What is a Reverse Diet?
A reverse diet is the opposite of a typical diet. Instead of slowly reducing calories over several weeks to try and lose weight, a reverse diet has you slowly and methodically adding back the calories you’ve taken away, typically from carbs and Fat.
The goal of the reverse diet is to slowly get your nutritional intake back to maintenance levels or slightly above without gaining a whole bunch of Fat in the process. Adding back calories this way, in theory, should help stave off any negative metabolic adaptations you may have experienced when dieting.
It sounds simple enough, but like all things you do in the world of nutrition, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about it.
What a Reverse Diet Isn’t
A reverse diet is not a “bulk.” The goal of a reverse diet is not to gain back a bunch of mass after dieting; it does not mean stuffing your face with any and everything that has calories. A reverse diet is a slow and controlled approach to get your body back to baseline efficiency over time.
A reverse diet still involves tracking your intake. Although it may not be as carefree as eliminating any thought from the way you eat, it ultimately may be what’s best for you if you’re done with a weight cut and want to enjoy more calories — and thus higher performance in the gym.
Benefits of a Reverse Diet
Although it’s not guaranteed to work perfectly, reverse dieting can help you gradually return to a regular eating pattern after a period of aggressive dieting and allow you to keep working out.
You Get More Food
If you add calories to your diet, you’ll be able to eat more food. You can avoid gaining Fat by adding calories back into your diet slowly. This will also help improve your quality of life and mood.
If you cut back on the amount of calories you eat for a long time, it can be tough on your mental health. It can make you feel slow, exhausted, and crabby on occasion. If you’ve been dieting for a long time and are feeling stressed, reverse dieting may help you. This involves slowly increasing your caloric intake until you’re no longer in a deficit, which can help improve your mental state.
Steady Weight Gain
People often make the mistake of returning to their old eating habits after finishing a diet, which causes them to consume more calories. This typically results in rapid weight gain.
However, a diet that is planned in reverse can help you slowly and dependably increase your weight without such drastic changes on the scale. Making gradual and gentle changes to your diet will help you stick to any new dietary plan you want to try in the future, so don’t avoid making these changes.
Who Should Do a Reverse Diet?
A reverse diet isn’t suitable for everyone. If you only want to cut your calories for a short amount of time, then you don’t need to do a reverse diet. You probably don’t need to reverse your diet if you have successfully lost weight by reducing your soda and refined sugar intake. A reverse diet is a plan for people who have been eating very few calories for an extended period.
Bodybuilders/physique athletes would be wise to incorporate a reverse diet following their contest preparation. Some competitors consume very few calories to become very thin. If they consume fewer calories, their metabolism will slow down, and they will be more likely to gain weight after the show. A reverse diet can slowly add back calories and help minimize this problem.
Someone who has just completed a bodybuilding or physique competition is an ideal candidate for a reverse diet. To get stage-ready-lean, you need to eat fewer calories. This often happens simultaneously with a lower metabolism, which can lead to weight gain if you don’t carefully control how many calories you eat.
A reverse diet may be a good option if you tend to start and stop diets frequently. If you restrict and then indulge your diet, it can make it hard to figure out how many nutrients you need. A controlled diet in which you slowly increase your calorie intake over time can help you create a solid foundation to make better nutrition decisions.
Those On a Plateau
If you have been eating a minimal amount of calories for months and the scale has not moved, it is possible that you will not lose any more weight. If you are stuck at a weight loss plateau, taking a step back might help you to make progress.
Increasing your caloric intake gradually can improve your metabolism and mental well-being. Although a reverse diet may make your weight loss seem slower initially, you will lose more weight in the long term.
How to Set Up a Reverse Diet
If you’ve got some experience with shedding Fat for beach season or to make weight at a powerlifting meet, the process of a reverse diet should be quite intuitive. In essence, all you’re doing is retracing your steps. Here are those exact steps broken down for you.
Step 1. Determine How You’ll Track
Unfortunately, relying on your memory is not going to cut it. To successfully reverse your diet, you need to track your intake to properly account for what you ate on the day. Most nutritional tracking apps work fine and can provide additional helpful information, but whatever method you use to get down to your current weight will probably suffice.
Remember, though, that precision is critical. If you want to gain weight slowly and steadily without gaining any extra fat, you must monitor your calorie intake carefully. Make sure you track diligently.
Step 2. Figure Out Your Calories
If you’ve been following a diet, you likely know how many calories you’ve been consuming. However, tracking your calorie intake and average your body weight for a few weeks is essential to get an accurate picture of your diet and nutrition.
After you have figured out how many calories you are eating to maintain weight, you can add more food to help you gain weight. The goal is to increase your current intake by a minimal amount – some sources recommend a modest increase of 1-5%. This is your reverse diet.
If you need help figuring out how many calories you should eat, try using a calculator.
Step 3. Set Up Your Macros
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for those on a reverse diet because it helps maintain muscle mass and improve muscle growth. To determine how much Protein you should consume, calculate your weight in kilograms and multiply it by 1.8-2.4.
Dietary Fat is essential for healthy bodily function. Aim for 20-35% of your calories to come from Fat to ensure you get enough Fat in your diet.
The rest of the calories you have left should come from carbohydrates that will give you energy. However, there’s some flexibility here. You can change how much fat, Protein, and carbs you want as long as you meet the minimum requirements.
Ultimately, a sample reverse diet for an 80-kilogram athlete, whose maintenance calories are 2600 per day, could look something like this:
- Total Calories — 2730 (+5%)
- Total Protein — 176 grams (2.2g/kg)
- Total Fat — 75 grams (25% total calories)
- Total Carbohydrate — 337 grams (the remainder of available calories)
Step 4. — Evaluate and Monitor
The best way to keep track of your reverse diet is to weigh yourself daily and then average it over a week. If you notice you are gaining weight too quickly, you can adjust how much you eat.
To accurately monitor your progress using the scale, weigh yourself under similar conditions each time. The best time to weigh yourself is in the morning after using the restroom and before consuming food or water.
Use your performance in the gym and how you look in the mirror to guide your progress. If you consume more calories than you burn, you should see significant improvement in your strength-training performance, with only a small amount of additional Fat.
The Effects of Dieting
There’s more to dieting than just getting shredded. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve your quality of life. If you are overweight or have not been eating healthy, getting a handle on your nutrition can improve your health. Losing weight has been linked to better blood pressure, body composition, and life expectancy.
When you diet down for a bodybuilding competition, you not only improve your appearance but also improve your overall health. So long as you rebound correctly – a reverse diet is where this happens – you can improve your physical health and appearance.
How to Exercise While Reversing
The goal of reverse dieting is to increase your calorie intake while minimizing weight gain gradually. You can take steps to minimize weight gain while on a reverse diet by monitoring your calorie intake and exercising regularly.
First: Lift weights! By reverse dieting, you can gradually increase the amount of food you’re eating each week, which provides your body with more energy. You can then use that extra energy to push yourself harder when working out and build more muscle.
Your organs use much of your daily energy, and you can build metabolically beneficial muscle to help them. If you complete your workout routine with more calories and muscle, you will be very successful.
Second: Don’t lean on cardio to minimize weight gain! It’s tempting to add cardio to a reverse diet to keep up with the surplus, but this is counterproductive. If you’re looking to make the most out of the extra calories you’re taking in; resistance training is a better option than cardiovascular exercise. With resistance training, you can put those extra calories towards developing muscle, while with cardio, the calories are just burned up, and your metabolism won’t adapt. If you want to make the most of the reverse diet, you should aim to be in a slight surplus, and if you undercut this with cardio, you’re not going to get very far.
What To Do After a Reverse Diet
When you have successfully reversed your diet, what comes next? Do you begin another diet? Do you continue to track your intake forever meticulously? Well, that all depends.
If you have carefully monitored your food intake for a while, it may help you relax and focus on eating mindfully. It can benefit your mind and body to evaluate your satiety during meals, eat slower, savor your food, and eat your favorite treats in moderation.
If you’re interested in gaining muscle mass, you can do that, and if you’re interested in losing weight, you can do that too. The best part about the reverse diet is that it eliminates all the unhealthy food and lets you start fresh with new, healthier options.
In The End
It’s about finding an equilibrium that works for you. Reverse dieting is more about finding a way of eating that works for you rather than the magical effects it has on your metabolism.
Reverse dieting is about freedom. It will be very freeing to think that the best thing you can do for your body is to eat more food. This sounds like it would be a great way to live!
Reverse dieting is about control. Many of us have difficulty controlling our weight because we lack the discipline to stick to a diet or believe our bodies are genetically programmed to be overweight. We’re wrong. We’re just not setting ourselves up for success.
Reverse dieting is a way of success where so much has failed you. Doing something different is the only way to change something. Following another diet is not going to be the answer. It’s time to play it smart. What would you do to make Future You’s success possible? Invest in yourself.
And give it a try.