Reverse Dieting: The Answer to the Diet Blowout

You have spent months in a calorie deficit, depleting glycogen, lowering dietary carbohydrates and dropping body fat like its hot!

You have arrived at your goal after a seemingly endless amount of cardio and steamed Basa, you have completed your perfect desired look, and are now looking to return to normality.

You reintroduce carbohydrates, you lower the cardio and have one or two cheat meals. These turn in to cheat weeks. Within a calendar month, you are back up to near your pre-diet weight, holding water and storing body fat like mad!

What a devastating reward for all your months of slogging the cement!

Well, it doesn’t have to be like this.

Introducing Reverse Dieting!

Popularised by well respected industry idols like Layne Norton, ‘Reverse Dieting’ is an incredibly powerful tool to prevent rapid weight gain after dieting phases. The mechanism by which reverse dieting does this is through avoiding the rapid introduction of calories back in to your diet that would traditionally be seen after a weight loss campaign is complete.

It is a very controlled, structured method of slowly reintroducing calories week by week to rebuild your stunted basal metabolic rate from the dieting phase, leading to an increase in metabolic capacity over time. It is an amazingly simple method of reintroducing calories week by week, with minimal body fat gain as a result. It is a gradual process whereby the body can adapt to the additional calories being consumed because they are being reintroduced at a very conservative rate, allowing your basal metabolic rate to catch up.

How to Implement the Reverse Diet:

A Reverse Diet can be utilised in a number of scenarios.

Scenario A- Severe Calorie Restriction/Borderline Metabolic Syndrome:

If an individual is severely metabolically stunted after months and months of severe calorie restriction and excessive cardiovascular exercise, their reverse diets goal should be to rebuild their metabolic capacity which can take months, even up to a year. The amount of time spent in restriction is generally the amount of time one would advise to spend reverse dieting. These conditions are seen often seen in female physique competitors who may only have an off season calorie intake of 1600 calories to begin with. After a 12-14 week comp, dropping calories and increasing cardio by the day, these competitors can often end up barely scraping a net calorie balance of sub 1000 cals. Then bring on the consecutive shows, because now they are in shape! These individuals would benefit significantly from a very lengthy, gradual reverse diet of 3-6 months, adding as little as 50-100 calories per day over a week. They should slowly reduce cardio by 5 minutes per session per week as well at the same time and continue at this rate until their calorie intake in back in the ball park of their off season intake and cardio is back to minimal amounts.

Scenario B-The Average Bodybuilding Comp Prep

Being not as metabolically slowed as Scenario A individuals, those who are looking to come back to normality after a typical 12 week Bodybuilding Competition prep will benefit most from a 8-12 week reverse dieting phase. Depending on how fast your basal metabolic rate, how depleted you were at the end of your comp and how well your body responds to carbohydrates, will determine the rate you re introduce calories. I recommend 100 calories per day be added for week 1 to week 4, adding an additional 400 cals per day to you intake over a month. At this stage your body will be adapting to the increase calorie intake and a more forgiving approach can be taken to adding in calories. 150 calories per day can be added back in from week 5 onwards, and for the last 2-3 weeks simply add a further 200 cals/day until you are at your off season intake.

For a worked example, with a peak week intake of 2000 cals, the reverse diet may look something like the below for the first 5 weeks:

Weeks 1               Week 2                 Week 3                 Week 4                 Week 5

2100 cals              2200 cals              2300 cals              2400 cals             2550 cals


Scenario C-Weight Loss Challenge, Short Term Dieting or Summer Tone Up

Now, say your fat loss campaign was far less severe than Scenarios A or B.

Perhaps your fat loss campaign was even just a ‘6 week Challenge’ style diet, where you just cut out the junk food and started some moderate exercise.

These dieting campaigns are far less taxing on the metabolism as calorie restriction is far less severe than the Bodybuilding style fat loss campaigns. They are not as prolonged either and total weight loss is often much lower. An average 6 week weight loss may be 4-7 kilograms; in my first Bodybuilding Comp Prep I lost 17kg over 4 months for example.

The good news is therefore that your reverse diet is far more allowing than for our other worked examples. Start by adding in 150-200cals/day per week until you are at your original intake. If you were doing cardiovascular exercise, reduce by 10 mins per session until you are just doing enough to keep fit and healthy, not dropping the kgs!

Take Home:

Your starting point will greatly vary how you implement a reverse diet, how long it will take and how gradual the reintroduction of calories will be. For many, the discipline required to reverse diet for months after a very severe fat loss campaign will be very difficult to maintain and will indeed test even the most veteran competitors.

However, if done properly, imagine the quality of life improvement from eating hundreds of extra calories per day with minimal body fat accumulation or weight gain! A well executed reverse diet can deliver this and increase your metabolic capacity over time ensuring that you say good bye to the post diet blowouts of yesteryear, and hello to a greatly increased basal metabolic rate!

For supplementation to assist your reverse diet, see my article.