If you’ve just come off a very strict diet plan, whether to shed those final 10 pounds and achieved ‘ripped status’ or because you were actually taking part in a fitness or bodybuilding event, now you need to decide where to go from here.
While you may be highly tempted to just binge eat on everything in sight, it’s important not to let yourself go this route. For sure, a reward meal or two for achieving your goal is perfectly acceptable, but don’t let this drag on too long or you’ll be regaining much of the weight you lost right back.
Reverse dieting is something that you may have heard of before and one method that many people choose to use to help recover from that period of intense dieting. You must remember that any time you do take your calorie intake quite low, your metabolic rate will be adapting to this, which can make weight regain highly likely.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of reverse dieting so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Reverse Dieting: A Primer
First, let’s define exactly what reverse dieting is. This is a process where you are slowly adding calories back into your diet. For instance, if you were eating 2000 calories before you started your diet and at the end of the diet, you were down to 1300 calories per day, rather than just jumping right back up to 2000 calories, which will likely cause you to see fat gain, you’ll slowly increase your calories back up to that level. This allows your body time to adapt, reducing the fat gain that occurs.
You’ll typically add around 100-200 calories per week, hold it there, then add another 100-200 calories. As soon as you notice you are gaining weight, assume that is your new maintenance level and stop adding from there.
So what benefits are there to this approach? First – the obvious – it prevents fat gain. After dieting and losing weight, the last thing you likely want is to see it coming back on.
Second, it often helps you feel more comfortable. Those who dive back in and start eating a lot of food are far more likely to wind up feeling bloated and suffering from gastrointestinal issues, which can make life quite unpleasant for the time being.
Finally, it gives you control. Just as you counted calories while dieting, you’ll be counting calories here again and this can make you feel more like you are dictating which direction your bodyweight moves. Those who don’t count calories or track their intake at all may start to feel out of control and this can send them right back on the diet bandwagon in time.
On the cons side of things, it can be a slow process. If you have significantly cut back on your calorie intake, it could be weeks before you are eating at maintenance levels. In theory, this may mean you are actually prolonging the diet as you are still in the calorie deficit. If you aren’t feeling so well while in the deficit, this can make you rather miserable.
Second, it does require rigorous tracking. If you want a break from counting every single calorie that goes into your mouth, you may find that this approach is frustrating as that is precisely what you will be doing.
Finally, it doesn’t help you combat food cravings quite as well. If you felt highly restricted while dieting, you aren’t going to be doing much eating another 100 calories per day. You’ll need more calories to really make a difference.
All in all, reverse dieting can be an excellent strategy to use if you are really keen on preventing fat gain and have the patience for it. For others, just moving back to a sensible diet and accepting a few pounds of fat gain is the better move. Think about your own preferences and then make a decision from there around what you want to do.