Reverse dieting can be the difference between maintaining your fat-loss progress, versus gaining it all back with a vengeance. For the benefit of your health and happiness you should not stay on such low calories for too long. The biggest downfall that many people face after a hard fat-loss phase is a diet rebound. This is where they suddenly increase their calories too dramatically and gain the kilos back on. The cause of this is either a ‘screw it’ attitude after getting fed up of feeling hungry, or the lack of an exit strategy. Click here for an overview of dieting exit strategies.
A reverse diet is where you slowly increase your calories to a maintenance level after being in a calorie deficit. You see how your body responds on a week by week basis and make small adjustments when necessary. You will minimize fat gain by very gradually increasing your consumption as your metabolism starts to recover from dieting. There is less metabolic active tissue when you lose a substantial amount of weight. Your metabolism slows down as a result of this. Therefore, a diet rebound is inevitable if you increase your calories too fast.
You can also implement a reverse diet during the course of a longer fat-loss phase. For example, if you were to diet hard for 8 weeks you could temporarily increase your calories from weeks 8-10. From weeks 10 onward you would revert back into a calorie deficit so that you trigger more fat-loss. Your levels of leptin (appetite controlling hormone) and testosterone can recover during the increased calorie period. Once you return back to your calorie deficit your output in the gym should be better and your metabolism would be boosted.
There’s not just the physical benefits of reverse dieting, there is also an important psychological one too. It can be motivating to have a structured plan in place after your diet. By avoiding that initial rebound effect it can spur you on to keep control of your healthy lifestyle.
It takes a lot of discipline to control your food intake even after the main diet phase is over. However, you will be glad you had a plan because throwing away all of that hard work is very demoralizing. Believe me, I’ve had weeks of binge eating after a physique competition and I strongly regretted it! My six pack turned into a one pack within a week.
I would recommend slowly increasing your calories by 100-200 for the first week after a diet. At the end of each week analyse any body shape changes. If you haven’t gained any noticeable fat then you can start to increase your calories even more. Initially increase your calories from carbohydrates. Slowly over time add in more dietary fats as your body gets used to a higher food intake. To learn more about the role that carbs and fats have on our body composition – Click here
It’s likely that your protein was relatively high during the fat-loss phase. This would most likely be due to the high thermic effect and muscle preservation benefits that dietary protein has. So as your calories start to build back up to a maintenance level, you will not need to increase your calories from protein. You may even consider reducing it eventually.
Everyone will need a slightly different approach when it comes to a reverse diet. Having a coach to guide you can be very beneficial. There will also be some trial and error to find an optimal reverse diet for yourself.
Start planning your reverse diet as seriously as your actual diet!
Written by Coach Rishi Haria