Reverse dieting was a magical myth to me at first.
One that I had only read about.
However when I implemented it for the first time with clients it was amazing to see what it could do for them. It made sense out of some things that didn’t make sense to me prior.
In almost 99% of clients we Coach in Nutrition we use this process to get there body ready for a diet period.
Then, we use it again at the end of the diet to sustain their losses.
More on that later.
So what is a Reverse Diet?
Reverse dieting is exactly what it sounds like.
It is a reverse diet.
Meaning this is a process where we reverse you out of a dieting phase (ie. add more calories until we get your intake levels back to your maintenance amounts).
We also use this very thing in the beginning of most peoples diets. This is what we use because like I said before, most people are not eating enough calories.
When we use it on the front end we think of it more of a “Recovery Diet” than a reverse diet but the process is the same.
Add more calories.
Do it slowly to prevent weight gain.
Take the body to maintenance calories,
Why use a Reverse Diet?
The Data on weight loss is scary.
I first talked about this in the “Why Diets Fail and How to Achieve Sustainable Fat Loss” Seminar I did last year. Check that out here ---> Seminar.
85% of people who are overweight will lose weight. They will lose it successfully and get where they want to be in their lifetime. This is studied and well documented.
This means we are good at dieting as a society.
We CAN lose weight.
However. Keeping it off…. A COMPLETELY different story.
Out of all those people who lose weight 95% of them will gain it back in 3 years. Read that again. 95%.
The statistics keep going about this.
Out of those who gain it back 30-60% of them not only gain weight back but they gain back more through a thing called Bodyweight Overshooting.
So again it isn’t losing weight that is the problem. It is losing it the right way and keeping it off.
There are a number of things that contribute to this issue but in most cases:
⤑ Most diet WAY to Aggressively. An example of this is Very low calorie diets, Keto, Cleanses, and Supplement Enhanced diets.
⤑ Most educate themselves very little and find themselves following bad diet advice and clever marketing.
⤑ Most think too short term about their diet and not enough about the long term effects the dieting process has on the body.
So as you can see dieting strategies work in our society.
We know that to lose weight some sort of calorie deficit needs to happen.
But how do you get to that point where your body is ready to lose?
Then, once you get there how do you sustain your results?
When you start the dieting process most need an increase in calories first to get to their maintenance levels.
Maintenance calories is the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your current body weight and keep all physiological processes in line. Think of this as your neutral. The beginning and ending of your diet. When you start your diet we have to begin at your maintenance calories. Then as we go through the weight loss process (your diet) we take intake levels down to create what is called a calorie deficit. This creates an environment where your body begins to call on fat stores for fuel (ie. you burn fat cells). As we go through this process we likely will find ourselves at a much lower calorie point than your maintenance amount. After we go through this process without going too much into some of the other variables we likely will find ourselves eventually at your results. Implementing things like refeeds and diet breaks along the way. Once we reach your result that is when the Reverse dieting process begins. You then must walk up your calories back to your New Maintenance amount to get your body out of a stressed state and at a place to sustain your losses and keep your bodily processes in check again.
Another Variable - “Metabolic Adaptation”
There is another thing at play when it comes to your weight loss process. There is a villain at play trying to rob you of your results. Well not really, It's actually kind of brilliant. Our ancestors were not in an environment where food is as plentiful as it is today. They needed to be able to survive during periods of famine. So our bodies adapted to be able to survive during these periods. Our metabolism had to regulate to keep weight loss from happening during periods like this. This happened because if great amounts of weight loss occurred to our ancestors they would also drop in their ability to perform. Which greatly affected their ability to survive.
This is an Issue in today’s society because we do not worry about food for survival anymore. On the flip side we worry about staying lean. Metabolic Adaptation in today’s day in age fights against our goals.
So really what is Metabolic Adaptation?
In a nutshell Metabolic Adaptation is a process where your body down regulates it’s metabolism (among other things) so it can conserve energy to increase your likelihood of survival.
When calories change, so does the metabolism. Think about this - You may have dropped calories to create a deficit and lose body fat before. You lose for a period of time and then you just stop. Your metabolism catches up to what you are doing and now that deficit changes into your Maintenance. Then you create a bigger deficit and you lose again only to find yourself at the same road block again. This is why so many say “I can’t lose weight” when they cut calories low. The truth is you can...your body has just adapted to your chronic low calorie diet. So, if you wanted to continue to lose you would have to drop to extremely low levels that you likely won’t stick to.
On top of that some of us Adapt even better than others to periods of famine. For our ancestors this was huge at keeping them alive when hunting and foraging wasn’t possible. These people who genetically did better during this time would survive while others would not. Those people during modern times are the ones that have a harder time losing weight and their body resists losing every time.
If you want a Coaching approach that can help with this very thing click here.
How to Reverse Diet
So we know what it is.
We know why we should do it.
We know what is at play behind the scenes in our body.
How do we implement this?
We know now that your maintenance level of calories your body burns is subject to change. This is all based on the process of your dieting and how it went. Your amount will fluctuate and change because your Maintenance is a range not necessarily a number set in stone. As you go through the diet process you will likely lower calories over time. At the same time you will go from a higher weight to a lower weight. Well guess what else also plays into your maintenance changing? Your total body mass. Your body mass lowering requires less energy (less calories) to survive and move. This is also a major contributor to metabolic adaptation.
Now, to do this correctly and effectively we have to do exactly what the word says “Reverse Diet”. We slowly walk our calories up back to what is now your New Maintenance. We do this slowly because with Metabolic Adaptation we have to get your body to adapt now to higher calories. Doing this too quickly can result in negative effects. During your diet you may have begun to feel fatigue and really just feel well. So as we walk up calories you will begin to feel better, you will recover better, and your body will begin to reboot processes that had slowed during your diet. If you reverse in this manner you will maintain your results.
Couple things to consider still here. You will gain some weight. This is not body fat. 1g of carb holds 3-4g of water. More food in most cases also means more sodium and your muscles store carbs to help you perform better and recover faster. These are all good things to keep in mind. And, now that you are eating more food you likely have more in your gut which also weighs something. Trust this is not bad weight and is part of the process.
A few practical applications of this process are simple and completely individual. The best way is centered around what was implemented in the dieting process. A few best practices would be to weekly take up calories via carbs. The first week you can simply add 30-50g of carbs to immediately get your body out of an overstressed state (again, diets stress your body). Then add 10-20g of carbs and then fats until you get to your new maintenance amount. If there were frequent refeeds and diet breaks along the way you can simply jump to the last diet break amount of the calculated new maintenance but be sure to track what the body is doing and how you are feeling.
When to stop reversing?
In most cases your body will let you know when it’s done. And really there is no specific answer here.
Most often as you increase calories as I said before you will start to feel better, sleep better, have more energy, and you will notice a big difference in your recovery.
In most cases walk up calories until you start to feel all of those markers.
Really, do this until you find your bodyweight slightly increases and then back off some.
This will mean you are at your New Maintenance and have leveled out right where you need to be.
Again. This is highly individualized and will be a different experience for everyone.
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Coach Cody Smith