Hello friends! So this post has been a long time coming. As many of you know, i recently competed and underwent a 6 month period of dieting for two bikini competitions. Following those competitions, i began my own “Reverse Diet”.
I now realize that many of you may not know a lot about Reverse Dieting: what it is, who should do one, how do you do it, and why to even do one to begin with. So, i decided that i would do this post to clear up some of the unknowns that is Reverse Dieting.
Let me start by saying that a Reverse Diet is not necessarily for JUST competitors. A reverse diet can be for anyone who has undergone a caloric restriction- so competitors, those who have gone on a diet for a certain period of time, those who are looking to improve their metabolism, etc.
So what is? A Reverse Diet is slowly adding calories back into a person’s diet while simultaneously reducing cardio. To put it simply, you are eating more and doing less. When a person goes through a dieting phase, your body adapts. It adjusts. Your hormones are affected, you burn less calories by simply “living”, and you’re using fewer calories to digest your food (because there’s less food for you to digest)… Your body adapts and does what it needs to do to survive. The goal of Reverse Dieting is to restore your metabolism and reverse those metabolic adaptions, that occur through dieting, without a lot of excess fat gain.
So following your diet, a Reverse Diet can go several ways. Two approaches i have seen are starting slow or taking a more aggressive approach. What would the difference be? A slower reverse diet can be beneficial if you are trying to keep fat gain to a minimum. It also can help maintain the results of a fat loss phase for a longer period of time. This would mean bumping up carb/fat macros at a slower pace as opposed to going balls to the wall and upping macros by a large amount. A more aggressive reverse has the potential to lead to more weight gain if calories are drastically increased right off the bat. However, there are positives to both sides. A more aggressive approach can be beneficial if someone has a history of binging or is having drastic cravings post diet. More macros means more flexibility and an easier time fitting in foods that help curb those cravings you may be having.
Which approach is right for you? That DEPENDS. Different approaches work for different people. Take into account what your new goals are, how you are feeling mentally, and how you want to feel physically. Are you okay with not seeing your abs sooner rather than later? Are you having really bad cravings? Then maybe a more drastic approach is right for you. Are you trying to maintain the results of your weight loss? Are you trying to stay only 10 lbs above your stage weight for the next 17 months? Then maybe a slower approach is right for you.
So, how do you do this “reverse dieting” thing? If you are going with a slower approach, i would say up your overall calories by about 15%-25% and go from there. This is 15%-25% higher than where you ended your dieting phase. If you want a more drastic approach, you could opt for a higher percentage. These macros may still seem low, and they may be, but by starting slow you may limit the amount of excess weight gain right off the bat.
It is so important to keep track of your progress while you are reverse dieting. Personally, i still weigh myself everyday. However, this is not necessary. You could weigh yourself 3x a week to keep tracking of what the scale is doing with the added macros. Other ways to measure progress would also be taking measurements and progress pictures. I am a huge believer in both- pictures and measurements don’t lie and are great tools for tracking progress.
After the initial macro boost, how fast your macros increase depends on you and your body. A 2%-5% calorie increase is typically how fast calories increase for a slower approach and about 6%-10% for a faster approach. A slow approach would be about 2-3g of fat per week and 10-15 grams of carbs. How fast you increase your macros depends on how your body is responding. Lose weight? By all means up your carbs and fats. Weight stays consistent? Up your carbs and fats. Weight goes up a tiny bit? Maybe keep macros consistent another week. Weight goes up a lot? Keep your macros consistent and see what happens the following week. Remember, there is no rush. Reverse dieting is a slow process and it takes time.
What about the gym and cardio? It is so important to keep lifting while going through your reverse diet. With the added macros, your energy should be improving compared to how you felt when you were dieting. Strength should also be increasing and you should be feeling good in the gym. As far as cardio, the goal of the reverse is to slowly back off the cardio. There is nothing wrong with slashing cardio in half right off the bat. Then gradually, depending on your progress, either choose to cut cardio again bit by bit, or up your macros. Typically, you choose to do one or the other, one at a time, so you can gauge how your body is responding to each factor.
Often times you hear people talking about “free meals” or “untracked meals” or “cheat meals”. All the same thing. Anyway, following a dieting phase, some people choose to implement these back into their diet immediately. Others choose to wait a little bit. Some choose to not have them at all. ALL PERSONAL PREFERENCE. The risk of implementing “free meals” immediately would be the increase likelihood of fat gain. You risk your body not knowing how to handle the excess of food and turning the excess calories into fat storage. However, if you feel like you mentally NEED a free meal, then DO IT. Remember, there are no rules. If you feel as though you can wait for these “free meals” perhaps choose that option. This will give your body time to adjust, restore your metabolism, and better be able to handle the added calories. Don’t feel like you need a free meal? Don’t take one and opt to do a tracked, refeed day instead. Again, ALL PERSONAL PREFERENCE.
When do you stop? So you’ve been gradually upping your calories, lowering your cardio… how do you know when you’re done? This is up to you. If you are satisfied with how much you are eating, you can stop “adding” macros and keep your macros consistent and just maintain where your current physique/macros. If you looking to lose weight, this is a good place to start a fat loss phase because your body and metabolism will be in a much better place.
Reverse Dieting is such an individualized process and results are not the same for any two people. What works for one person will not and does not necessarily work for someone else. A lot of people have their opinions about Reverse Dieting- whether it’s good or bad or whether or not you should or shouldn’t follow a reverse diet, but in my opinion, i think following a RD can be very beneficial. It can help with the physical and mental struggles that often time accompany the end of a competition season/prep.
A quick insight into my reverse diet. I have gone into post show several ways– with NO plan, a more aggressive reverse, and a slow approach to a reverse diet. This time around, we are opting for a slow reverse diet. Initially, when i received my post show macros i was surprised, and a little shocked, at how low they were. I had spent 6 months dieting….and i was still dieting post show. But, after i got to thinking i realized why a slow approach would be good for me. 1) I’m trying to maintain a leaner physique this offseason compared to in the past. 2) stay lean while not being stage lean 3)better on my emotional health-not gaining excess fat and being self conscious immediately following a show. After coming to that realization, i pushed forward. I stuck to my macros and have been sticking to my macros pretty consistently the past 6 weeks (sans cheesecake factory training which i mentioned in my last post). Reverse dieting is NOT easy. Yes, there are many days that i want to say FUK it and eat whatever i want or say FUK my macros. But i usually don’t. Yes, some days i cannot track my macros to a t but that’s okay. Consistency is key. It is not always easy to stick to your macros when you are not dieting or don’t have that end goal of stepping on stage. The magic happens outside of your comfort zone so for me that means gaining weight, gaining muscle and fat (in a controlled manner), getting back to normalcy, and having more flexibility with my diet…all of which are possible with reverse dieting.
If you have any other questions about this topic please feel free to comment below and I will try my best to answer and help in anyway i can. Reverse dieting is a process and it’s by no means easy, but i promise if you are going through reverse dieting there are others going through it and struggling as well.
Please also comment with any other ideas/topics you may have for future posts and keep checking back for more,