Reverse Dieting: Eat More and Maintain Weight
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just consuming more food and labeling it “reverse dieting” but this is a concept you can likely benefit from. Additionally, reverse dieting is not just another term for bulking. If you are finishing up with a contest prep or more likely have been consuming a restricted calorie diet for an extended period of time, chances are your metabolism is not in an ideal state and jumping straight into a bulking phase or simply just abandoning your calorie deficient diet can often lead to undesirable and increased fat gain. Utilizing the calculated concept of reverse dieting can help to improve your poor metabolism, provide more energy, a better state of mind, and keep you in a physically superior state of being. The goal of reverse dieting is to increase the volume of calories your body requires for maintenance aka, eat more and maintain the same body weight. If you read my earlier post on refeeding you had some exposure to the hormone leptin and its effects on the human body. Here again, in this situation you will be working with the natural response of your body to produce the desired outcome – eating more and staying the same weight.
The basic concept of reverse dieting is simple – slowly introduce more calories into your diet over time. However, the way in which you introduce those calories will be a little more calculated. Think about this – your body has adapted to survive on the calorie deficient diet you have been living on where it has coped by utilizing your fat stores for energy. Now if you jump straight into a bulking phase or drop off your diet completely, you are going to flood your system with a surplus of caloric energy. In response, your body is going to act as if it is raining money and being to store all those additional calories for later – you guessed it, in the form of fat. So how do we deal with this? – reverse dieting! Don’t believe me or want to read the more scientific version of that explanation: Adaptive changes in energy expenditure during refeeding following low-calorie intake: evidence for a specific metabolic component favoring fat storage and Effect of 6-Month Calorie Restriction on Biomarkers of Longevity, Metabolic Adaptation, and Oxidative Stress in Overweight Individuals.
Now, if you are coming from contest prepping or serious dieting, chances are you’re intimately familiar with your current maintenance calories and/or macro ratios. If you are just trying to fix your out of whack metabolism or simply have no idea what your maintenance calories might be, you may need to do a little work to figure them out. If you are really lost – email me as this will be part of my future planned personal health coaching.
When reverse dieting, you will slowly introduce more carbohydrates and fat into back into your diet. Protein in this case (even if you are going to be transitioning into a bulking phase) is not as important. You can keep your protein intake at 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight even as you increase your overall calorie consumption. This means that your macro ratio (comparison of protein, carbohydrates and fat) for protein will continue to drop as you increase your overall calorie intake.
At what rate do you introduce these additional calories? You will increase your carbohydrates 80-100 calories (or 20-25 grams) each week and adjust your fat intake so that it maintains 20-30% of your total food consumption. Remember, you are taking the scientific approach here so you will be taking measurements (your body weight) weekly to determine the affect of these added nutrients on your system – and adjust accordingly. The goal is to continue to increase the calories consumed without increasing the number on the scale. If the scale begins to move at the end of the week, throttle back the rate at which you are adding calories. Keep in mind this increase in consumption is not a temporary state for a short period of time as in refeeding, you are building up your maintenance calories.
After reverse dieting for a period of time you will come to a point where you have maxed out on the level at which you can increase your maintenance calories (without gaining weight). Unfortunately there is no logical calculation by which to determine this point – everyone is different and you will need to keep adjusting until you hit that mark. Once you are there and the world is at peace you have two choices to make: continue increasing your calorie consumption and begin bulking (aka adding muscle) or start back towards the way you came and drop body fat through a calorie deficient diet. With either option, it is wise to stay at your new maintenance calorie level for a period of time to give you and your body some homeostasis and a fresh point at which to start your new transition.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the term reverse dieting and you can choose to implement this method to help smooth your transition from losing weight to gaining muscle or to simply help level set your poor metabolism. Either way, this method helps you to eat more food and maintain your weight, which sounds like a win-win to me!
Need more nutrition help? Check out our Nutrition Calculator!