Reverse Dieting: The Ultimate Guide 2016
When you try to lose weight and burn fat, you always hear the same advice: start cutting your calories and do cardio. You may have even lost weight this way in the past. But for long-term weight loss, this traditional method of dieting isn’t sustainable and you could be doing more harm to your body than good by constantly losing weight.
If you have ever done a crash diet before, you are probably very familiar with the pitfalls that traditional diets have. The first thing you do is start cutting calories, which may have short-term results. Coupled with increased cardio exercises like running, this caloric restriction starts to shed water weight and you may even lose a few pounds of fat.
But eventually cutting all of those calories makes you miserable, so you start eating again. The problem is, when you started dieting and cutting calories, your body instantly started to make changes to how food and energy were processed.
Known as metabolic adaptation, your body began to burn fewer calories naturally because you were eating less food. This change in biological behavior continues when you get off your diet which is why most people experience extremely rapid weight gain after they stop dieting.
If you have done multiple fad diets that involved drastically reducing the amount of calories you consume in a day, this “metabolic damage” carries over long-term which means it takes even fewer calories and even more cardio to lose weight every time.
As you can easily see, this process is completely unsustainable and can leave you miserable, leaving you mentally and physically unable to burn fat and get the body you want.
Notice I put quotations around “metabolic damage.” Please note there is no such thing as a damaged metabolism. Your body just has the ability to adapted to a lower body fat set point. Metabolic damage just refers to someone who has reached an extremely low energy adaptation. You will see metabolic damage and adaptation used interchangeably in this guide.
Luckily there are ways to reverse metabolic adaptation because it works both ways: just like you are able to lower your metabolism, there are ways to boost your metabolism and reset it. This process is known as reverse dieting and it allows you to reach a point where your body is working for your goals, not against you, so you aren’t starving yourself. Here’s what you need to know:
So What Is Reverse Dieting?
As the name suggests, reverse dieting is dieting, but in reverse. You can think of it as the opposite of a traditional diet. Instead of restricting your calories like you would in a normal diet and increasing the amount of time you do cardio activities, you add calories to your diet and reduce the amount of cardio you do over time. Sounds backward, right? It works.
One important thing that you need to keep in mind is that reverse dieting is not just eating a lot of food and doing a lot less. There is a strategy involved that needs to be followed for the best results possible and to help utilize metabolic adaptations to your advantage.
Your metabolism takes time to change, so the entire process of reverse dieting is about making very specific and gradual change to your diet and exercise plan. This gradual process is what allows for metabolic adaptation.
Understanding Metabolic Adaptations From Dieting
To truly understand metabolic damage and using reverse dieting to lose fat, it is important to understand what is going on with metabolic adaptation.
One important concept you should be aware of is your body-fat set point. This is the point that your body has the easiest time maintaining based on your metabolism.
If you change the way you exercise, begin to lose weight, or start restricting the amount of calories you consume every day, your body can tell that there is a shift away from the body-fat set point. Basically, your body knows it is not getting the same amount of energy every day that it is used to.
As a result, your body starts to make physical changes that prohibit fat loss through a wide range of processes that eventually reduce your metabolism. When you drastically reduce your calories, here’s what happens:
- Your heart starts to beat slower.
- Your body begins to consume less energy from fat deposits.
- Important hormones that your body needs for retaining muscle and burning fat (such as leptin and testosterone) become negatively affected.
- You start to burn less energy throughout the day.
- Muscles start adapting to become efficient which mean you use less energy for things you do during the day.
As a result, your body simply stops burning calories when you drastically reduce your caloric intake whether you are doing chores around the house, just sitting around, or even when you are exercising.
With reverse dieting, you can reverse this metabolic damage by speeding up your metabolism and readjusting your body-fat set point by carefully adding more calories to your diet.
Remember, reverse dieting is not about simply binge eating. If you just sit down on your couch all day and consume too many extra calories you are going to add fat and extra weight. Reverse dieting is about carefully planning your caloric intake in a structured way to boost your metabolism.
How To Reverse Diet In 6 Easy Steps
Perhaps the best thing about reverse dieting is not that it can help you burn up fat deposits and turn your body into a veritable calorie furnace, it is that it is an extremely easy diet plan to adopt. In just 6 steps you can start your reverse diet:
1. Determine Macro Targets Based On Your Current Caloric Intake
The first thing you have to do is figure out how many calories you are consuming right now. If you don’t know how much you’re eating on average, you will not know how many calories you should add to your diet. Once you do that, you can figure out your macros. You can watch our video to learn more about what macros are and why they are important.
To figure out how many calories you are eating, simply keep track of everything for a week. Once you have a week’s worth of daily caloric intake values, you can find an average. That average is what you will use to find your target macros. Let’s say that you found your average caloric intake to be 2000 calories.
The next thing you need to do is weigh yourself—this will give you the baseline for your protein macros. Typically you want your protein targets to be at 1 gram for every pound that you weigh. If you currently weigh 170 pounds, your protein macro will be 170 grams.
The next thing you need to do is take your protein target and multiply it by 4 to get the number of calories from protein you should be consuming. 170 grams of protein x 4 calories = 680 calories from protein.
Now you can take your average calorie value and subtract the number of protein calories you have. In our example that would be 2000 calories – 680 calories from protein = 1320 calories left. These remaining calories will be split up into carbs and fat.
The most common way to split these calories up for your macros is to use 60% of the calories for carbs and the other 40% for fats. In our example, that would mean 792 calories from carbs and 528 calories from fats.
To determine these macros, you divide your calorie carbs by 4 and your fat carbs by 9 (since there are 4 calories for every gram of carbohydrate and 9 calories for every gram of fat).
That would give us 198 grams of carbs and 59 grams of fat plus the 170 grams of protein.
Now you have your baseline macros!
2. Decide On How Quickly You Prefer To Raise Carbs and Fats
Now that you have your baseline macros figured out, you have two options for raising the amount of calorie intake. If you want to add more calories to your diet to increase your metabolism as quickly as possible and do not mind adding on a little extra fat or plan on hitting weights hard to increase muscle mass while you are in a reverse diet, you may want to consider aggressive reverse dieting.
If you want to keep fat gain to an absolute minimum you should consider utilizing conservative reverse dieting. This will allow you to increase your metabolism over time without adding extra fat but it will take longer.
3. Meet Your Fitness Goals By Raising Carbs and Fats Appropriately
Once you have made your decision, it will be time to increase your caloric intake. If you have chosen a slower, conservative approach to reverse dieting for metabolic adaptation, start increasing the amount of carbs and fat you intake by around 2 to 5 percent.
If you want a faster reverse you will increase the amount of carbs and fat you intake a lot more. In the first week, you may want to consider increasing your carbs and fat by as much as 25% (or 15% if you do not want to get too crazy) from of your baseline. For the following weeks, increase caloric intake by 6 to 10 percent each week.
4. Control Your Weight Gain With Multiple Weight Checks During The Week
It is important to keep track of what is going on with your body as you reverse. Pick a few days out of the week (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday works well) and weigh yourself on those days, as soon as you wake up. Taking this average, you will be able to see how your weight gain looks throughout the week. If you notice that you are packing on a lot of weight quickly, consider increasing your carbs and fat by less in the next week. On the other hand, if you are not gaining any weight or have lost weight, consider increasing by a higher rate for your next increase.
5. Start Adding Lifting While Restricting Your Cardio
Changing the food that you eat is important, but it is only part of the plan. With reverse dieting, you also have to change the way that you exercise. Throughout your reverse dieting regimen, you will want to start cutting back on your cardio exercises.
With cardio, your body and muscles are focusing on adding endurance which does not help add any muscle mass at all. In fact, some studies have shown that too much cardio can actually make it harder to pack on muscle over time.
Instead of doing cardio, adding heavy weight lifting is important. You will want to lift at least 3 times per week, up to 6 times per week if you can handle it. Always leave at least one day to recover and rest. By lifting weights you will add muscle mass which will also help increase your metabolism over time.
6. Once You Are Eating The Amount You Prefer, Decide The Next Step
The goal of your reverse dieting is to reach a point where you are happy with the amount of food you are consuming. Once you finally feel like you are consuming enough calories, stop adding to your carb and fat macros and make a decision on where you would like to go next.
Remember, with metabolic adaptation, your body now has a different body-fat set point. That means even though you are eating more, your body is retaining less fat and your metabolism is actively burning more calories.
If you are comfortable with the way you look and feel, you may not want to make any changes at all. Instead of adding any more to your macros, simply keep them at that level and focus on maintaining.
Now that you have increased your metabolism if your goal for reverse dieting was to eventually lose weight and burn fat, now is the time to do so. Your metabolism is at a high starting point which means you can start losing weight without the risk of weight gain.
Remember, you want to aim for losing about 1% of your body weight per week. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you do not want to lose more than 1.8 pounds of body weight each week.
Instead of going back to old habits of drastically cutting calories, focus on losing weight with the highest calorie intake possible. That may mean you are only cutting 300 calories from your current diet.
You want to be able to lose weight while still eating as many calories as possible, letting your metabolism do the work for you instead of killing yourself with endless cardio.
Feel free to add to the discussion and comment below!
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