In this post:
- What is reverse dieting?
- Why is reverse dieting important?
- Who needs to reverse diet?
- How to reverse diet.
Also check out:
- Cut phase 2014
- Build phase 2014
- Contest prep 2015 – Calculations and initial plan
- Competition Guide Articles
Typical scenario after a contest for many competitors or for those that dieted on a low calorie diet for longer periods of time once they have reached their weight loss goals……they eat like a pig for 3 or more days days and gain 20+ pounds very quickly. Some girls I have known (many actually) had cut for a bikini or figure contest, did well, then for the next 2 weeks ate everything and anything and gained back more weight than when they had even started training for a competition. Can they turn around and diet that fat back off? NO. Why you ask… well, the metabolism has slowed and adapted over time to the caloric deficit created through cutting calories, lifting and cardio. You need to give the metabolism time to reach normal levels again.
You are fighting your body’s survival mechanisms to lose fat. But, it’s not healthy or necessary to take in lower calories forever! That would be super sucky. So, you can reverse diet those cals back up while keeping that hot bod.
What is a reverse diet?
Reverse dieting, simply put, is a transition period from a caloric deficit into caloric maintenance or surplus. The goal is to maintain a leaner physique, make gains and eat more. It’s a transition where you add calories and decrease cardio…… and it can be a long process.
Why is reverse dieting important?
- Re-establish a healthy metabolism after a long term caloric deficit.
- Accurately determine what your maintenance intake is.
- Eat more food. Along with that comes the hormonal and performance benefits.
- For after non contest dieting- maintain your goal weight or, for after contest prep dieting- slowly get back to a normal body fat level and maintain it through the off season making cutting easier the next time around.
Who needs to reverse diet?
- Anyone that has been on a low calorie diet (woman: 1,000-1200 cals or men: 1,200-1600 cals, Ref. 1) or a very low calorie diet (less than 1,000 cals) for long periods of time. A very low calorie diet is not recommended unless for an obese person under medical supervision. A calorie deficit can be created by cardio, strength training and eating less.
- Anyone who has been dieting and their weight has plateaued for more than 3 weeks. Note that if you have not reached your desired weight but your weight has plateaued for more than 3 weeks, you need to work on the health of your metabolism by reverse dieting. Once you have gotten calories back up while maintaining your weight, you can diet back down again.
- If your caloric deficit exceed 300-500 calories below maintenance, you need to diet slower and reverse back up a bit. See IIFYM.com calculator for BMR, maintenance calories and the correct calorie deficit for you.
Many bodybuilding competitors (if they can stick with it), will reverse diet after their contest (this includes bikini, figure, and physique woman) or, if a competitor has reached their desired leanness weeks before a contest, they will reverse into a show.
How to do reverse diet.
Reverse dieting, in my opinion- which I am pretty sure is shared by the majority of people who have done this, is harder than cutting into a show. Getting into the gym is easy, keeping yourself from eating the extra cals your not supposed to feels like this:
…but after a contest, when you don’t have that show hanging over your head where you will be in a very tiny competition suit on stage in front of a zillion people, well, what is stopping you from eating that giant ass scoop of ice cream?
and before you know it, you’re like
If you dieted slowly on no more than a 300-500 calorie restriction losing no more than 1 pound per week keeping a 1x per week cheat meal in, your metabolism will most likely be in good shape. Regardless, reverse dieting is optimal to staying leaner.
A reverse will vary from person to person and from coach to coach. Here are the basics:
For bodybuilders, after a contest, eating a fun meal that night is just fine. The day after your contest you can eat what you want but don’t go bananas or eat until your are overly full, which isn’t always easy. It is hard to not eat everything “just because you can” which can be common as you have been restricted for months and eating like a pig is a mental and physical break.
Decreasing the deficit. You have to remember you create a caloric deficit from cutting calories and adding cardio. You must reverse both and take them into account. Here are some general guidelines but it is very individual and you will need to monitor carefully.
By Monday after your contest get back on your plan with some added carbs. Depending on how long you had to cut or how deep you needed to, add back about 10-30 grams of carbs for the week.
Decrease cardio by increments like 10 min for 3 steady state sessions or cut out 2 intervals from your HIIT sessions. Preferably cut cardio first from the lower intensity cardio like LISS and MISS.
Keep in your cheat meals/ reefed meals if you can. This may vary from person to person depending on how aggressive you had to diet into a show. The metabolism will not be ramped up enough to handle a giant cheat meal and may need a structured reefed. See Contest Prep Guide 2015 under cheat and refeed.
If your weight has come up a lot from week 1, stay on week 1’s diet plan or just decrease cardio a small increment for a few sessions.
If your weight hasn’t come up much on week 2, add some carbs (10-30g) or fat (5-10g per day that week). Some can add both but usually not. You may also be able to take out a small amount of cardio such as 5 min of cardio for 2 – 3 sessions, preferably from the LISS and MISS sessions first.
Keep in those cheat or reefed meals each week. Again, a free for all meal until you are comfortably full (1 meal, not all day) or a structured reefed will depend on how your body handles the reverse.
The above plan will go on week by week, monitoring weight, taking out cardio, and adding back carbs or fat as stated above alternating adding carbs one week and fat then next. Protein stays the same.
After a few months, adding calories may slow even more where you will only change your plan every 2 – 3 weeks. Tracking your weight, body composition and looking in the mirror will dictate how your reverse goes, at what rate and when it will end.
Staying within 10 pounds of your stage weight is a good goal, 20 at the very most. Don’t expect to be stage lean as your hormones will remain suppressed. This is not healthy.
It is a good idea to keep cardio to a minimum in the off season. Your body will respond better to it during your next cut phase. 1-3 short HIIT sessions for example are enough.
I am 5 weeks post contest and started a keto diet about 2 weeks after the Gopher State Classic 2015. It was the switch up I needed so I wouldn’t lose my shit trying to add calories back slowly.
On a ketogenic diet, 70% of my calories come from fat and I allotted 30 grams or less of carbs per day. So, at 1500 calories, my macros were 115g of fat, 30g of carbs and 90-100 g of protein.
My weekly cardio consists of four 20-30 min LISS sessions and 2 HIIT session.
I am currently at 2000 calories (155 fat, 30 carbs, 90-100g protien). I certainly reversed faster than I should have if I wanted a more cut look, but I really like where I have been holding my weight. I am 8 pounds up from my stage weight and I feel really good! I feel strong and sexy. I am a happy girl. Its hard finding a balance after going through a contest prep, but I think I finally figured it out this year.
See more on my reverse diet on Weekly Updates 2015.
Here are some video’s on weight plateau’s and reverse dieting:
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/very-low-calorie-diets/Pages/very-low-calorie-diets.aspx