What Is Reverse Dieting Bodybuilding

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What is a Reverse Diet, and how does it work?

 What is a Reverse Diet, and how does it work?

Although the term “reverse diet” isn't found in any dictionary, it's a term used in the bodybuilding and competitive weightlifting communities (aka "bro-science") to describe a period following a calorie-restricted eating protocol in which you gradually increase calories back to a maintenance level. Athletes can recover their metabolisms and increase calorie intake with minimal increase in body fat by following this strategy and assessing progress weekly and tracking increases in body fat in comparison to lean muscle mass.

"An extremely low-calorie diet is not sustainable for long-term health, happiness, or function for the vast majority of people."

The reverse diet is based on the idea that the athlete's metabolism adapts to run more efficiently after long periods of restricted caloric intake. The athlete can operate at a lower energy expenditure and burn fewer calories as a result. If proper dietary adjustments aren't made to account for this slowed metabolism, the body will store the extra calories as fat.


What Makes You Want to “Reverse” Your Diet?

A reverse diet is beneficial for a variety of reasons. After a long period of weight loss, the most common goal is to restore calories (and strength) to a healthy and sustainable level. A reverse diet can – and, in my opinion, should – be implemented to gradually increase food intake to a maintenance level, whether you are a bodybuilder who has implemented a restricted diet to achieve low levels of body fat, a competitive athlete who has cut calories to qualify for a weight class, or someone who has simply been on an extended weight-loss plan for aesthetic benefit. Maintaining an extremely low-calorie diet is not sustainable for the majority of people's long-term health and happiness.

When dieting, a reverse diet can help you lose weight faster and avoid hitting a fat-loss plateau. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this strategy can help restore essential metabolic hormones like T3, testosterone, and leptin, which have been depleted by prolonged dieting. 1 Small and calculated increases in calorie intake can often cause the metabolism to adapt, resulting in an increase in metabolic output and thermogenesis. Increased energy input allows the individual's metabolism to burn more calories as a result of the incremental increases in calories.


"By increasing calories in small, calculated increments, the metabolism is often able to adapt to the increase, resulting in an increase in metabolic output and thermogenesis."

Finally, a reverse diet may be used to increase a person's metabolic capacity and stretch their ability to consume calories while maintaining their current weight. The ability to increase the body's metabolic capacity when an individual is already consuming enough energy to maintain bodyweight has received little research, but if successful, the benefits would be similar to those of a “bulk” diet (when an individual consumes more calories in order to increase strength and muscle mass). Aside from that, moderate calorie increases and regular evaluations would aid the athlete in avoiding unwanted body fat.


The Advantages of Reverse Dieting

The ability to avoid the dreaded post-diet rebound is the most obvious benefit. You know, the one where you reach your weight-loss goal and then stuff your face for weeks until your socks are too tight to wear. A reverse diet allows your metabolism to re-ignite and catch up to the surplus calories by gradually increasing calories. If you introduce too many calories too soon, your body will attempt to store these calories for the next time you put it in a calorie deficit. This can result in rapid weight gain and possible metabolic damage in the long run.

The psychological advantages of reverse dieting are enormous. It is less likely that you will experience the rapid weight gain and discomfort that often leads to depression and body dissatisfaction if you control yourself and have a structured post-diet plan. The reverse diet's goal is to increase calories while losing weight as little as possible. It allows for a smoother transition from contest or competition shape to offseason maintenance eating if done correctly.


What is reverse dieting, and how does it work?

I know what you're thinking: why doesn't everyone do it if it's so simple? In theory, it should be simple. It's difficult to do in practice. In my experience, reversing a diet is more difficult than reversing a diet. The self-control and discipline required to properly apply the reverse diet are extremely difficult to achieve. Slow and steady is the best approach here, and it's better to start too low than too high.

"The reverse diet's goal is to increase calories while losing weight as little as possible. It allows for a smoother transition from contest or competition shape to offseason maintenance eating if done correctly."

Although each person's metabolism and needs are unique, the general formula for a successful reverse diet is fairly straightforward. It's just a test of determination. As a result, here are some tips to keep you on track:

  • Have a Plan: You should have a plan in place that you can put into action right after the competition or diet. This indicates that your celebration meals have been planned and food has been prepared. This is a very sensitive time for the body to gain weight, and I promise it's not worth the extra Big Mac.
  • Week One: If you used a peak week, go back to the calories and macronutrient breakdown you used the week before your peak week started (for general weight loss dieters, skip this step).
  • After that, add a small increase in calories in the form of carbohydrates. Your calorie increase should be more moderate the lower your calorie deficit is. Similarly, when it comes to percentage increases, women will need to be more cautious than men. As a starting point, I recommend a 3% increase in calories for women and a 5% increase in calories for men.
  • Weekly Weight and Body Fat Assessments: Measure your weight and body fat about seven days after your last calorie increase. Maintain a consistent schedule (i.e. first thing in the morning before any fluid). Use a combination of the mirror, pictures, and a scale as gauges if you don't have access to body fat assessments. Take this into account and compare the weight and pictures taken the week before your peak week to the weight and pictures taken the week before your peak week
  • Make Weekly Increases as Body Fat Remains Consistent: If your body fat is increasing by more than 1% per week, consider waiting a week before increasing again. If your weight or body fat percentage continues to rise after two weeks, you may want to take a step back and determine your maintenance caloric intake.
  • Make small increases in fat grams as needed to keep your dietary fats at a healthy percentage and stay within your daily calorie allowance. If you've been eating a low-fat diet, you might want to consider replacing carbohydrates with fats.

If your weight or body fat percentage continues to rise after two weeks, you may want to take a step back and determine your maintenance caloric intake.

If your body weight and body fat do not increase after two or three weeks of moderate increases, you may feel comfortable increasing the percentage calorie adjustments each week to accelerate more quickly. Once you've reached your maintenance calorie intake, you can choose to gradually increase your calorie intake to enter a mass-gaining phase.


My suggestion for you

Although reverse dieting requires patience and self-control, I believe the physical and mental benefits are well worth the effort. Hiring a knowledgeable coach to guide you through the process and make the necessary adjustments, as well as hold you accountable, is a good idea.



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