Diets that encourage fat loss typically mean deprivation, hunger pains and feelings of envy towards those who are enjoying a tasty, calorie-filled meal. This usually results in a yo-yo dieting pattern because the lifestyle and calorie intake restriction are simply impossible to sustain long-term.
So, imagine a diet that allows you to eat more while still maintaining the weight loss you achieved. Yes, you can enjoy a banana, cheese and crackers or a piece of chocolate without feeling guilty!
The reverse dieting method is just that. A diet after your restrictive diet and it could be a useful method to use post body contouring surgery to maintain the results.
What is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is a popular method among bodybuilders and fitness models who want to maintain their low body fat while increasing their energy levels.
The theory of reverse dieting is instead of a caloric deficit and spending hours working out, you increase your metabolism by slowly increasing your calories and reducing your high-intensity cardio.
Now, this does not mean you can hit the ‘all you can eat’ buffet and suspend your gym membership to spend more time watching Netflix. In order to adjust your metabolic rate and avoid fat gain, you need to be strategic.
Understanding metabolic adaptation
When you go on a low-calorie diet whether that’s ditching carbs, reducing your fat intake or eating small portions, you’re creating a calorie deficit. This means you’re consuming far less energy than you’re burning.
Over a period of time, your body will adapt to the calorie restriction by slowing down your metabolism to help conserve energy and slow the fat loss. Your organs, hormones and muscles are all involved in the metabolic adaptation process.
Metabolic adaptation can be problematic when you want to stop severe dieting and instead return to your normal way of eating without causing weight gain. It also can become a problem when you’re not noticing any weight loss, yet can’t reduce your calorie intake any further.
But metabolic adaptation can work in both ways – you can slow your metabolism or speed it up. This is the premise that reverse is centred on. The method may help to reset your body-fat starting point and allow you to maintain a normal diet plan. Hallelujah!
How to reverse diet
When you’ve achieved your desired body weight, reverse dieting involves slowly increasing your caloric intake above the number you’re currently consuming. An increase of 50-100 calories per week is recommended to help maintain your weight and avoid an increase in body fat.
This calorie increase is only required for a period of 4-10 weeks depending on the point at which you begin to gain weight. This will be a different time period from one person to the next.
Increasing your calorie intake may help to boost your metabolism and even help regulate hormones such as leptin and ghrelin which play an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. However, eating more calories can result in unwanted weight gain.
That doesn’t mean you have to resort back to yo-yo dieting. Instead, simply adjust a little by eating fewer calories until you hit your sweet spot. This method could be particularly helpful after weight loss or body contouring surgery such as liposuction, tummy tuck or Coolsculpting to maintain the results.
It is also recommended you slowly reduce your cardio-based exercise and introduce more strength training into your regime. Strength training can help to increase your metabolism in both the short-term and long-term.
The benefits of reverse dieting
- It’s a great way to increase calories slowly after a period of dieting;
- Could be beneficial after weight loss or body contouring surgery to maintain results;
- An increased food intake could help overcome symptoms experienced through restrictive dieting such as low energy levels, poor focus and mood swings;
- Increasing the number of calories may help to regulate the hormone levels that influence your hunger and appetite.
- Increasing calories and food intake can make life more enjoyable again!
The downsides of reverse dieting
- To maintain your body composition, you have to closely monitor and track your caloric intake. This can be difficult to do and takes a lot of time;
- Monitoring calories can foster unhealthy relationships with food and disordered eating behaviours such as orthorexia;
- Counting calories doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating a healthy diet. Eating 200 calories of junk food versus 200 calories of vegetables, for example, would impact your weight (and overall health) very differently;
- There is a lack of research to support the success of the reverse diet both long-term and short-term.
While in theory reverse dieting seems to be an effective and enjoyable way to prevent weight regain after diet, there is simply not enough research to back up its claims. And most of the case studies spoken about on traditional and social media are those from the bodybuilding community; not regular everyday people looking to maintain a healthy body weight.
It’s also worth remembering, there is no one size fits all when it comes to dieting and healthy eating!