Tired of piling fat back on after all your efforts and hard work getting into the best shape of your life? Do you want to know how to keep fat off whilst getting back to normal eating levels? Then our reverse dieting guide is for you.
Effective dieting is tough. For any significant amount of weight loss, it can take months and months to shed the pounds. The sad truth is that most people that lose a significant amount of weight will gain most of it back again in much less time than it took for them to lose it in the first place.
The research behind the subject puts the actual figure at between 80% and 90% of all dieters. All those people will reach their original weight again after going through a diet. This isn’t because they don’t have enough will power, or even because they make really poor eating choice. It’s actually mostly because of the body’s metabolic adaptations during weight loss.
These adaptations make something called reverse dieting an essential step in any weight loss routine. Reverse dieting should be the last step after losing weight, and it’s a way to recondition your metabolism to help you avoid gaining the weight back.
Table Of Contents
- A Lower Basal Metabolic Rate
- The Thermic Effect of Food Becomes Less Pronounced
- Regular Activities Burn Fewer Calories
Why Your Body is Pushing You to Gain Weight
The human body is designed to put on weight incredibly efficiently. That’s the main reason that so many people are overweight today because we’re actually driven to put on as much weight as possible. It’s a survival adaptation designed to keep us from starving in times of famine.
Another important adaptation that the body goes through is a shift in its metabolism. As you stop eating as many calories as you need to maintain your current body weight, also known as your maintenance calories, or your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) your body adapts to slow your weight loss and help preserve your stored fat to make it useful for as long as possible. This adaptation occurs through a bunch of different changes in the body that all work together to help prevent you from burning calories.
You’ll start to go through a process known as Adaptive Thermogenesis, which slows your metabolism and lowers the number of calories you need per day. Not only does this make it harder losing weight as you diet, but it can complicate matters once you want to go back to eating your traditional amount of calories.
There are three different ways that your body reduces the number of calories you need on a daily basis, and it’s these adaptations that will make you gain back all that weight you’ve worked so hard to lose.
A Lower Basal Metabolic Rate
Your Basal Metabolic Rate is the baseline of how many calories your body needs each day. This is your fundamental caloric requirement and it goes down over time as you diet. This is one of the main reasons that after a good amount of dieting your weight loss progress slows dramatically and you’ll struggle to get much further without lowering your caloric intake further and losing muscle mass along with the fat. Your Basal Metabolic Rate drops down because of a series of hormonal adaptations that your body puts itself through as you lose weight. Hormones like leptin, testosterone and ghrelin are all adjusted due to your weight loss, and those changes will quickly cause you to stop using as many calories.
The Thermic Effect of Food Becomes Less Pronounced
Eating food raises your metabolism slightly as your body works to break it down and digest it. This is known as the Thermic Effect of Food or TEF. When on a long-term diet your metabolism won’t increase as much from food consumption alone. That means you’ll require slightly fewer calories throughout the day than you normally would which can lead to slight fat increases on its own and help to make the problem worse when combined with the other effects of long-term dieting.
Regular Activities Burn Fewer Calories
Part of the base calories that your body needs during the day come from what is known as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Doing things like walking around your house, going up the stairs to get to the office, or other short activities that aren’t very physically demanding will use fewer calories than they used to. With all these small losses to your body’s calorie burning potential throughout the day, your total calorie needs dip down just a little bit further.
Between all these slight changes your body is burning a significantly lower number of calories throughout the day than it once did by the time you’re finished dieting, and that’s why fat gain is so easy at this point. Once you’re finished dieting and you want to go back to eating at your everyday amount again, you have to be careful how you do it.
If you rush into eating your pre-diet number of calories your body will take a good portion of those calories and turn them back into fat, taking you away from your goals. Not to mention that you’ll probably give yourself an upset stomach by taking in far more food than you’re used to. This is where reverse dieting is so important. It’s a clever technique that helps reduce your fat gain while bringing your body back into a healthier balance.
Dieting Doesn’t Cause Permanent Changes to Your Metabolism
Many people that hear about how dieting will slow down your metabolism become alarmed at this information and believe they are doing irreversible damage to their body by going on a long-term diet. What’s important to remember is that your metabolism is simply adapting to the current situation and that the adaptations are completely reversible. A decrease in your metabolism is inevitable for any diet plan, as inconvenient as that is. That means you’ll have to work to lose those pounds as your weight loss slows more and more over time.
You can reverse the effects of dieting without gaining weight though, as long as you approach your post-diet program carefully. This is when reverse dieting becomes important and it’s something that you should add to every cut cycle that you have to make it as effective as possible.
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How Reverse Dieting Can Help
Reverse dieting is a way to ease your body away from its lower metabolism back to normal levels without putting on much fat in the process. To do this right you must ease the number of calories you are eating up each week until you reach maintenance levels once again. If you’re careful while going through this process it’s possible to restore your metabolism to its regular levels while avoiding most of the fat gain along the way. It does require some patience to do right, and you have to realize that you won’t be able to effectively bulk during this period either. It’s just something you have to deal with if you want to avoid gaining back all that weight you lost during your cut.
How to Put Yourself through a Reverse Diet
If you’ve been putting yourself through a caloric deficit for an extended period of time you will have to approach a reverse diet carefully to avoid gaining fat. Follow the below steps as you go through the process to reach your body’s maintenance calories.
You will find many variations of reverse dieting plans, with different ideas on how big the increases should be in calories, carbs and fat, but below are the guidelines that have worked for me and my clients every time.
- Maintain a 40% protein, 40% carb and 20% fat ratio on each calorie increase. For example, a 100 calorie increase will be made up of 10 grams of carbs, 10 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat.
- Increase your calories by 100 for the first week.
- Increase by 50 calories each week after that for a cautious approach (recommended for the first time), or maintain at 100 calorie increases for a more aggressive approach.
While going through this process, watch your weight gain carefully and decrease the rate that you’re adding calories on if you notice that you’re gaining too much weight. It’s important to go gradually enough that your metabolism can keep up with your body’s changes.
Generally speaking, a reverse diet will take around eight to ten weeks from start to finish before you’ve fully restored your body to maintenance calorie levels once again. Once you reach your maintenance calories you can move on to a lean bulk while trying to build muscle, just make sure you aren’t rushing the process at any point or you’ll put on far more fat than you want to.
Reverse Dieting Guide Example
John has been dieting down for 16 weeks and reached his goal of achieving a body fat percentage of just 8%. Well done John. But John has been here before and knows from experience that he can’t just shove a load of extra calories in day after day from this point. He has done this before and it ended in disaster. So John is going to attempt reverse dieting this time. He is looking to slowly increase his calories so he can start to lean bulk again.
Let’s say John finished his diet by eating a total of 1800 calories, 180 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbs and 40 grams of fat.
For someone attempting reverse dieting for the first time, I would always take a more cautious approach and increase calories by 50 each week. However, for the first week I will do an increase of 100 calories. An initial 100 calorie increase at the very beginning won’t have a negative effect plus it will make it easier to add some nice food in the beginning. This will act as a huge phycological boost and make the whole process easier to stick to.
Below is an exact plan I would give to John. With a cautious approach, this process could take anywhere up to 16 weeks but for the sake of this article, I am going to show you 8 weeks worth.
Starting Point – 1800 calories – 180g Protein – 180g Carbs – 40g Fat
Week 1 – 1900 calories – 190g Protein – 190g Carbs – 42g Fat
Week 2 – 1950 calories – 195g Protein – 195g Carbs – 43g Fat
Week 3 – 2000 calories – 200g Protein – 200g Carbs – 44g Fat
Week 4 – 2050 calories – 205g Protein – 205g Carbs – 45g Fat
Week 5 – 2100 calories – 210g Protein – 210g Carbs – 46g Fat
Week 6 – 2150 calories – 215g Protein – 215g Carbs – 47g Fat
Week 7 – 2200 calories – 220g Protein – 220g Carbs – 48g Fat
Week 8 – 2250 calories – 225g Protein – 225g Carbs – 50g Fat
Enjoying the Benefits of Reverse Dieting
There are several real benefits that come along with reverse dieting for you to enjoy. These things all help to make the experience less painfully than your actual dieting was, which should help you to be patient enough to make it through this process gradually. As you reverse diet you’ll get to enjoy more food, experience higher energy levels and start to enjoy your workouts more once again.
Enjoy Food Again
Reverse dieting is an opportunity to start enjoying the foods that you cut out of your diet to lose that weight. Sure, you’re only adding in a small number of calories each week, but those small increases should feel like treats for you to enjoy, so make the most of them by enjoying foods you had to cut out. I’m not saying to eat a whole tub of peanut butter, but you can eat that tortilla with your taco, or even a little sour cream because you have the extra calories to make use of now. Each week things will get a little better and you can treat yourself more and more.
A Major Energy Boost
Long-term diets are draining and they will make you feel more tired as you go along. You’ll likely grow more sluggish over the months without even realizing that it’s happening. When you start reverse dieting you’ll begin to perk up a bit and you’ll feel energized, more upbeat and just happier overall as a result. Reverse diet properly and it will become your favourite part of every diet routine.
Your Workouts Improve
Long-term calorie restricting diets eat at your strength and your energy, and that makes working out effectively difficult to do. During your reverse dieting period, your workouts should start to feel more satisfying. You’ll get stronger, have more energy available and can make some serious gains in the weight room.
All of these benefits make reverse dieting into a satisfying experience when it’s done right. The trick is balancing your progress and avoiding too many calories along the way so you can stay at your new body composition comfortably.
A Key Part To Reverse Dieting Is Weight Training
While you’re putting your body through its reverse diet, try and make sure you’re weight training for muscle gain. You likely won’t gain a significant amount of muscle during this period, but you can preserve your muscle mass and make small improvements along the way. Weight training helps to keep your body from putting on too much fat while increasing your caloric intake as well. Try and get in your regular lifts as you work back to your regular routine again. Sticking to a good steady weight lifting routine will help you start to make gains as you move to a maintenance level, or to a lean bulk while trying to put on muscle and gain strength.
Track Your Calories Carefully
Reverse dieting is a simple idea and an easy enough concept when you’re thinking about it abstractly, but it’s more difficult than you might realize to pull off. In order to go through a reverse diet effectively, you absolutely need to track your calories and your macros every single day. In my opinion, MyFitnessPal is by far the best app for tracking calories.
Make sure you’re getting just the right amount of protein, and that your caloric intake from fats and carbs are increasing by approximately the right amount every day. Count up every single calorie that you take in throughout the day, and write them all down on paper or track them using a fitness app tool.
If you slack at all during your reverse diet, it’s likely that you’ll miss your mark and you could end up gaining weight quickly or slowing down the process of bringing your metabolism back to normal levels if you aren’t careful. This is the most important part of your diet, focus, make sure you’re hitting your marks and you can bring yourself out of your diet without gaining much fat at all along the way.
Reverse Dieting Guide Key Takeaways
Reverse dieting is a relatively new concept, but it’s an exciting one and an answer to anyone that’s lost a bunch of weight only to gain it back again. Whether you’re a bodybuilder looking to go through a lean bulk phase successfully every time, or you’re just an everyday person trying to cut some weight and lead a healthier life, knowing how to reverse diet will help your progress along the way. Keep these ideas in mind when you’re trying to get back to your regular diet and you should do just fine.
- Reverse dieting is an incredibly powerful tool that should be used after every single diet
- If you instantly go back up to your maintenance calories after a long period of dieting you will undo all your hard work and gain an incredible amount of fat back
- Start your reverse diet with a slightly larger jump in calories. I recommend 100 calories.
- Each additional jump should be much smaller. I recommend 50 calories increases each week
- Keep protein, fats and carb ratios consistent throughout each increase. I recommend 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fats
- It’s incredibly important to keep to a solid weight training program throughout the reverse dieting process. Check out this awesome weight training program here.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article here at BFG Muscle. What’s your take on Reverse Dieting? Have you tried it before? Have any other question? Please don’t hesitate to comment below.
Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.