First, what is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting AKA metabolic adaptation AKA increasing your metabolic capacity –> slowly increasing your calories, carbs, and fats over time so that your body is able to maintain weight with more food. You do this through counting your macronutrients, which leads me to ….
1. You need to understand macronutrient counting. Reference here.
Macro counting is not one in the same as reverse dieting which is a common misconception. Many count macros and they are on a cut (caloric deficit to lose fat). When one decides to reverse diet, the goal is minimal, if any, fat gain. However, this is not a guarantee and everyone responds differently, which leads me to #2.
2. Realize the purpose and potential of reverse dieting.
The reason for reverse dieting is more for your future rather than your present, so it’s something that you set out knowing that you must be patient. You build your metabolic capacity to be able to maintain weight on A LOT more calories. As I referenced above, some gain 2lbs, some gain 5lbs, and some gain 10lbs depending on how long they reverse diet and how they do it. This is so individual so no coach is going to be able to tell you “You will not gain weight” or “You will gain 5 pounds exactly.” You are FOREVER changing your future though. This means that every other “diet” or “cut” or “fat loss” process that you set out on, you will be able to do this on a higher caloric intake because your body is maintaining weight with more calories. This is for your future, so don’t complain that you aren’t getting “shredded and fit” with reverse dieting. That’s not really the point.
3. Find your maintenance.
This can be tricky, and this is where I recommend that again, you get a coach and be patient. You need to figure out the macros that you are currently maintaining your weight so that you have a starting point to start your increase.
This will be different if you are coming off of a competition. You will want to start just slightly above those macros. I see some coaches start their clients at 50g extra carb directly after their shows. To be honest, I just can’t comprehend that. Your body is in a really vulnerable state. You shouldn’t have dieted so hard that you need to add that much food. You will most likely gain weight immediately if so. I would recommend increasing your carbs 10g extra after your show and 5g fat and then start increasing from there. (This is SO individual and some are dieting so low that jumping 50g carb is appropriate)
4. When is it an appropriate time to reverse diet?
Essentially, you can reverse diet at any point. Here are some times when I think it is most appropriate.
a) You have tried and tried to lose weight and it’s not coming off and you are already at a low caloric intake that you SHOULD be losing weight on. You could reverse diet then cut once your calories are higher.
b) You have metabolic damage (damage is a word that describes something broke for good so a better word for your metabolism would be that it's currently not working as well as it could be) from low calorie diets. You have dieted for years at less than 1000 calories and you feel that the road is hopeless but it is NOT! You can reverse out of it! I truly believe in this area that reverse dieting could change the world. I have watched it change so many lives from the inside, out.
c) You are just coming off of a competition. I think this is a time that it is CRUCIAL unless you want to go into a state of post show depression of gaining weight fast. Your body is not in the type of state to just jump right back into normal eating. The way that our cells work, your body is going to essentially be a vaccuum. You are going to hold onto everything. You MUST have a reverse plan coming off of a show!!! I REPEAT: GET A PLAN FOR POST SHOW!!!
d) You have lost weight and feel that you are at a place that you like the way that you look so you just wanna maintain that, but hey! Who doesn’t love to eat more? So, you reverse diet while maintaining that physique.
My personal recommendation is that people lean out first. Make sure that you are comfortable in your own skin, and start from there. Accept yourself and accept that you may gain a few pounds that will better your future, and start with a fresh mindset. Then, get excited because your life will change forever :)
5. Can I reverse diet if I need to lose weight?
I think there is honestly a HUGE misconception with this. You see pictures of girls that have before and afters of clean eating versus reverse dieting and they look better from reverse dieting. I would say 99% of the time, those girls dieted down to a really lean state and then started reverse dieting. It is rare that a person can just hop right into reverse dieting and lose weight. Many times when girls are clean eating only (and this is a generalization I know), they are also binge eating. This is like RAMPANT in the industry as sad as that is. Binge eating destroys metabolism, not clean eating. “Clean eating” just isn’t as fun as macros, but let’s be real, if done appropriately without binge eating, it works. There are some people that maybe have never lifted before that will start to lose inches simply from macronutrient counting and weight training but if you have been weight training and dieting and you still want to get leaner, then you are going to need to be in a caloric deficit. The lies all over instagram drive me crazy of people wanting to sell their programs. And that’s a fact, jack!
Here are some of my client's stats from reverse dieting if you are interested in looking at hard evidence that it works.
6. Do I have to have metabolic damage to reverse diet?
No. Absolutely not. I think this is another common misconception. My husband is reverse dieting and his metabolism is already sky high but again, who doesn’t want to eat more and maintain weight? It’s a no brainer! GIVE US ALL THE CARBS.
7. Okay, I get it. Now what do I do?
My personal preference is that you increase carbs by 5g per week and fats by 1g per week. The other recommendation that Layne states in his video logs is 10g of carb per week and 2g of fat per week. I know this is double what I stated. I go slowwwww. I have found that it keeps girls from freaking out from the excess water that they hold when they first start on new macros. I also, from personal experience, gained 10 pounds the first time that I tried to reverse diet by doing 10g of carb per week so I took it much slower this time and it worked.
So, this is what that would look like.
If you are currently eating 1500 calories (150g P, 130g C, 42g F) then you would do that for one week, then you would go to 150g P, 135g C, 43g F. Now you are asking, what in the world? That’s so silly and pointless. NO!! In 3 weeks, you have gone from 130g to 145g of carb! Over 6, 12, 16 weeks, it becomes substantial!
8. What if I’m gaining weight?
Slow down. Don’t feel that you have to increase every week. I don’t. There are some weeks when I may feel weird and I just maintain macros for that week. There should be no time limit on it. This is for your future. Just be patient.
9. Should I do refeeds or cheat meals?
There is no science behind a refeed. Quite frankly, there is no science behind reverse dieting. This is all observation. I don’t recommend a refeed. This would be an entirely different article, but my personal preference is that you just do the same macros every single day!!! Cheat meals are all a mental thing in my opinion. If you feel you need it, then go for it. I personally don’t have them. I always feel then that I don’t want to increase the next day, so I just keep it consistent and have a day where I just “guestimacro” and fit things like froyo and cheeseburgers in when I wouldn’t normally do that every day.