What is Reverse Dieting?
What is reverse dieting?
A reverse diet is the process of slowly adding calories to your calorie intake. This nutrition strategy is commonly used to help reverse any metabolic adaptations that occur when we diet. Metabolic adaptations occur the longer someone diets, the lower calorie that person dieted on, and several other factors. If you’ve been an avid yo-yo dieter in the past, you may notice it gets harder and harder to not only lose the weight, but to keep it off – that’s one of many examples of metabolic adaptation occurring.
Who is it for? Why would someone want to do a reverse diet?
A reverse diet would benefit anyone who may fall under the following categories:
- someone who has recently finished a weight loss program and/or wants to rebuild their metabolism
- someone who completed a bodybuilding or physique show or contest
- yo-yo dieters and/or constantly overfeeding then restricting (binging)
- someone who has dieted for a long period of time, who’s weight loss has plateaued and/or someone on such low calories they are no longer seeing results
Congratulations, you finished your dieting phase – but now what? More often then not, people will go back to eating the way they normally would overnight and likely experience a surge of rapid weight gain in the following weeks/months post diet. This is a prime example of why reverse dieting is critical and what I like referring to as the diet after the diet. Metabolic adaptations occur during and after a period of calorie restriction. You’ve likely hit plateaus in the past – this is an example of our metabolism adapting. When this occurs, we need to continue dropping calories or increasing our exercise, or a combination of both. Our body adapts to the lower calorie intake by slowing down our metabolic processes in order to conserve energy. Our bodies do not like being in a caloric restrictive state.
How should I begin a reverse diet?
In order to prevent as much body fat regain as possible in a post diet phase, it is critical to reverse diet. Having a structured plan in place as well as an appropriate increase in calorie intake will be essential for keeping the weight off that you worked so hard to lose. How you should begin a reverse diet will depend largely on where you ended your dieting phase aka how low your calories are – this will be your starting point. I always suggest taking a conservative approach in the beginning stages of a reverse diet. You can begin a reverse diet by adding in anywhere from 5-10% carbs and fats; a 5% increase will be more conservative and a 10% increase will be a bit more aggressive. Keep track of your daily weigh ins to see how your weight is responding to the addition of calories and make adjustments accordingly. You may have to experiment for a couple days before you find out what’s realistic for you. Dietary adherence will be the most important to ensure this process is successful for you in the long run.
Things to consider during a reverse diet
You will likely regain some body fat and weight during this process, so expect that. However, remember – how fast or slow you reverse diet will determine how much weight you put back on in the process. This will largely depend on how patient you are to eat more food (the faster you add additional calories, the quicker you will regain body fat), how long you dieted for, etc. It’s also really important to keep in mind that implementing a reverse diet is an investment towards your long term health and fitness goals. Focusing on the big picture vs the short term goals will help you stay accountable and patient during this process.