Dieting has always focused on a strict regimen of how much you take in at a baseline level. This has been a simple formula: determine how many calories you have been consuming, and then lower that rate to force your body to burn the calories you do not want. Reverse dieting takes things to a different level and adds some complexity to this equation.
One of the primary problems with traditional dieting is that it effectively causes your body to go into starvation and preservation mode. Your body reacts as if it does not have enough nutrients and calories to function properly. As a result, you hold onto calories and fats, and this leads to the dreaded see-saw effect in which you shed pounds only to regain them the day you stray from the diet. Reverse dieting takes the metabolic issues that lead to this problem into account.
Reverse dieting takes a more complex and far-reaching approach. By starting with your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and working toward a dieting program that can intervene in and alter your BMR, reverse dieting not only burns calories, but it also trains your body into altering your metabolism.
We will get to the nuts and bolts of this, but reverse dieting does more than shed pounds. It changes the way you metabolize nutrients and calories so that the benefits of dieting become a part of your physiology. Reverse dieting offers ways to manage diet and exercise in ways that substantially alter your body, health, and overall physical fitness.
What is Reverse dieting?
Dieting, in the simple sense of the word, is an organized plan of eating. But conventional dieting often does not take into account your metabolic rate and your physical activity. Generally, people begin with a goal for losing weight or gaining muscle without figuring in some of the most important variables. Translating the process of dieting into reverse dieting means adding some degree of complexity into the equation, but the difference in the results is enormous.
Regular dieting will inevitably deprive you of needed nutrients and calories. This reaches a plateau in which you are simply not getting enough nutrition to maintain your energy and health. And then you binge and undo any progress you made. Conventional dieting is also not conducive to building muscle mass. It most often causes you to shed fat which is far too easy to gain back again as the diet wears thin.
Reverse dieting includes the program of controlled caloric intake over a sustained period. The critical difference comes with a steady increase of calories and other nutrients so that your metabolic rate changes as you alter your caloric load. You physically alter your metabolic rate as a result of reverse dieting.
From a scientific perspective, reverse dieting realigns the hormones that control your metabolism. Setting a strict program of controlled nutrient intake, then gradually increasing the caloric load, the body adjusts hormones that affect hunger and the rate at which we burn fat and build muscle. Medically, this is called a metabolic adaptation, and there is sound research behind reverse dieting.
As you track this strategy over a period of weeks you will experience a steady increase in muscle along with a proportionate decrease in fat. By subjecting your metabolism to a period of strict dieting, in the traditional sense of the term, and then compounding this with a measured increase of calories and other nutrients, you are able to alter your metabolic rate so that what you do eat will translate into the muscle mass you want rather than the usual fat gain that comes from seesawing on a traditional diet.
How to Reverse Diet?
As we pointed out above, there are some crucial variables you need to understand in order to reverse diet correctly. The main things you need to understand and track are your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
Your BMR is essentially your metabolic rate. BMR consists of the number of calories you need to maintain basic physiological functions. Even when you are completely still you are still burning calories for basic body functions. Exercise and even simply walking help determine your BMR.
Your TDEE includes the number of calories you need to perform the tasks that comprise your daily activity. TDEE is often called maintenance calories. TDEE is also what you need to maintain your weight. TDEE would include the BMR calories plus whatever you need to go about your day.
Conventional dieting simply follows the rule of fewer calories in that your burn in the course of a normal day. You need to keep your BMR and TDEE above the level of calories you consume.
Reverse dieting begins with this step but takes it further by gradually introducing more calories over time. These two steps force your body to adjust the BMR and TDEE to accommodate your caloric intake so that these two basic metabolic rates come in line with your activity level.
There are five steps:
- Determine your maintenance calories. This will also include macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. There are online calculators to help you do this part. All you need to do is enter basic data like age, sex, activity level, etc.
- Decide how fast you want to increase calories. Remember that people do gain weight while reverse dieting. AS you go beyond your TDEE levels, you will gain some fat. This is a process and not a simple step toward your long-term goals. The faster you increase calories the more likely you will gain some fat. If this is a concern, up your calories at a slower rate.
- Once you have a goal and timeline, begin adding some calories to your carbohydrates and fats about once a week. A conservative rate is about a 5 percent increase per week. If you want to reach your goal a little faster, up the increase in calories. The steady and measured increases will cause your body to burn more calories through non-exercise thermogenesis.
- The next step is simply to track your progress. Monitoring your weight regularly to keep track of the impact of increasing your calories and macronutrients. If you are gaining more weight than you would like, skip a week of adding calories. Or you can cut back for a week. If you are happy with things you can go ahead and bump your caloric intake up a little bit. This phase is subjective and will depend on how your body responds to the dieting regimen. Eventually, the reverse diet will establish an equilibrium of hormones like leptin which regulates appetite and body weight.
- Reaching your goal. Generally, you stop the reverse diet when you reach your goal. If you started at about 1500 calories and you were going for 2500, that is the place to stop. It is crucial to remember that reverse dieting is not all about losing weight or bulking muscles. It is primarily about altering your metabolic rate. Many people will put on a few pounds as they progress through reverse dieting. Once you have reached your goal, it will be easy to shed those pounds with exercise. Unlike regular dieting, which sends you spiraling back to the problem you started with reverse dieting changes the way your body metabolizes fat and calories.
When to use Reverse Dieting?
Reverse dieting is obviously not something you want to do all the time. Remember, reverse dieting is designed to achieve a specific result. Once you have obtained the metabolic rate that will help you maintain your weight or get you on your way to an athletic training program, there is no real reason to keep doing it. There are some specific times that call for reverse dieting.
Times that call for reverse dieting:
- If you have gotten below a healthy weight due to a diet. You will need to increase your body fat, but you do not want to just pack on the pounds to a pre-diet level.
- If you have already been on a conventional diet and you want to train your body to maintain your results.
- If you are the type of athlete who does best with a plan and a specific regimen.
- If you are preparing for an intense workout and training program that requires a baseline level of lean muscle.
As we said, keeping up the daily and weekly tasks of reverse dieting is time-consuming and once you have achieved your goal, there is little reason to keep it up. Be aware of your overall fitness and training goals.
Benefits of Reverse Dieting
One of the primary benefits of reverse dieting is it helps you pack on lean muscle mass without any fat gains. Because reverse dieting interrupts the problems of conventional dieting by allowing your metabolism to even out, the weight you gain by increasing your caloric and macronutrient intake tends to be all lean muscle.
This accounts for why reverse dieting has become so popular among people who are involved in serious high-intensity training. The key to this is that the slow rise in caloric intake along with a steady increase in macronutrients tricks your body into realigning your BMR and TDEE so that the only weight you gain that lasts is muscle. The fat burns up as your metabolism adjusts.
Another benefit is long-term weight loss. As stated above, conventional dieting will inevitably reach a point of diminishing returns. Reverse dieting takes the pounds and fat off and trains your metabolism to keep it off even after you have stopped the diet. Your metabolic rate is reset to maintain the weight you achieve from the reverse diet. One study on athletes showed that these types of controlled caloric and macronutrient schedules, the type that includes reverse dieting, can sustain a healthier and low-fat body weight.
Reverse dieting may also help stop binge eating. This can be a real problem for bodybuilders and other athletes who frequently maintain highly restrictive diets. Reverse dieting can help ease people back into a normal diet following an intense regimen.
Mood disorders and fatigue can also be side effects of highly restrictive diets. Since these diets often alter the biochemical balance the maintains moods, the kinds of diets associated with high-intensity training can have an impact on moods and energy levels. Reverse dieting can help stabilize these chemicals and reduce mood disorders.
Reverse Dieting Downsides
There are some downsides to reverse dieting. It is not for everyone for some specific reasons.
It is difficult to execute. While there is a world of online tools for calculating things like BMR and TDEE, none of them can be 100% accurate. Even small deviations can produce measurable problems in the course of a reverse diet.
What is more, many people underestimate the calorie content of a meal. One study showed that people tend to underestimate by more than 250 calories per meal.
There is not much research on reverse dieting. What is known about reverse dieting is largely anecdotal, and most of this comes from bodybuilders. It is not known how effective reverse dieting may be for people who just want to lose weight and maintain that weight.
There also tends to be too much emphasis on calories over other nutrients. Weight loss and maintaining a specific weight are complex processes. Reverse dieting tends to ignore factors like sleep, stress, and hormone fluctuations.
Wrapping things up
The main insight behind reverse dieting is to take the complexities of metabolism into account. Rather than sticking to the simple formula of a conventional diet that involves eating less than you burn, reverse dieting gets to the heart of how we metabolize calories, fats, and proteins.
Reverse dieting has been successful in helping bodybuilders and other high-intensity athletes transform their bodies toward serious lean muscle. By realigning the metabolic rate, you can gain muscle mass without the added problem of fat gain.
The way reverse dieting works is by calculating your baseline metabolism and working out a formula by which you can increase the level of calories and macronutrients you consume as your body learns to transform these nutrients into lean muscle.
Much of the evidence comes from real athletes. The testimonies are too numerous to list, and the results are largely positive.
The early scientific research suggests that reverse dieting is good for those of us who just want to slim down and stay that way. Since reverse dieting changes your metabolism, once you have reached a set goal, your body will be able to maintain that goal.
Reverse dieting is not another fad diet. It relies on sound physiological processes that produce real results.