What is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is a very slow increase in calories after extended periods of caloric restriction, essentially you have reached your goal and and want to maintain it. The goal of reverse dieting is to slowly add as many calories as possible (mainly from carbohydrates) without gaining any weight or whilst gaining as little weight as possible. The slow increase of calories allows your body to adapt to the increases each week and prevent any significant fat gain.
Why reverse diet?
If you have been on a calorie restricted diet for a long period of time, especially when combined with excessive cardio, your metabolism will start to slow down and weight loss will become difficult. If you have been dieting on say 1400 calories for a while and have noticed no weight loss so decided to jump back up to maintenance calories (which would likely be around 2000 calories) you would most likely gain a significant amount of body fat. This is because your metabolism has been somewhat damaged and is therefore sluggish and is not equipped to handle the large increase in calories. Reverse dieting aims to prevent this from happening by maximizing your metabolic capacity so that when you reach the maximum amount of calories you can eat without weight gain, you will start to lose fat far more efficiently.
How much per week do I need to increase my calories?
You want to increase your calories by about 60 calories per day and carbs by about 15g. You want to keep your protein and fat the same (you can increase your fats by 2-5g every 2 weeks also if you feel you need it). For example, a 6 week reverse diet may look something like this:
Week 1: 1913 calories per day with 204.6g carbs
Week 2: 1968 calories per day with 218g carbs
Week 3: 2022 calories per day with 232g carbs
Week 4: 2077 calories per day with 245g carbs
Week 5: 2131 calories per day with 259g carbs
Week 6: 2187 calories per day with 273g carbs (maintenance)
What happens if I hit maintenance calories but am still losing weight?
Then you will continue to increase your calories/carbohydrates until you are maintaining your weight. Everyones metabolism is different and your required calorie intake will vary person to person.
But I still have body fat to lose!
If you are still wanting to lose body fat and you find you have been stuck on a plateau for a period of time, then I recommend reverse dieting (increasing calories to maintenance) before cutting again. This will give your body a break from dieting and give your metabolism a chance to repair itself.
Will I gain weight?
You may gain some water weight in the beginning due to the increase in carbohydrates (for each gram of carbohydrate that is stored, a further 3g of water weight is also retained by the body). This won’t last and it is not to be confused with fat gain.
So do I have to cut out cardio?
No, but you definitely have to cut back on the amount of cardio you do, as it is counterproductive when it comes to increasing your metabolism. Most people who are reverse dieting cut cardio back to two days per week, usually HIIT (high intensity interval training) while strength training 3-6 days per week.