Reverse dieting is a way to increase your caloric intake over time so that you’re able to eat more food while minimizing fat gain.
But who should (and shouldn’t) try this strategy?
Reverse dieting is for those who have been eating in a calorie deficit for an extended period because these individuals are more likely to be burning calories at a slower rate. However, reverse dieting will only work for those who can adhere to a gradual increase in calories over time.
To know if reverse dieting is a good option for you or not, you first need to understand why reverse dieting works for certain individuals but not for others.
Who Should Consider Doing A Reverse Diet?
The following is a list of types of people who should try a reverse diet.
1. You’re a Yo-Yo Dieter
If you’re a yo-yo dieter, then you should consider doing a reverse diet because those who diet intensely one minute and then go “free-for-all” the next minute will wreak havoc on their metabolisms and increase the risk of developing binge eating disorder .
When you’re going back and forth between being in a calorie deficit (under-eating) and a calorie surplus (over-eating) you are more likely to lose muscle, slow your metabolic rate (burn fewer calories per day), and put on body fat.
This is because when you are in an aggressive calorie deficit, your body will end up burning muscle for energy to ensure it has enough fuel to support basic bodily functions. Whenever you lose muscle, you also burn fewer calories per day because muscle is metabolically expensive tissue (it costs your body energy to maintain muscle).
Additionally, an aggressive calorie deficit will cause you to lose weight, which results in less overall body mass and fewer calories burned because you need fewer calories to support your smaller body.
Ultimately, this causes you to burn fewer calories per day which sets you up to put on body fat when you swing the other way and massively overeat, especially when this period of overeating lasts longer than a week.
If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight while yo-yo dieting, then it’s important to reverse diet to speed up your metabolism, restore thyroid and testosterone hormones to normal levels, and regulate hunger hormones; all of which will set you up for success in the future.
Even if you did not lose a significant amount of weight while yo-yo dieting, you should reverse diet to stop the cycle of mental restriction and give yourself a break from trying to adhere to a calorie deficit (unsuccessfully).
2. You’re Not Seeing Progress While Dieting
If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a while and haven’t seen any progress on the scale or in your measurements, then you’re likely not being consistent with your calorie deficit.
If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight (50+lbs) while dieting and progress has come to a standstill, then it’s likely because your metabolism has slowed and you’re burning fewer calories per day because you’re smaller now.
In this situation, you would need to reverse diet to speed up your metabolism and restore your hormones to normal levels.
That said, for most people who are struggling to make progress, it is more likely that they’re struggling to make progress because they can’t stick to their calorie deficit for weeks or months at a time, rather than because their metabolism slowed down.
If you’re someone who is struggling to be consistent and you find yourself preoccupied with food and thinking about it 24/7, then it’s time to reverse diet.
Reverse dieting can help you take a step back and provide a much-needed mental break to reduce your preoccupation with food.
Spending more time NOT trying to diet, can help set you up for success in the future when you are ready for a dieting phase.
3. You Want To Maintain Fat Loss Results
If you’ve achieved your fat loss goals and you want to maintain your results while eating more food, then you should consider a reverse diet.
A reverse diet can help you maintain the results you’ve achieved while dieting by facilitating an increase in the amount of food you can eat without gaining a significant amount of fat.
This is because reverse dieting takes a step-by-step approach to increasing your calorie consumption and is monitored and adjusted weekly to see how your body is responding.
The reason why this has the potential to work is that by taking the step-by-step approach you’re giving your metabolism a chance to increase at a similar rate to which you’re increasing your caloric intake.
This gives your body an opportunity to start burning calories at a faster rate as you’re eating more, which could result in less body fat gained even with increased calories.
This slow and steady approach to adding food back in also gives you an opportunity to find your new maintenance calories (based on your new body weight), which will be lower than the number of calories you were able to eat to maintain your weight before your diet.
Reverse dieting could be exactly what you need to make the results you’ve achieved more sustainable, because if you could maintain a lower body fat percentage while eating more food then it is likely more realistic to maintain these results.
4. You’re Transitioning From Dieting To Bulking
If you’ve finished your diet and you want to start lean bulking (staying lean while you try to gain muscle) then you should consider reverse dieting.
If you were to go straight from the calories that you were eating while dieting to bulking calories, you would most likely put on fat, and it may be more fat than you’re comfortable gaining.
This would happen because your metabolism wouldn’t be burning calories as readily while dieting.
If you increase your calories dramatically to a surplus (which is necessary for any kind of bulking), your body wouldn’t be able to burn calories as quickly. Therefore, these additional calories would be stored as body fat.
It’s safe to assume that those interested in a lean bulk would want to stay as lean as possible while working towards muscle gain. Therefore, going straight from a deficit to a surplus isn’t the right approach.
Instead, I would recommend going through a reverse diet after dieting and building up to a calorie surplus once your metabolism has adjusted to the increase in calories.
Who Should NOT Consider Doing A Reverse Diet?
On the other hand, here are the types of people who should not consider a reverse diet.
1. You Experience Extreme Hunger
Those who are experiencing extreme levels of hunger regardless of what they eat as a result of being in a calorie deficit for an extended period probably shouldn’t reverse diet.
These individuals shouldn’t reverse diet only because they most likely won’t be able to adhere to it. If you’re dealing with extreme hunger it may be difficult to gradually increase your calories.
In this situation, it would be more beneficial to increase your calories up to your projected maintenance calories based on your current body weight, rather than trying to increase gradually.
To get an estimation of your current maintenance calories, you can multiply your body weight by 14-16 OR switch your goal to maintenance in the Avatar Nutrition App and let the app do the calculations for you.
2. You Have An Extremely Low Body Fat Percentage
If you’re someone with an extremely low body fat percentage (<10% for men or <15% for women), then reverse dieting probably isn’t the right option for you.
When your body fat percentage is that low for an extended period, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk of experiencing severe health complications such as a decreased heart rate and loss of strength.
For this reason, you will need to restore your body fat percentage to a healthier range at a faster rate.
Even the most aggressive form of reverse dieting may not restore your body fat percentage fast enough, especially if you’re also dealing with extreme hunger.
This is because it will take too long to progress your calories up to the point where you’re in a calorie surplus and able to put on much-needed weight.
When dealing with a low body fat percentage, whether it be from an eating disorder, dieting for too long, health issues, or something else, you will likely find that significantly increasing your caloric intake to quickly restore your body’s energy balance is more realistic to adhere to and better for your overall health (by restoring hormones to normal levels).
3. You Have Low Adherence
Ultimately, if you’re unable to adhere to a rigid plan that requires you to monitor your intake relatively closely and use this information to make adjustments, then reverse dieting isn’t going to work for you.
No matter the reason, if you find that you can’t track your intake consistently or adhere to planned changes in intake, then reverse dieting won’t be worth your time. Reverse dieting without counting calories is going to be extremely hard.
3 Benefits of Reverse Dieting
Now that we’ve explored who should and shouldn’t consider reverse dieting, let’s dive into the specific benefits that this approach can offer to those who are suitable candidates.
1. To Increase Your Metabolism
The main benefit of reverse dieting is that it can help you to increase your metabolism, which is beneficial for those who have a slower metabolism from dieting on and off.
By dieting and losing a significant amount of weight, your metabolism naturally slows down because your body recognizes that there isn’t enough food coming in, and it wants to preserve the energy it is receiving for bodily functions. 
This need to preserve energy results in less overall calorie burn per day, which is mainly related to a decrease in non-exercise activity (activity that burns calories at lower intensities) and exercise activity (higher intensity activities). This sometimes happens without you even noticing.
The process of burning fewer calories per day is called metabolic adaptation (or adaptive thermogenesis), which is when your metabolism slows more than would be expected based on weight loss alone because you have a lighter body to move and likely less muscle mass.
When your metabolism slows down, it becomes harder to lose weight, but it also becomes harder to maintain your current body weight. This is because the number of calories that you need to maintain your weight will have decreased, and it is harder to sustain a low-calorie diet.
For example, perhaps before you could maintain your weight on a 2500-calorie meal plan. But if your metabolism has slowed down to the point where you can only maintain your weight by eating 1700 calories, then it becomes harder to continue maintaining your weight.
But with reverse dieting, you can start making gradual increases in calories to show your body that more food is coming in, and it can start burning calories more readily. Through the reverse dieting process, you’ll also find your new maintenance calorie intake.
2. To Stop Yo-Yo Dieting
Reverse dieting is beneficial because it can help those struggling to be consistent towards their goals to finally stop yo-yo dieting and increase the potential of actually achieving weight loss goals in the future.
Yo-yo dieting is a pattern that is hard to break. You start dieting to reach your goals, then you can’t adhere to your diet because it’s unsustainable for you, but you still aren’t where you want to be so you feel that the only choice is to start aggressively dieting again.
Reverse dieting can help you to stop yo-yo dieting because it will give you the increase in food that you need to restore your metabolism (if you’ve lost a significant amount of weight) and help reduce your preoccupation with food, which can make dieting easier in the future.
3. To Maintain Your Results While Eating More Food
Reverse dieting is beneficial for those who are comfortable with the body composition that they’ve achieved through dieting and want to maintain these results going forward without having to continue eating a lower amount of calories.
Reverse dieting can help you to maintain as close to your current physique as possible while eating more food as long as you’re willing and able to be patient with the length of the process.
Reverse dieting is a slow and steady approach that helps to maintain your current physique while increasing calories. The increase in calories happens slowly over time and ideally at a similar rate to which your metabolism increases once your body realizes more food is coming in regularly.
The process of reverse dieting could be an important one because if you’ve dieted down and you’re comfortable with your current physique but want to eat more food to make it sustainable long-term, then you’re not going to want to just start eating more food and lose all the work that you’ve put in thus far.
How Avatar Nutrition Can Help
If you’ve worked hard to achieve your fat loss goals and are now looking to maintain your results while enjoying a greater variety of foods, Avatar Nutrition can be your ideal partner in this journey.
With our personalized macronutrient and calorie recommendations, that update weekly as you record your progress, Avatar Nutrition can guide you through the process of reverse dieting, helping you increase your caloric intake gradually and strategically.
This approach allows your metabolism to adjust alongside your diet, potentially enabling you to burn calories more efficiently and minimize fat gain, even as you consume more.
By leveraging the power of Avatar Nutrition, you can make your hard-earned results more sustainable. Imagine maintaining a lower body fat percentage while enjoying a more diverse and satisfying diet – with Avatar Nutrition, this can become your reality.
Don’t wait – start your 14-day free trial with Avatar Nutrition today and unlock the potential of reverse dieting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Reverse Dieting Work For Everyone?
Reverse dieting will not work for everyone. If your metabolism is already burning calories at its maximum capacity, there is no room for improvement. It also wouldn’t work for those who aren’t capable of sticking to the plan even if there is room for metabolic improvements.
Can I Reverse Diet Without Counting Calories?
While it’s possible to reverse diet without strictly counting calories, it can be more challenging. The principle of reverse dieting involves gradually increasing caloric intake, which typically requires some level of tracking. However, focusing on larger portion sizes and higher-calorie foods can be an alternative.
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