If you’ve ever wished you could eat more without gaining weight or that you could achieve a calorie deficit without starving, reverse dieting may be for you. Here, we break down what it is, who should do it, and how to get started.
What is reverse dieting?
One study on reverse dieting describes it as “… providing a small caloric surplus [to] help … restore circulating hormone levels and energy expenditure toward pre-diet values, while closely matching energy intake to the recovering metabolic rate in an effort to reduce fat accretion.”
In other words, unlike other diet trends, this diet is not about changing your physical appearance. It actually works on your metabolism. With reverse dieting, you’re slowly and steadily increasing your calories while (hopefully) minimizing the amount of fat you gain to increase your metabolic rate. You’ll get to consume more calories without the extra weight once you’re done.
How It Works
First, let’s talk about how weight loss and weight gain works. Everybody has a BMR and TDEE. BMR is your basal metabolic rate, which refers to the number of calories you burn just to exist. You could lie on a bed without moving, and it would still require calories. Breathing, blinking, and all those basic human functions need energy to perform. Your BMR accounts for this.
TDEE is your total daily energy expenditure. It refers to the number of calories you burn while performing your day-to-day activities and is also known as maintenance calories. These are the number of calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight. Think BMR calories plus calories from your everyday activities such as walking, talking, and exercising.
To lose weight, you need to follow the calories in and calories out formula. That is, you have to ingest fewer calories than you burn and be in a calorie deficit. Sound simple? We all know it’s easier said than done. You may find yourself consuming an extremely low amount of calories just to lose weight.
Rather than living on very few calories, reverse dieting is the key. It’ll help restore your metabolism and increase your maintenance calories so that you can eat more.
Who should reverse diet?
It’s really beneficial for those who have been on restricted calories, have a history of aggressive dieting for extended times, or are trying to lose weight but can’t stick to their calorie deficit because it’s too low. By reverse dieting, you’ll be able to increase your calories. When you do decide to cut, you won’t be cutting at such low numbers. Or, if you just love eating and want more freedom with your calories, then reverse dieting is a great option. It means you’ll have more calories to play around with at social functions and more energy. It’s a win-win situation!
How should I start reverse dieting?
It does take some calorie and macro counting, so be prepared to track these and do the math. While you’ll be able to eat at a higher calorie intake once you’re done dieting, you’ll most likely gain some weight during the process. Just remember, you’re setting yourself up for long-term success as opposed to short fixes.
Step 1: Calculate calories.
There are plenty of online calculators available to help you with this step. All you have to do is fill out the info, such as your sex, age, activity level, and more.
Step 2: Identify your goal.
Determine how quickly you want to increase your calories.
Most people do gain fat while reverse dieting. Once you surpass your maintenance or TDEE calories, fat gain is inevitable. However, you can implement strategies to minimize the amount of fat and hopefully gain muscle instead.
Bear in mind that the faster you increase your calories per week, the higher the chance you’ll gain more fat. If you’re OK with some extra fat gain so that you can increase your calories faster, then go for it. If you want to limit the amount of fat you may gain, it’s better to take the slow and steady route.
Step 3: Add calories.
Now you know your goal and timeline, so start by slowly adding calories to your carbs and fat every five to seven days. If you’ve opted to take the more conservative route, then a 5 percent increase to your carbs and fat is a good starting point. You can go a little higher if you want to get there faster.
Step 4: Track your progress.
It’s important to track your progress so that you can make adjustments accordingly. If you find that you’re gaining weight a little too fast for your liking, then either don’t increase your macros for the next week or take it back a notch. If you feel OK with your progress, you can bump them up. It’s a trial-and-error process to find a rhythm that works for you.
Step 5: When to stop.
When you should stop depends entirely on you and your goals. Most people tend to stop when they’ve reached their calorie goals. If you’re currently eating at 1,500 calories, and your goal is 2,500 calories, continue until you reach that number.
It’s important to reiterate that this isn’t about losing weight or bulking up. It’s about getting that metabolism fired up for long-term success. Although it may be hard to prepare yourself for some fat gain during the process, you can always cut again after you reverse diet. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!