Here’s a concept that sounds like it came straight out of a dodgy Facebook Ad:
“Thanks to this revolutionary dieting method, you can now eat more calories… without gaining weight!”
Sounds pretty crazy, right?
But what if I told you that this idea can actually work in certain contexts?
What if I told you that lots of people have done it and have seen real, measurable results?
Im talking about Reverse dieting.
Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t.
It’s really popular in bodybuilding circles. (And for the record, I usually don’t recommend that you eat like a bodybuilder—unless you are one.)
But this tactic may be an exception to that—in certain situations. Here’s why…
Reverse dieting: What it is, why it works, and how to do it effectively.
If you have ever struggled with keeping the weight off, even after restricting calories to the point of near misery…
If you’ve ever felt like you’re starving while standing over a scale that keeps creeping up week after week…
Reverse dieting isn’t magic. It’s science.
Borrowed from the Bodybuilding world, reverse dieting can, at first, sound like the stuff of fakery and Instagram BS, which you KNOW I'm not about: Eat more food without gaining weight.
Too good to be true, right?
But maybe not.
So lets look at this in more depth...
What is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is a method that involves slowly and strategically increasing daily food intake, all in an effort to raise your metabolism.
And while reverse dieting might seem like a one-way street toward weight regain, the technique actually offers a lot of promise—when done right.
Many people gain muscle and lose fat, all while eating more food than they were before.
But how does reverse dieting work, and is it right for you (or your clients)?
The diets many bodybuilders (myself included) use to get competition-lean aren’t even sustainable for bodybuilders long term- Trust me I naively tried in my early years and got stuck in a Yo-Yo binge and restriction cycle and met me tell you, that's NO fun at all!
For weeks leading up to a competition, bodybuilders follow super restrictive diets, which gets them abs you could grate cheese on, but has the unfortunate side effect of slowing their metabolisms.
If they tried to maintain this approach after competitions, the hunger would eventually become overwhelming.
Competitive bodybuilders also usually try to pack on as much muscle as they can during the offseason, and that’s nearly impossible when you’re on a low-calorie diet.
But like everyone else, when bodybuilders gorge on all the food they want, they add plenty of fat to go with that muscle.
Soooooooo whats the answer?
Well it's one thing commercial slimming clubs won't tell you... why?
Because it doesn't fit the business model which keeps you coming back every time you regain weight!
The alternative: Reverse Dieting.
Smart bodybuilders (and dieters) slowly reverse their pre-competition diet by strategically and incrementally increasing their portions.
Basically, they reverse the steps they took to get competition ready, one nutritional step at a time. And they also usually gradually reduce cardio and focus on strength training.
This allows their metabolism to adjust upward over time.
Eventually, they hit an energy intake where they feel energized, are performing well in the gym, and are gaining some muscle—all while minimizing fat gain.
This doesn’t mean zero fat gain, mind you,
But reverse dieting can leave them in a much better position to compete again in the future—compared to following a “see-food” diet that dramatically balloons their body fat percentage.
And if they never want to compete again? That’s fine too because they’re back to eating a normal and sustainable amount of food. Win win!
Reverse dieting is the answer to maintaining your hard earned work without jumping on the yo-yo binge/restriction diet train.
You can see how reverse dieting might apply to the general population.
Weight loss is notoriously difficult to maintain. Most people end up regaining what they lost, and studies actually show a majority gain 20% MORE back.
Why? For many reasons, but here’s just one: When you reduce calories and your body size shrinks, your metabolism eventually slows.
That means you must cut more calories to keep the fat loss going.
And all too often, by the time someone reaches their goal, the amount of calories they can eat to maintain their weight doesn’t translate to a lot of food. It feels paltry and incredibly difficult to stick to.
As a result, additional calories creep back in and the number on the scale starts to rise.
So they diet again.
And on the yo-yo cycle goes.
But if instead you slowly, intentionally, and strategically add the right number of calories over time, you’ll be more likely to maintain their fat loss long-term.
Love and Light
IB- The Folks at Precision Nutrition and My Protein