Is it time for you to start reverse dieting?
What if I told you that if you take one step back with dieting, it’s going to allow you to take two steps forward. But more importantly, it’s going to set you up to lose even more fat in the long run. This is the concept of reverse dieting.
Now you might be wondering, is it right for me? Should I do it? What are the benefits of doing this? How do you do it properly?
Reverse Dieting EXPLAINED
I gotta admit. It took me a hot minute to wrap my head around the concept of reverse dieting.
The whole idea about dieting is to eat less to lose weight. And I talk a lot about this on my channel that one of the side effects of dieting is that it slows down your metabolism. Because the human body is an adaptation machine.
That’s where reverse dieting comes in. It’s the exact opposite. You eat more in order to build muscle which does increase your weight. Because muscle weighs more than fat. But in turn, one of its benefits is it increases your metabolism.
This is why I always say that muscle is the key driver of your metabolism.
The biggest benefit of reverse dieting for most people is the freedom you get when it comes to food. And being able to be free from the restrictive mindset that most people are in.
Because we’re all constantly told that in order to lose weight and stay lean, you need to cut calories. You need to eat as little food as possible.
That mindset has been ingrained in our heads for decades now.
But going through a reverse diet cycle and speeding up your metabolism. Being able to eat an extra 500 calories for example to maintain your weight can just drastically change how you look at food, your relationship with food, how you view health, your body, and exercise.
It can also help balance your hormones. If you’ve been following my channel, you’ll know how important balancing your hormones are when it comes to your health.
If you’re struggling to lose those last 5-10 lbs and you’ve already drastically cut your calories. You’re barely eating anything. Doing a reverse diet cycle will you get to the point where your new calorie deficit might now be your old maintenance calories. And it just makes it so much easier to lose those last few pounds.
How do you do a reverse diet? You slowly increase your calories while doing heavy resistance training. While making sure you’re getting enough protein. And I’m going to break this down in further detail in a second here.
By the way, I just want to get ahead of this, this does not give you the green light to let yourself go and freestyle your diet. You’re still eating a proper diet. You’re just methodically upping your calorie intake.
You can’t go YOLO with food and just say you’re “reverse dieting.” The only thing you’re reversing is any good you’ve done so far with your weight loss efforts.
Why you need to start reverse dieting
The ultimate goal if you reverse diet properly is a faster metabolism. You get to eat more to maintain your weight.
For example, if you’re maintaining your weight at 1700 calories right now. You can reverse diet and maybe be able to maintain your weight on 2000 calories.
The question then becomes, is reverse dieting right for you? Do you need to do it?
It depends. I’m going to give you a few criteria and maybe you’ll fit in one of them.
Number one, if you want to increase your general level of happiness? You should reverse diet.
Number two. If your maintenance calories are very low that you’re at a point where you can’t fit in enough nutrient dense food that contains all the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients to keep your body healthy and functioning properly.
You get to a point where you’re nutrient deficient. You should reverse diet in that case.
Number three. You feel deprived, you’re hungry, and you’re not satiated on the amount of calories you’re eating to maintain your weight.
If you already feel this way to maintain your weight, you are going to be fighting a losing battle. It’s going to be very hard to maintain your weight. Because you’re going against your physiology.
This sets you up for massive binging. It sets you up to have a bad relationship with food. Because you feel restricted even though you’re eating what you’re “supposed” to eat.
Number four. You just want to be able to eat more and still maintain your weight. You want to be able to have the occasional treat and not stress about how many calories are in that cheesecake. Having a faster metabolism makes that possible.
Number five. You want to lose weight but you’ve cut your calories way too low. Let’s say your maintenance calories is at 1500 calories. But if you go on a 500 calorie deficit to lose a pound a week, you’re going to have to eat 1000 calories a day. That’s not a lot of food. That’s not good for you in the long run.
But if you reverse diet for a couple of months and get your TDEE up to 1800 calories, you’re going to have a lot more wiggle room to play with.
TDEE stands for total daily energy expenditure, in case you’re wondering. It’s an estimation of how many calories you burn per day when exercise is taken into account.
Number six. You should consider reverse dieting if you’ve been dieting for a while. If you’ve been hard core dieting for a while, you’ve been restricting your calories for a long time without going back up to maintenance. Then it might be a good idea to take a break from dieting.
Doing a reverse diet to get your metabolism back up to where it should be to be healthy is extremely important to your long term success and your overall sanity.
Number seven. You want to do a lean bulk. You want to add muscle while minimizing fat gain. That’s the dream. You’re slowly adding lean muscle mass without putting on too much body fat at the same time.
I’m personally reverse dieting right now for that last reason. I want to do a lean bulk. I’m a competitive olympic weightlifter. That’s my background.
I’m not competing right now. But I want to get stronger. I’m also doing Muay Thai and I’d like to pack more power to my kicks and punches.
I also just want to go on a bit of a diet break. I want to increase my level of happiness which is criteria number one. Also, I want to speed up my metabolism so I can eat more to maintain my weight.
I’m currently lifting 4 days a week and I do Muay Thai 5 days a week. I probably have to slow down on training a little bit. I love it, don’t get me wrong. My body just feel broken 90% of the time.
And I feel like if my tiny frame can pack a little bit more muscle, it can hold up to training a lot better.
I think I’m at around 1700 calories at maintenance right now and I’d like to be able to eat 2000 calories and maintain my weight even if I dial down my training a little bit. That’s my goal.
How to do reverse dieting properly
So, how do you reverse diet properly?
Well, first I just want to say that reverse dieting is different for everyone. Because human beings come in different shapes and sizes. But let me give you some guidelines.
The prerequisite is that you need to use a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal. Because you can’t control what you can’t measure. You should check out this video if you want to know how to use it properly.
The first step is you need to slowly increase your calories every week. Yes, you want to be able to eat more. But you don’t just want to go from 1700 calories, which is my maintenance calories, to 2200 calories right away.
Your body won’t know what to do with all those extra calories. It’s just gonna store it as fat. You have to do this gradually and teach it how to use more calories little by little.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to increase your calories by 50-250 calories every week.
The range is there for a couple of reasons. If you’re like me and you want to do a lean bulk. You want to do it properly without adding a ton of excess body fat. I would stick to the lower end of that range, around 50-100.
But if you’re someone who’s been on a deficit for months. You’re eating less than 1000 calories every day. You’ve probably messed up your hormones. If you’re a girl for example and you stopped getting your period. That’s a big sign you’ve gone too far.
You’re always hungry, you’re tired and you have no energy, you’re irritable, and you have these sudden mood swings. Then you might be okay being in the higher end of that range. Feel free to add at least 150-200 calories every week.
Do that initially for let’s say a month then you can start to taper off to just 50-100 calories moving forward.
This also depends on your size. If you’re a big human being. You’re 6’6” for example, you can definitely start on the higher range.
If you have no idea where you’re at and you don’t want to run the risk of putting on a ton of fat, just stick to the lower range and go from there.
Again, let me remind you. This does not give you the license to start adding junk to your diet. You still need to eat a proper diet.
The KEY for reverse dieting to work
The second step, and this is the key to reverse dieting, is you need to lift heavy. You need to give your body the signal that it needs to build more muscle.
When you lift, the last couple of reps of whatever exercise you’re doing needs to be hard. Focus on good mechanics, obviously, and don’t hit failure.
And do compound movements. Focus on the squat, deadlift, overhead press, pull up, and plank. Doing compound movements is the most efficient way to build muscle. Because it utilizes your entire body instead of isolation movements where you’re just focusing on one muscle group at a time.
Again, I mentioned this earlier, muscle is the key driver of your metabolism. Your metabolism goes up when you reverse diet because you’re building muscle through lifting.
Because muscle is a very energy expensive tissue. It takes a lot of energy to build muscle and it also takes a lot of energy to maintain it. So as you gradually eat more, those extra calories will be used towards building and maintaining muscle mass.
Again, that’s why lifting heavy is key when it comes to reverse dieting. If you don’t lift heavy. If you don’t send a signal to your body that it needs to build muscle, the extra calories you’re eating don’t really have a place to go. It’s just gonna go to your butt, thighs, and belly.
The third step is make sure you’re eating enough protein. Again, this is why you need to track your macros to do this properly. Your goal is to get a minimum of 0.7 grams per pound of lean body mass. If you’re super active, you can bump that up to 1 gram per pound of lean body mass.
The fourth principle is addition by subtraction. And I’ve made tons of videos why this shouldn’t be your main form of exercise to begin with. But if you’re doing a ton of cardio, if you’re doing it 5-6 days a week, you need to slow that down to once or twice a week.
I’m talking about traditional cardio like running, cycling, the elliptical, rowing, or even group fitness classes where the main focus is doing HIIT every day.
Replace those days with heavy lifting sessions instead. Why? Because lifting is anabolic. It sends a signal to your body through testosterone and growth hormone to build. While running is catabolic. You’re sending a signal to break down.
How do you know if reverse dieting is working properly?
Next, how do you know if your reverse diet is working? You’ll know that it’s doing its job when you see your lifts start to go up. If you’re gaining a little weight. The good kind of weight, obviously. That means you’re putting on muscle.
There’s also non scale victories like if your mood and sleep quality is improving, you have more energy and you’re not as irritable, your hormones are being balanced and you don’t get “hangry” as much, or any positive sign that your health is improving. Like getting your period back if you’re a girl. That’s a sign that it’s working.
Now, just like with a lot of things, there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to reverse dieting. Keep increasing your calories until you get to a point where you’re happy with the amount you’re eating within reason.
If I eat 4000 calories every day, that’s not reverse dieting anymore. I’m just letting myself go at that point. There’s obviously a fine line.
If you’re a recovering serial dieter, you’ve been on a calorie deficit for a long time, you can just stop when you reach a point where your maintenance calories should be.
After a month or two, you hit a different kind of plateau where you’re not getting any stronger and you’re just getting fat. Then that’s the sign that your body has reached a new set point.
You can even start a mini cut. But now, you’ve got the added boost of a higher metabolism.
Watch out for the weight scale
One last thing I want to mention is the almost inevitable thing that comes with reverse dieting and that is weight gain. You need to be able to wrap your head around that fact.
This is why I always say that you shouldn’t always be attached to the number on the scale. Because not all of that weight is going to be fat. Remember, you’re also going to be putting on muscle in this process.
So you have to play the long game here. You have to think long term. If you manage to speed up your metabolism, you’re still setting yourself up future success.
For example, if you gained a little bit of weight for the next two months. But you also manage to increase your metabolism by 500 calories, you’re gonna be able to shed that excess weight a lot faster because you just have more to work with because of your increased metabolism.
What I’m trying to say here is that your happiness and sanity shouldn’t always be tied to whatever number it shows on the scale. You’re so much more than that. Do this because you love your body, not because you hate it.
Focus on the non scale victories you get from reverse dieting like more energy, better sleep, better cognitive function, fewer mood swings, and getting to eat more food.
How much better is it gonna feel going out for dinner with your family and not stressing about dessert knowing that you’ve increased your metabolism and the added peace of mind that you’re gonna be okay. You can eat that cheesecake.
Focus on that awesome feeling of having that tight and toned look because you’ve put on some muscle. You can do things you’ve never done before. You’re a more functional human being. You’re now super human.
But more importantly, focus on the long game. You’re taking one small step back with reverse dieting, in order to take two giant steps forward.
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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