 12 weeks. That is a general rule of thumb. But again, everyone is different. See how your body responds and also, check your mindset along the way as well.
That is how you reverse diet.
To recap the reverse diet process.
Find your current maintenance calories.
Break down what you want your macros to be.
Start tracking and assessing.
Add calories every week until your weight stays stable and to where you feel absolutely amazing.
Remember it’s a slow process. Keep it slow and steady.
Be patient. Your body will thank you.
If you have questions or need help with anything, please let me know. You can find me on my website here: Website. You can also find me on Instagram, on TikTok and I also have a Facebook Page PL Coaching