So you finally did it. After years of binge-drinking and Taco Bell you finally said enough was enough. You dieted hard for four months, hit the gym multiple times a week, and were able to strip away the flab that was covering your midsection.
You’re ripped. You’re sexy. But mostly you’re relieved it’s over. No more dieting! You can finally eat all the food you haven’t been able to enjoy the last 16 weeks. Right?
Not so fast brochacho…
The Post-Diet Mistake
Maybe the situation above sounds familiar. Maybe you’ve been on a diet, reached your goals, and then thought to yourself, “Now what?” If so, you’re not alone.
Dieting can be difficult, mentally taxing, and when we’re done, we don’t want to think about it anymore. We want to bro-out, eat some greasy food, and throw back a few several dozen beers.
But that’s the worst thing you can do; especially if you want to maintain your hard-earned physique.
Say when you started your diet four months ago you were maintaining a weight of 220 pounds on 2,700 calories, Now in order to drop some fat you let’s say you ate 2,200 calories per day; giving you a 500 calorie deficit.
Four months later, you’re all lean, shredded, and you’ve dropped 25 pounds so you now weigh 195. Can you just go back to eating 2,700 calories per day?
No. And here’s why.
As we’ve talked about before, your metabolic rate and number of calories you need to eat on a daily basis is based on a number of factors, but the biggest one is your weight. The more you weigh, the more calories you need to maintain that weight.
And since you are losing weight on a diet, you no longer need as much energy to maintain your weight, so your body is going to reduce your metabolic rate in order to protect itself. So by the time you’re finished dieting, where your caloric maintenance may have been 2,700 when you started, it’s now likely a few hundred calories lower.
As you can see, if you jump right back up to eating what you were before, you’re actually set up to gain fat back.
So what’s the answer? Obviously you don’t want to just keep dieting the rest of your life right? That wouldn’t be any fun.
Enter Reverse Dieting.
More Food, Less Fat
Reverse dieting is the slow and incremental addition of calories (usually from carbs) back into your diet in order to increase your metabolic rate while minimizing fat gain.
Reverse dieting can be used for maintaining your already lean physique, as well as to add muscle without adding fat (aka lean gains). But just like dieting down to lose fat, reverse dieting does take a little bit of time. Your body needs time to up-regulate your metabolism and if you keep eating more calories than your body needs at that moment, you’ll gain fat.
In order for a reverse diet to be effective, the calorie bump needs to be incremental so as to avoid any unnecessary fat gain. It may seem like a slow process, but remember you worked hard for those abs, so you want to do everything you can to keep them.
With my clients coming out of a fat loss phase, I will bump them up 100 calories the first week, and then 50 calories every week after that. The first week is when you’ll still be in the biggest deficit, hence the larger bump.
Carbs are usually the easiest place to bump up calories, but it’s really a matter of personal preference and how your diet was set up. You (and your coach) will have to make the determination about what’s right for you.
Here’s an example using our bro from above (Note, numbers are rounded):
Protein Carbs Fat Calories
Start/End of Diet 200g 200g 65g 2,200
Week 1 200g 225g 65g 2,300
Week 2 200g 237g 65g 2,350
Week 3 200g 250g 65g 2,400
Week 4 200g 262g 65g 2,450
Week 5 200g 275g 65g 2,500
Week 6 200g 287g 65g 2,550
Week 7 200g 300g 65g 2,600
Week 8 200g 300g 70g 2,560
Week 9 200g 300g 75g 2,700
As you can see, following this method it would take 8-9 weeks to get back to your original maintenance level. Now that may seem like a long time, but remember you need to allow your metabolism time to catch up and return to normal. By gradually adding in calories, you give your body time to adjust back to the increase in energy intake.
You don’t have to do it exactly this way either. You can add in fat instead of carbs, or alternate what you add back week-to-week. The biggest key is to monitor your progress and see how the addition of calories is affecting your physique.
Chances are during the first few weeks you may lose more fat because you’re still in a deficit. By the end of your reverse diet however, you’ll be eating several hundred calories more per day, while keeping all your shredz.
More questions about Reverse Dieting? Shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help!