Within the last year, I discovered the concept of reverse dieting. The term was being thrown around by Dr. Layne Norton, who credits Alberto Nunez for popularizing it originally. After purchasing e-books, listening to podcasts, and webinars on the subject, I decided to research and educate myself even further. The more I dug to see if it would be a good option to pursue, the more convinced I was. The concept intrigued me after watching Layne’s vlogs on YouTube, but my goal at the time was to cut body fat and lean down. When I think of the big picture and think long term, I think right now a good option is to do a reverse diet for the next few months, or longer…who knows, until I see how I respond.
OVER THE PAST NINE MONTHS….
Being down 15 pounds since January 2014, I obviously want to continue making progress and keep losing body fat. However, to drop this weight over the last 8 months, I have been slowly lowering my macronutrient (protein, carb and fat) intake to lose weight while retaining muscle. Sidenote: It is ideal to slowly go about weight loss or else you can sacrifice muscle, as well as gain the weight back quickly when you cut calories drastically. More common than not, people will gain back even more weight than what they lost. This is a recurring process in America. As Americans, we don’t have a problem with dieting. We have a problem with maintaining weight loss.
After a long period of slowly cutting, I decided that my calorie intake is getting low and if I keep dropping my calories, I won’t have much more room before I get to a point where I am not eating enough. I am basically to a point where my metabolism is becoming adapted to the low-ish calorie intake, my metabolic rate has slowed and my body is pretty much maintaining where it is at. It says, I am content and I will just stay here and keep holding onto this fat you have. I am not really as hungry as I used to be and I can definitely tell my metabolism has slowed. Obviously I don’t want my body to become efficient on this low of calories, I want my metabolism to be efficient and burn a lot of calories so I can consume a lot of calories. 😀
WHAT IS REVERSE DIETING?
THIS is where reverse dieting is magical. The same way I was slowly DROPPING my calories the last several months, I am going to reverse that and slowly ADD calories. Weekly or bi-weekly, I will increase my carbs and fats by about 5-10% to build up my metabolic capacity. The idea behind it is that you will slowly increase your caloric intake and monitor your progress by weighing in and taking pictures and so fourth.. The trick is to go slow. If you don’t and realize you are gaining too much weight, hold your macronutrient intake constant until your metabolism catches up and your weight steadies. Then begin slowly increasing again.
[sidenote: After a long period of dieting, the WORST thing you can do is jump your calories right back to where they were before you started dieting. This is why you see so many bodybuilding competitors blow up and gain 20+ pounds back after they compete in shows. Google it if you don’t believe me. Reverse dieting aims to prevent this. After a period of reverse dieting and then dieting, you’ll get to a point where you can maintain a level of leanness while eating a sufficient amount of calories so when you do decide to “diet” down again, you only have a few pounds to drop, rather than having to go to drastic measures to lose weight.]
Once you get your calories & metabolism up again and reach your metabolic capacity, then you can start to cut again. BUT this time, you have a better starting point where you’ll drop calories from to be able to drop weight and body fat on MORE food than before. This beats starving yourself for extended periods on barely any food and feeling deprived, resulting in looking frail and weak.
The concept of this is absolutely awesome. The testimonials from others prove that majority of the time post reverse diet cycle, you look even better after cutting. Your muscles are fuller and you actually come out MORE lean after cutting. Pretty cool stuff.
THE HARD PART… (Because nothing worth having comes easy!)
Well first and foremost, dedication and consistency. You have to be to track and be precise, and on top of that focus on being consistent with hitting macronutrient intake goals to know if it is actually working! This requires a commitment, but will also allow you more freedom in the long run if you stick to the process. The most important time of the reverse diet is to be on point within the first 6-8 weeks.
Another downfall..obviously with increasing food intake, there is a chance of weight gain. This is why reverse dieting can be MORE complicated than cutting. It is so mental. Rather than seeing your body change and lean out, you actually might feel a little more “fluffy,” which could scare you and make you automatically want to drop your calories again. Stick with it, and remember the long term effects of what reverse dieting can do for you.
Focus on the strength and performance gains you’re making in the gym when this happens. You can also focus on gains to your overall health, i.e. better sleep, hormonal health, digestion, performance in everyday life, etc. Also with your metabolism picking up, you will feel hungrier in the beginning which can make it challenging. Trust the process and be patient. Reverse dieting can enable you freedom in the long run to fuel your body and be able to go out with friends without ordering a plain salad. And remember, you don’t have to live by a food scale forever. With having a better metabolism, you’ll have more wiggle room in your diet to switch to intuitive and mindful eating, an approach we teach through POA.