What is Reverse Dieting and Is It Necessary?
Reverse dieting is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the opposite of dieting for weight loss.
For weight loss, we create a caloric deficit and slowly reduce our calories over time.
With Reverse Dieting, after we’re done losing weight, we reverse out of the diet by slowly increasing our caloric intake until we’re no longer in a deficit.
Reverse Dieting may not be 100% necessary but as a coach, I always recommend reverse dieting for most people.
Did you know that over 95% of people who lose weight gain it back within a short time? In fact, many also regain more weight than what they started with.
I have experienced this myself. The first time I tried losing weight was when I was about 13 years old. I was weighing about 220 pounds / 100 KG at the time.After I lost about 40 pounds, I started eating normally again and stopped exercising. I ballooned back up to 275 pounds.
Ultimately, I was able to lose over 125 pounds and keep it off for over 6 years.
Learn How I lost a 125 Pounds
As a coach, I believe that reverse dieting can help prevent weight regain in a lot of people.
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What Happens at the End of Your Diet?
1. Hunger Levels are High
Managing hunger on a diet is crucial for weight loss success. At the end of the diet, our hunger levels are at the highest.
Since we’re essentially starving our selves in order to lose weight, our bodies sense this lack of energy coming in and increase our hunger levels to prevent us from starving.
The 2 main hormones responsible for this are Leptin and Ghrelin.
Leptin is produced by the body in the fat cells. The more fat you have, the higher your leptin levels will be. When you lose weight, your fat cells shrink in size. Thi signals the body that you have less energy coming. The body compensates by reducing its energy output and increasing hunger levels.
Ghrelin is often referred to as “the hunger hormone”. Your body produces more ghrelin when your stomach is empty. When dieting, our food intake will be lower than usual. This will signal your body to produce more ghrelin, which makes you hungry.
Leptin and Ghrelin are inversely related.
Weight Loss: Leptin/Satiety is Low and Ghrelin Hunger is High.
Weight Gain: Leptin Satiety is High and Ghrelin/Hunger is Low
This time is very sensitive because many people end up binging and gaining weight in the process.
2. Willpower is Low.
I’ll be completely honest with you. Even though some people say that I’m extremely motivated, there have been times when I’ve binged on my diet.
As a Coach, I can tell you that this happens to the best of us.
Willpower is a limited resource. Since we’ve been dieting for a long time, our willpower is drained.
If we take off the controls on our diets completely, it’s very easy to overeat and gain back a lot of weight. Many people often feel really guilty for binge eating and end up trying to rectify it by starving themselves. In some extreme cases, people can even become
In some extreme cases, this can lead to eating disorders such as Bulimia.
3. Stress Levels are High
Dieting and losing weight is stressful. When we workout hard in the gym and don’t eat enough calories, our stress levels increase. When we’re under stress, our bodies produce hormones such as cortisol, which can make you hungry.
All of us are prone to breaking under the stress. Just like willpower, we have a limited stress tolerance. Stress from all sources including your job, school, relationships, training, and dieting add up.
That is why Stress Management is so important.
Since stress levels are higher when you diet, it’s a good idea not to change things too rapidly. It may be better to make small adjustments over time. If you end up overeating, it can cause unnecessary stress.
Losing a significant amount of weight takes a lot of hard work. If we increase our calories suddenly, our weight on the scale will also jump up because you may be depleted.
Even though there may not be any fat gain, your body weight can go up because of increased glycogen, water, food volume etc. This can freak some people out, especially since they’ve worked so hard to lose this weight.
4. Motivation levels are low.
You’ve achieved your goals. You feel a sense of accomplishment. After dieting, you don’t have a concrete goal to look forward to. This is when it is very easy to fall off the diet and regain a lot of weight.
In my experience, when you set clear goals , it is easier to stick to your plan. After weight loss, people usually don’t set new goals. This is when it’s very easy to get off track.
Instead, you can set reverse dieting goals. This will still provide you some structure week to week.
5. Slower Metabolic Rate
When dieting, our metabolic rate slows down a bit. A lighter person simply needs fewer calories than a heavier person.
For example, a 300-pound person could easily require over 4000 calories to maintain his/her body weight. A 200-pound person will require far fewer calories and a 150 lb person will require even fewer calories.
Even at the same weight, a person who has dieted down will have a slower metabolic rate than a person who is naturally at that weight. This has a lot to do with hormones such as Leptin and your Thyroid amongst others.
When you’re done dieting, you don’t know what your true metabolic rate is. Reverse dieting will allow you to slowly raise your calories up to your current metabolic rate.
6. Lower Energy Levels
While losing weight, one of the main reasons why you burn fewer calories is that your activity levels drop. This is known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) In an attempt to conserve energy, you may have noticed that you’re lazier than you used to be.
In an attempt to conserve energy, you may have noticed that you’re lazier than you used to be. You may end up using the elevator instead of the stairs. You may find yourself sitting more than usual.You may start walking slower.
Some people respond very quickly to increased calories whereas others respond slowly. When some people are given extra calories, their bodies just do burn off all the extra energy.
If you are/were significantly overweight, chances are that you are not one of them. As you increase your food intake slowly, your body will start expending more energy over time.
All of these factors combined are a recipe for rapid weight gain.
How to Reverse diet
Reverse Dieting is pretty simple to understand. You want to increase your calories slowly and monitor your weight over time.
Step 1: Estimate your maintenance calories
After losing weight, you will have to calculate your new maintenance at your new body weight.
Use the calculator below to get an estimate.
Important: These numbers are only estimates. At the end of your diet, your metabolism will be a bit suppressed due to the different metabolic adaptations that take place.
The number you got above should be your long-term target in terms of maintenance calories.
Step 2: Slowly increase your calories
Instead of going straight to maintenance calories, with reverse dieting, we increase calories gradually.
For example, using the calculator above, let’s assume that the number we got was 2500 calories.
Let’s assume that we ended our diet while eating 1800 calories.
Instead of going from 1800-2500 (700 extra calories), you can add in ~100 calories.
Based on your preferences, you can increase your calories either a little bit slower or a bit faster.Assuming that you eat enough protein already, most of the calories you add in should come from Carbohydrates and some calories from Fats.
- 1 Gram of Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
- 1 Gram of Fat = 9 Calories
You can add 15 Grams of Carbs and 5 Grams of Fats which is about 105 calories.
Step 3: Monitor your Body Weight and Measurements
When you add in calories slowly, your body weight shouldn’t fluctuate too much. Make sure to weigh yourself under the same conditions to keep it consistent.
I like to weigh myself in the morning, without eating or drinking anything and after using the bathroom.
Keep in mind that your body weight fluctuates naturally every day. Don’t be alarmed by this. Instead, try to weigh yourself every day and take weekly averages of your weight. You can then compare your average weigh-ins week to week.
There are many apps that can do this. I like to use an app called Rec-Style.
Reverse Dieting Protocol
After your diet ends:
Week 1: Add ~100 Calories. Monitor Average Weight for the week.
- If weight stays about the same +- 1 pound, add 100 calories
- If weight goes up by more than 1 pound, don’t add calories
- If weight goes down by more than 1 pound add 100-200 calories
Week 3: Repeat the protocol until you’ve reached your maintenance calories.
If you want to gain weight, you can add in, even more, calories slowly until you’re gaining weight at the appropriate rate.
Reverse Dieting Without Counting Calories?
Many people who count calories for weight loss, don’t want to continue counting calories after they’re lost weight.
This is completely understandable. I would still encourage that you keep track of your calories because it will help keep you accountable.
If you don’t feel like counting calories or your macronutrients, you can try the following:
- Increase portion sizes slightly from week to week
- Add in an extra snack or a meal
- Replace some low-calorie foods with more calorie dense foods
You should still make sure to eat enough protein and dietary fiber. Most of your calories should come from minimally processed foods such as lean sources of protein, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.
Reverse Dieting With Cardio
There are 2 ways of creating a caloric deficit for weight loss:
- Eat Less
- Increase activity to burn more calories
Many times, we may end up doing a lot of cardio to create a caloric deficit. If you wish to cut down on your cardio after weight loss, you can follow the same protocol as reverse dieting.
Simply reduce cardio slowly until you’re doing it minimally. I would still recommend doing some cardio as it has a lot of health benefits.
On the other hand, if you don’t do any cardio, you can add in some cardio, which will allow you to eat more food. I usually recommend HIIT Cardio because it is a great way to burn a lot of calories in a short time.
Can Reverse Dieting Help Speed Up Metabolism?
It can. Eating more calories, in general, can help increase your metabolic rate. As we talked anout earlier, we burn fewer calories when losing weight because of reduced food intake. The opposite is true when more energy is coming in. When you eat more, your energy levels also improve.
With reverse dieting, you’re adjusting and matching your caloric intake to your metabolic rate. Basically, you’re trying to raise your calories at the same rate as your metabolism speeds up.
If you want to raise your metabolic rate while reverse dieting, make sure that you’re strength training and trying to gain muscle.
Learn How to Boost Metabolism
Can Reverse Dieting Help Lose Weight?
While reverse dieting is not meant to help you lose weight, many people report looking leaner while reverse dieting.
This is usually because:
- You may still be in a small deficit while reverse dieting
- Your metabolism starts to speed up quickly
- Your activity levels may increase because of increased food intake
- Your muscle glycogen levels are replenished, which makes you look leaner
- You regain any lost muscle mass
Even if you may not lose weight while, Reverse Dieting, it can help set you up for losing more weight in the long-term.
If you’ve been dieting for a long time, your metabolism is probably a bit slower. Your energy levels may be low and your performance in the gym may also have been affected.
If you reverse diet for a few weeks, this will help you reverse some of the metabolic adaptations. At this point, if you start dieting again, you will find it a bit easier to get back into it after giving your body a short break.
Reverse Dieting is the opposite of dieting for weight loss. Instead of reducing calories over time, we increase calories after we’re done dieting.
- Metabolic rate is slower
- Hunger Levels are high
- Willpower is low
- Stress Levels are high
- Motivation is low
- Energy levels are low
All of these factors can lead to unnecessary weight regain.
That is why Reverse Dieting can help you to have structure after weight loss.
You can start by adding about 100 calories to your weight loss diet per week while monitoring your body weight.
If you’re gaining weight too fast, you could add fewer calories. If you’re not gaining weight or even losing weight, you can add in even more calories.