In this article we are going to cover the question of what is reverse dieting.
I am going to lay out what is reverse dieting, what are the benefits of reverse dieting, who should reverse diet, and more.
Reverse dieting is a relatively new concept in the dieting / physique world and it can be a secret weapon for you in your weight loss journey.
Unfortunately, so many people have absolutely no clue what is. If they do know what it is, they have probably been bamboozled or hoodwinked by some instagram influencer telling them they got shredded from reverse dieting.
I am here to lay out exactly what is reverse dieting, simple and plain.
Just be sure you read each section in its entirety. I want you to leave here knowing how this secret weapon can be used in your specific journey.
First let’s touch on what reverse dieting is and isn’t.
What Is Reverse Dieting
Fact vs Fiction
Before we dive into the rest of the article let’s briefly explain what is reverse dieting and what it isn’t.
In layman’s terms,
Reverse dieting is slowly adding calories back in over a period of time with the goal in mind of not gaining fat.
It is essentially it’s name, the reverse of a diet.
When you go on a diet you normal subtract calories to find your calorie deficit .
You go from eating 2000 calories, to 1800, to 1600, maybe ending at 1400 calories.
Reverse dieting is the exact opposite. This time you are adding calories back in from the 1400.
We will get into specific examples and how to’s a bit later in the article.
Before we dive into that, now that we know what reverse dieting is, let’s talk about what it is not.
What Reverse Dieting Is Not
Oftentimes people come to me asking something to the effective of.
“Eric, I am not losing weight!! It is because I am eating too little calories?!”.
This then brings up the question of if I eat more calories then I will lose weight, right?!
Let me break this down to you.
First off, no, the reason you are not losing weight is not because you are eating “too little”.
If this is what you think is going on, I want you to take a look at the starving kids in Africa or anywhere else in the world.
They, unlike you, are actually eating too little. They are starving and far less fortunate than you and I.
Are they obese? Are they holding on to fat? No, they are skin and bones.
What about the victims of the holocaust?
Again, they weren’t being fed anything. Were they obese and overweight?
No, they were skin and bones.
Two extreme examples I know but I want to use them to prove a point. Eating too little never made anyone gain weight or hold onto body fat.
“Starvation mode” is not a real thing.
Now, here is what may be happening if you are “eating too little” and not losing weight.
Not Tracking Calories Accurately
I would venture to say out of 10 people I communicate with on a daily basis, 8/10 are tracking calories inaccurately.
I was going to say 9/10, but I thought that sounded too pessimistic (yet probably true).
The reality is if you think you are eating 900, 1000, 1200 calories and not losing weight, you are more than likely not tracking calories accurately.
Which is okay, that’s nothing against you. You may just not know how to!
Lucky for you, I made an entire YouTube video on how to count calories the right way.
It is totally free. It is the same video I give to my clients.
I will link it HERE. I would strongly, strongly urge you to watch this video if you think that is the case.
Binge – Restrict Cycle
Another reason you may not be losing weight from eating “too little” is because the restrict – binge cycle you find yourself in.
Four days out of the week you are indeed eating 1200 calories. But, because this is “too little” by Friday you are starving, tired, and just want some f*cking sweets.
This leads you to then eat 3000 calories on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
You feel like sh*t so you just “get back on track Monday!” With this same over restrictive plan.
Thus you create this cycle of restrict for a few days, binge for a few days, and never make any real progress.
If you want to fix that and start eating more in moderation, you can head here to my free calorie calculator.
There is something called metabolic adaptation in which when you go on a diet your metabolism slows down.
This is 100% true and does indeed happen. Yet, it is not what most people think it is.
If you are alive and reading this right now, your metabolism is likely more than okay.
If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be alive.
Yet what can happen is you can lower your metabolism when you eat very few calories for a long period of time. This mainly happens to body builders and physique competitors after a show.
This also happens to individuals who just get to a fairly lean body fat % and have been dieting for an extended period of time.
To the general public, it is not something I would be too concerned about.
It is also something that is not irreversible. People often tell me they “ruined” their metabolism.
No, you didn’t. In the same way your metabolism slows down when you decrease calories, your metabolism speeds up when you increase calories.
So simply by increasing calories you can “Fix” this issue at hand.
Point being, this is likely not the reason you are not losing weight, especially if you have a good amount of weight to lose.
With that being said, when it comes to what is reverse dieting, metabolic adaptation can be a reason why you would want to reverse diet.
What Is Reverse Dieting : Not A Way To Eat More To Lose Weight
Well, kind of. Let me explain.
Most fitness influencers are going to try to sell you on the fact that themselves or their clients got super shredded by increasing their calories.
It is almost like it is too good to be true!
Well, that is because it is.
If you see anyone losing a significant amount of body fat, it is because they were in a calorie deficit. Not because they were reverse dieting.
You don’t get lose more body fat by increasing calories. You may lose some body fat or you may change the way your body looks, but losing a significant amount of body fat does not come from reverse dieting.
Now that you know what is reverse dieting and what isn’t, dive into the benefits of reverse dieting.
What Is Reverse Dieting : Benefits
There are a few main benefits to reverse dieting. Let’s talk about them here below now.
Boost Metabolism / Reverse Metabolic Adaptation
We touched earlier on metabolic adaptation and how your metabolism slows down when you are on a diet.
This is 100% true. While it is something not to be too concerned about, reverse dieting can help boost your metabolism.
This is because if you recall when you increase calories you also increase your metabolism.
Let’s say at the beginning of a diet you start your maintenance calories at 2500 (the amount of calories your body needs to maintain it’s current weight).
Let’s say you start to eat 2000 calories in your deficit. 6 weeks in your weight loss may have stalled or plateaued a bit.
This is because through 6 weeks of eating fewer calories, your metabolism slowed down, and your maintenance calories dropped to say 2250 (Total random number btw).
You then drop to 1700 to keep the fat loss going.
Stall out again in 6-8 weeks, decrease calories again. Maintenance calories drop a bit lower.
As you can see the more you decrease calories, the lower your maintenance calories are going to drop, and the “slower” your metabolism is going to be.
Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for two reasons.
Number one is because this is necessary to lose weight. This is actually the only way to lose weight.
Number two is when you lose weight, your body needs less energy (calories) to maintain it’s current weight.
Therefore as you lose weight your metabolism is going to drop, and that is okay.
Someone who is 300 lbs has a higher metabolism than someone who is 200 lbs. This is because their body just has more work to do. More work = more calories burned = higher metabolism.
Yet it is all relative.
Insert Reverse Dieting
Now that you have lost weight and you have been on a deficit for a while, you want to increase your metabolism back up.
This is where reverse dieting can come into play because if you slowly but surely increase calories back into your diet, your maintenance calories and metabolism will increase as well.
Let’s say you finish your diet with a maintenance calories of 1800. That is a 700 drop from your previous maintenance calories since you lost weight.
When you reverse diet, you may be able to increase this maintenance calorie number to 2150 (again, total random numbers).
This way after a diet, you can increase calories slowly, and not gain body fat along the way.
You also have a better chance of maintaining the results you see because you can now eat 2150 calories and still maintain your current weight.
This is why long term thinking is so important. You are doing this to sustain what you have been able to achieve or you will achieve by eating more calories over a period of time.
Potential To Lose More Body Fat
The second main benefit of reverse dieting is you have the potential to lose more body fat.
When you are slowly increasing calories back from your diet (we will go over examples shortly) you are still technically in a calorie deficit.
If you end your diet around 1500 calories and you reverse diet to 1600, 1700, 1800, all 3 of those numbers are still going to be a calorie deficit.
It will be a less aggressive calorie deficit, but it will still be a deficit. Therefore during your reverse diet you have the potential to lose more body fat.
This is why the scale can go down as well during a reverse diet. Even though you are increasing calories you can very well still be in a calorie deficit losing body fat.
As well as what sometimes happens, especially with stressed out females I have seen, is that when you go on a diet for a while your cortisol levels increase.
With increased cortisol comes increased water retention.
When you add calories back in, your body gets de stressed, decreases cortisol, and flushes out water weight.
This can lead to a drop down on the scale.
Prevents Yo Yo Dieting
This one is huge because normally when people get to their desired goal body weight or body fat, it’s like.
“Alright well.. what now?”.
They then think they can either A. Go back to eating however they were before or B. They are so scared to eat more food and not gain body fat that they develop a very unhealthy relationship with food.
Insert reverse dieting once more.
Now you have a strategic plan of what to do after you get to your desired level of leanness.
Mental Break From Dieting
This one doesn’t have much to do with physique based goals. This has more to do with the fact that dieting is f*cking exhausting.
Mentally and physically it can be taxing on you.
Therefore if you say have been on a diet for 12 weeks, but maybe you have summer coming up and you want to be able to be a bit more flexible and take a break from dieting, this is where what is reverse dieting can come into play.
You can implement a reverse diet here. It can give you a mental break from such low calories, you won’t gain body fat (you actually may lose some!) and you can reach maintenance and chill out for a bit.
Those are the 4 main benefits of reverse dieting.
Now that we covered what is reverse dieting, let’s talk about who should reverse diet.
What Is Reverse Dieting : Who Is This For?
There are three main scenarios of people who can look into reverse dieting.
The first is going to be someone who has achieved their desired level of leanness.
They got to their goal body weight or their desired body fat % level.
This individual now wants a strategy to be able to come out of their calorie deficit without gaining body fat. They would like to now maintain their current physique.
Reverse dieting would be perfect in this scenario.
Need To Increase Metabolism / “Tone Up”
The second one is going to common especially amongst women.
I have had plenty of ladies come to me who were not overweight, but they did not look the way they wanted to look.
They were also eating very few calories.
They don’t have the definition in their arms, legs, glutes, etc.
This scenario is a great one for reverse dieting because this individual does not need to lose anymore body fat.
Rather they need to build lean muscle mass. Reverse dieting can be a great way to get their metabolism ramped back up by introducing more calories.
As well as preparing them to go into a muscle definition phase (calorie surplus).
This will help give them that “toned”, lean, defined look they are looking for.
We talked earlier about how some people could lose more body fat along the way during a reverse diet.
This is a situation where I would not expect an individual to lose body fat along the way, rather, they will likely increase their lean muscle mass which will have their bodies look better as a result.
Someone Who Wants A Break
We briefly touched on this earlier but reverse dieting can be used for someone who just wants a break from dieting.
They don’t want to completely say f*ck it and gain all of their weight back. Rather they want a strategic way to reach maintenance calories with ensuring they don’t gain back body fat along the way.
Now that we know what is reverse dieting, what it isn’t, and who should do it, let’s tackle how to reverse diet.
What Is Reverse Dieting : How To
When it comes to reverse dieting there are two main ways you can go about implementing one.
The first is going to be the most practical way, especially if you are looking to gain as minimal body fat as humanly possible along the way.
This is slowly adding back in calories week by week.
Let’s use our example from earlier.
Let’s say you dieted down to 1400 calories.
A reverse diet from that may look something like this.
Week 1 – 1400 calories
Week 2 – 1500 calories
Week 3 – 1600 calories
Week 4 – 1750 calories
Week 5 – 1900 calories
Week 6 – 2000 calories
In this example, 2000 calories would be your new maintenance calories.
If you are wondering how do you know what your maintenance calories are or when you are there, you can check this video out I did HERE .
The second option is to jump straight to maintenance calories.
This would essentially look like
Week 1 – 1400 calories
Week 2 – 2000 calories
In both of these scenarios, you are adding calories back in primarily via carbohydrates.
Carbs are the bodies main source of fuel as well as they are the 2nd hardest to store as body fat (behind protein).
Therefore adding calories back in via carbs can help boost performance, energy, workouts, sex drive, hormones, all while minimizing body fat gain.
Now, let’s discuss each one.
Fast Vs Slow
When it comes to which one is “better” it really just depends.
With the slower option, adding calories week by week, that can pretty much assure you that you do not overshoot maintenance.
You will be adding calories back in week by week and you can get a better gauge on when you are at maintenance.
This means you will have minimal to no body fat gain at all.
On the flip side, the faster route can increase metabolism at a faster rate because you aren’t waiting to add calories back in.
Remember, all of those 5 weeks prior to being at 2000 calories you are still technically in a calorie deficit.
Here is my two cents on it.
When deciding on which route you should take, I would go by your biofeedback.
What I mean by that is if you are feeling good, sleeping good, still having good workouts, I would more than likely take a slower approach.
This is going to be optimal for minimal body fat gain but also there is no real reason to rush it.
Now, if you are sleeping like sh*t, your workouts suck, you are always tired, and you may even have lost your period or sex drive.
This is when I would usually make a jump straight to maintenance.
You need to get your metabolism increased as fast as possible to start feeling better. Waiting 6 weeks to get to maintenance is just going to be 6 more week you feel like poop.
Now you are probably thinking, “Okay, well the most important question.. Will I gain weight?!”.
Great question, let’s discuss.
Will you gain weight?
Here is the god’s honest truth.
Yes, you very well could gain scale weight along the way during a reverse diet.
But it is not because you are gaining fat.
You need to be very clear about this. There is a big difference in gaining weight vs gaining fat .
If you are eating 1400 calories of food compared to 2000 calories of food, there is simply going to be more food in your stomach!
That is going to lead to heavier weight on the scale.
As well as when you add calories back in via carbs, for every 1g of carb you eat you store 3-4g of water weight.
This isn’t a bad thing though because the water weight gets stored in your muscle cells, leading to have more kick ass workouts.
Yet again, this may lead to a little spike on the scale.
Both of these things are totally normal.
I actually wrote an entire article on why the scale fluctuating is normal, you can check it out HERE if you want.
It does not mean you are gaining fat. It is impossible to gain fat at maintenance calories.
It just means you have more food and water in your body, which is normal when you eat more calories.
Now, if you add calories back in slowly, you may delay this process of gaining scale weight week by week.
Let’s say over 6 weeks you gain 4lbs.
If you jump straight to maintenance you may gain 4lbs in one week, but then it levels out (because again, you aren’t gaining fat, just water and food weight).
So when it comes to the fast vs slow approach, I wouldn’t make a preference based upon how quickly or slowly you gain weight.
Rather I would make it upon your bio feedback like we touched on earlier.
What Is Reverse Dieting : Final Word
Welp, I hope this article answers the question of what is reverse dieting for you in depth.
It is a great secret weapon tool that I hope you can start to implement into your diet no matter what stage you are at.
Remember, all of these things are just tools. Like a hammer and a screwdriver.
You use a hammer for one moment in time, a screw driver for the other.
It all comes back to what is right at that moment in time.
I hope this guide helped.
If you are a visual learner, I also did a video on YouTube on this topic as well which I will link below.
Any questions or comments feel free to drop below, I would love to hear if this helped you out 🙂