How Does Reverse Dieting Work?
Let’s look at an example! Meet Julie; she has been preparing for a bodybuilding show. She has worked hard doing strength training, doing cardio, and tracking every calorie and macronutrient for at least six months, if not longer. It’s been a long, focused process but she is now ready to step on stage and win! After her competition, she might feel like overindulging in carbohydrates and calories which would undo all her hard work pretty quickly. On the other hand, reverse dieting allows her to slowly incorporate these things back into her diet with success. If she did go back to her normal eating patterns right away, it’s likely that she will bloat, gain weight, and lose muscle. Surprisingly, this can happen pretty quickly -which is generally very frustrating for anyone that has worked hard to prepare for competition. Following a reverse diet prevents her body from holding onto a carbohydrate overload and allows her to go into maintenance mode without overdoing it.
Now, you might be thinking… I am not a body builder why do I need reverse dieting? As mentioned, reverse dieting is the “diet after the diet.” Let’s look at another example. Meet Joshua, who followed a low-carbohydrate, low-calorie nutrition plan for a year and lost 50 pounds. He wants to go back to a diet that includes more calories and carbohydrates, as he wants to begin some strength training. Instead of increasing carbohydrates from 50 grams per day to 150 grams all at once… he might try adding carbs slowly to his diet daily, increasing every few weeks for a period of time between 4 and 10 weeks. On that note, he may have stayed within approximately 2,000 calories on his low-carb diet and now his activity level can support him increasing to 2,400 calories each day. Again, doing this in small amounts over time (approximately 50 calories per week) will allow the body to adjust to processing them. You don’t want the body to hold on to all of the carbohydrates and calories, which is what happens if you make these changes all at once!
Is it Good for Me?
To address what is reverse dieting and is it good for me, let’s look at why people reverse diet. Most people reverse diet to return to their pre-diet intake. This generally has to do with the number of calories they are eating daily. What are the benefits of reverse dieting? Is it good for you? Many people end up staying in their caloric deficit after they’ve lost weight or prepared for competition. They don’t know what to do or how to do it, so they stay there forever! Doing this can create problems for the body metabolically.
Others struggle while trying to lose weight… yes, even if they’re dieting. They hit a plateau and all progress stalls. Why does this happen? Your body can down regulate, and the metabolism slows which stalls weight loss. If you’re not eating enough, the body doesn’t need to use as many calories because the metabolism has adjusted itself. Through this process the thyroid, hormones, etc. will down regulate to meet the body where it’s at because it’s not getting enough energy to function at its best. Of course, hormone imbalances and thyroid problems cause all kinds of other issues within the body. After going through a reverse dieting process and increasing caloric intake, some people see success in weight loss or muscle growth because they’ve repaired their metabolism. This is one reason that reverse dieting, when done properly, can be good for you as the risk of damaging your metabolism lowers significantly.
One main reason that reverse dieting can be good for you is that it can help return to pre-diet calories without creating problems in the body as we have mentioned already. There are several other things that reverse dieting can do for the body. First, it is possible that reverse dieting will boost your metabolism which adapts to your “diet” level of caloric intake. This process was described, in part, above. Second, it has also been shown that reverse dieting can help with hormone levels including that of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that is related to managing weight and appetite. The fat cells in your body are responsible for producing leptin. When calories are decreased, leptin levels fall which increases appetite and lowers calorie burning. Lastly, you can eat more each day when reverse dieting which can correlate to increased energy levels and reduced hunger.