If you are “blessed” with an average-to-slow metabolism like me and the majority of the Earth’s population, then you probably thought about getting ripped at least once in your life. Luckily, you can easily find copious volumes of information on fat loss out there. Several mouse clicks and a simple Google-search separate you from myriads of books and articles that will teach you how to eat right, how to count calories and macros, etc. The whole gamut of YouTube gurus will eagerly explain in detail the principles of fat loss basically repeating the good old rules:
- If you eat more calories than you spend, then you gain weight
- If you eat less than maintenance, you lose it
- Your body composition is highly dependent on your macronutrient ratios
However, what if you have already reached your fat loss goal? Or what if your metabolism have slowed down due to aggressive dieting? The trick that can solve these issues is called reverse dieting. I haven’t found a simple and comprehensive article on this subject, so here is my attempt to create it.
What Is Reverse Dieting?
Well, it is literally dieting in reverse: instead of slowly cutting your daily/weekly calories, you will gradually add them. When should you apply this nutritional strategy? First of all, it is useful for feeding yourself back into your maintenance calories while minimizing fat gain after your fat loss phase is over. You should understand that our body always strives for homeostasis. The more you deprive it of calories, the more your body will prime itself for weight gain. As with anything in life, your impatience will be punished. If you add too much calories too soon, or if you change your daily meal plan drastically calorie- and macronutrient-wise, then you will regain substantial amounts of fat. So, instead of taking a fool’s route, you can train your patience a little bit more and implement reverse dieting approach.
Secondly, reverse dieting is a great cure for slowed down metabolism. You may have been in a situation when you cut your calories too much too soon and as a result, you feel lethargic all the time. Your energy levels are low, and you feel like an old man trying to stand up from his chair during squats with an empty bar. In the worst case, your blood pressure is low, you experience constant headaches, and you can fall unconscious easily. So, instead of blaming your diet for your mistakes and going back to your old see-food-eat-food nutrition approach (gaining even more fat than you had), you can implement reverse dieting and feel good again while possibly burning some fat.
Finally, it was a pleasant surprise for me that adding calories gradually is effective not only for minimizing fat gain, but for burning some fat too. This may sound counter-intuitive and akin to some sort of voodoo magic, but it is a fact. To prove my words, let me give you a screen shot of MyFitnessPal bodyweight chart of yours truly:
With a red arrow, I’ve marked a point when I started gradually increasing calories on a weekly basis. If you are attentive enough, you will notice that despite the fact that I was eating more and more, I was still slowly losing bodyweight while getting leaner and leaner. In case you are wondering, I was consuming 3000 calories daily in the last week of this chart. Interestingly, I started this fat loss phase with 2600 calories daily. I will leave all the conclusion-making to you here.
How to Implement Reverse Dieting?
I have come across several approaches to reverse dieting on the Interwebs. The one I’ve implemented with success is this one:
- Say, you are finished with your fat loss phase at 2400 calories per day;
- Add 100 calories to your daily number and be there for a week (2500 calories per day in this case);
- Then add another 100 calories and stay there for another week (2600 calories per day in this case);
- Then you can use 150-calorie increments until you reach your maintenance (again, stay with your number at least for a week; in this case, 2750 calories per day for a week, then 2900 calories per day for a week, etc.);
- If your goal is muscle gain, then you can proceed with 150-calorie increments until you settle at the weight-gain speed of 0.5-1 kg per month.
Any calorie-counting approach will work only if you are precise with your numbers. Yes, this means taking EVERYTHING into account. This will require discipline, but the results are worth the trouble. Besides, once calorie counting becomes a habit, it takes less than 5 minutes per day and can give you some sort of wicked pleasure (if you know what I mean).
- Cheat days/meals
I would suggest you to stick with one cheat meal per week. This will give you optimal results. However, during the fat loss phase pictured above I have done some crazy stuff like several cheat days in a row. In fact, let me show you another screen shot and you will see how my body responded:
With red arrows, I’ve marked what happened to my bodyweight after those cheat days. As you can see, if you want a smooth fat loss experience, having several cheat days in a row may be not the best idea. Anyway, it seems that my activity regimen was so cruel, that those cheat days made no difference in a long run.
- Weekly calories/macros
Finally, if you just can’t stick to a set-in-stone daily calorie number for some reason, or making your life complex brings you some sort of perverted enjoyment, then you should concentrate on your weekly calories and macros instead of daily. This way you will receive an illusion of freedom while still making those gainz.
Reverse dieting is a handy little tool in your nutrition arsenal. Use it to squeeze everything you can out of your fat loss phase. Thanks for reading.
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