Picture this: It is post fat loss. You have gone through weeks of caloric restrictions and you are hungry. On top of that, your mind cannot help but to wander – taking stock of all the foods you have been craving. This mental state can be a surefire way to reverse all your hard work. The best way to negate all of this? A jump onto a period of reverse dieting.
Now, it is important to ask, what really happens when we lose weight?
After a fat loss program, our fat cell shrinks and these smaller fat cells mean lower leptin levels.
Leptin, is a key hunger hormone which regulates satiety (aka the feeling of being full). That is why the end of a fat loss program is when the going gets tougher as you start to feel extreme hunger.
The problem for most people is usually not getting the weight off, but making sure that the weight stays off. Everytime we put on fat, we build new fat cells. And for the majority of people that have been on a weight loss program, binge eating excessive amounts only leads to putting on more fat from their starting point.
Research shows that the body is primed post-diet to favour anabolism of fat and not muscle with the excess of calories. The main reason for this is that the fat cell wants to be full. In fact, these fat cells become very sensitive due to the months of dieting, hence, enhancing its ability to take in nutrients. Studies have shown that the more frequent we diet, the harder it gets to get lean again.
Remember, fat cells shrink when we lose fat, but they are not eliminated.
The truth is: they never go away.
SO, WHAT IS REVERSE DIETING?
Reverse dieting is the process of strategically mitigating the amount of fat gain post fat loss program. The goal is to rebuild the metabolism from the previous period of under-eating.
Having a plan and direction post fat loss is crucial. It is easy to throw weeks and months of hard work, sacrifice and frustration within a 2-6 week period; only to wonder why you are in an even worse place before you began the diet. Remember, the goal is not to just get to point B, but live there long term. The more you have to “suffer” to get lean, the more likely you will rebound post diet.
HOW TO GO ABOUT PLANNING YOUR REVERSE DIETING
When approaching reverse dieting, there are 3 phases we plan to embark on. These phases consist of the adjustments to your carbs, fats and protein intake in a systematic fashion.
For most, if not all fat loss programs, carbs will have dropped very close to a negligible amount towards the end of the program. As carbs are the preferred source of fuel when it comes to energy, that will be the first thing we need to replenish. There is no need to increase protein as your protein intake should already be high to preserve muscle mass. And as for your fat intake, it only comes into play a little later.
Now, let’s breakdown the three phases!
When jumping onto phase 1, we increase the first 2 weeks of calories by 300-400 cals, and all from carbohydrates. If your cals fall at 1500 cals and below in your last week of diet, we would go with an increase of 300 cals. If it is above 1500 cals, it would be an increase of 400 cals. These cals should also come from carbohydrates.
The reason why we do not increase calories to the new baseline or Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) or go crazy on our diet is because steps and cardio are likely to drop. It is also likely that your training intensity during this phase is most likely lowered to deload the liver and body from the harsh exposure of a fat loss phase. Combine low activity level, training intensity and an anabolic environment for fat cells, you will put on a whole lot of fat, be it from quality or junk food.
If the weight gain here is not more than 1.5kgs, your calories can go up in phase 2. Again, protein does not need to be raised as it is already at an adequate level.
We need to figure out your new TDEE by using a calculator such as: https://tdeecalculator.net/
For example, if Person A gets 2800 calories as their new TDEE and we came off their diet at 1700 calories, we would be left with 1100 calories to increase to. Taking into account the increase of 400 calories from carbs in phase 1, that leaves us with 700 calories to increase over time.
We now take the remaining calories for Person A and divide it by two : giving them 350 calories to increase from. This is where we want to increase fats and carbohydrates together albeit slowly at a 2:1 ratio of carbs to fat respectively. In this case, it leaves us with 234 calories from carbs and 116 calories from fats.
Now, it is important to reiterate, if the weight is maintained such that it has not gone past 1.5-2 kgs, this is where you can increase the remaining calories to match the new TDEE. Similar to Phase 2, you will increase fats and carbohydrates together at a 2:1 ratio of carbs to fat respectively.
This leads to what will be your new normal. After staying on this new TDEE calories for another 2 weeks, you can begin playing around with the macros depending on what training phase you may be in.
Remember, you have worked hard to earn this new physique. Keeping it that way for both health and aesthetic purposes, for a long time, is fully obtainable. We highly suggest dieting only once a year to help serve as a great reset to the body.
Post your fat loss, you can shift your focus on building up strength and having fun with other goals in mind. This will be the key to help you prolong the longevity of your health and fitness endeavours.