There is a common misconception that ‘going on a diet’ is kind of a one-off to reach a certain physique, only to come back to old habits as soon as a ‘magical-seven-day-mega-detox-cleanse’ finishes. If it was that simple, and becoming a fit, healthy person would only require a short-term commitment, literally everyone around would look and feel their best.

Reality is much more complicated, although not at all surprising if you think about it for a while. The situation described above, when a person enters an endless cycle of short-term restrictions and weight loss followed by returning to less healthy regime and putting all the kilos (if not more!) back on is called yo-yo dieting.

This phenomenon is just as dangerous as it is widespread, as this kind of weight cycling is strongly associated with a number of dangerous metabolic and cardiovascular conditions [1].

One of such conditions is metabolic syndrome [2], which manifests when your body gets confused by unpredictable bouts of extreme calorie restriction. In attempt to preserve all bodily functions for as long as possible (you know the diet will end, but your body is not aware!), your metabolism slows down, resulting in decreased daily energy expenditure and weight gain.

 

Some people choose to maintain a certain diet regime all year round and this can work well for them. Intermittent fasting is one of those diets that can keep the weight loss off and encourage a bit more fat loss when needed. Read more about intermittent fasting here.

Don’t want to get stuck in a vicious cycle? Luckily, the solution is simple – a good old combination of healthy diet and consistent exercise regime will do the trick just fine. We’re not saying you can’t boost things and achieve goals faster though – and one of the most effective tricks you can perform is reverse dieting.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the concept – and make sure to try one of the best approaches to nutrition. You’ll be impressed with results, we promise.

What is reverse dieting?

So what is reverse dieting, exactly? Basically, the name has it: instead of cutting calories and increasing exercise intensity gradually, you will beat the plateaus and boost metabolism by gradually introducing more calories to your daily allowance while cutting back on treadmill bouts.

The idea, however, is far from “sit on the couch more and eat whatever you want”. The concept of reverse dieting is based on the theory of metabolic adaptation. As we’ve mentioned above, if you are simply restricting the calories, your body is restlessly attempting to erase the energy deficit by slowing down metabolism as much as possible.

Eventually, the calorie deficit, which is absolutely necessary for weight loss, disappears, and you may even start putting the kilos back on while exercising like crazy and munching exclusively on low fat yoghurt and carrots!

Many other processes suffer during the ‘energy saving’ phase as well [3] – for instance, the levels appetite-regulating hormones and testosterone become very imbalances, disrupting important chains of metabolic reactions and leading to muscle wastage, fatigue and digestive issues.

In a long run, you’ll get yourself into a very tricky situation when restricting intake is no longer possible without losing the ability to perform basic daily tasks, and yet, the weight is either stable or crippling up. The good news is, these effects are absolutely reversible! At the end of this article, you will find a comprehensive step-by-step guide to reverse dieting.

The Risks Of Not Considering Reverse Dieting

In the meantime, we would like to take a moment to concentrate on potential adverse effects of not considering implementing the principles of reverse dieting. We have briefly mentioned these likely consequences before, but now is the time to dig a bit deeper and get better understanding of the issues surrounding some of the most common dieting mistakes.

  • Yo-Yo Dieting occurs when on-off dieting results in weight cycling. Sometimes weight cycles are small (2-5 kg), sometimes 5 times that, but the processes behind any degree of yo-yo dieting are quite similar. The thing is, maintaining a healthy, stable body weight is extremely important for long-term health. Yo-yo dieting doesn’t tick any of those boxes, and many scientists agree that this kind of behavior is a major risk factor in the development of serious conditions [1, 2].

  • Excessive Weight Gain. One of the common consequences of inconsistent dieting (such as weight cycling) includes a very unpleasant side effect: when your weight goes up after the most recent bout of calorie deprivation, it comes back with a “bonus”. That’s right – you not only gain the same amount you’ve lost, you also score a few unwanted kilos on top of that [4]. The difference is often noted after not one, but several cycles, after a significant amount of extra weight has accumulated. Needless to say, it doesn’t make reaching your long-term goals easier or safer.

  • Is A Stunted Metabolism Reversible? The phenomenon of stunted metabolism is quite dreadful, as we’ve previously discussed. Good news is, however, that the damage is reversible [5] – all you need to do is break the cycle.


How To Implement Reverse Dieting?

Think implementing reverse dieting is easier said than done? Nothing to worry about with our step-by-step guide! We tried to include as much information as possible, but in case of any uncertainty please don’t hesitate to contact a knowledgeable personal trainer, who will surely be able to help.

Calculate Your Current Calories And Establish Starting Macro Targets.

To design an appropriate plan, you need to know how many calories you are consuming daily at the moment. Don’t worry, it’s very easy thanks to freely available  software, such as this macronutrient calculator: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/macronutrients_calculator.htm.


Next, you need to set your protein target. Recommended daily amount revolves around 0.8-1.25 grams per pound of body weight [6], so you can initially set it at 1 g per pound to keep things simple.

After that, subtract your protein calories from your overall calorie goal to determine the remainder, which you will then split between carbs and fats 40/60 (these numbers can be manipulated – don’t worry too much initially). All done?

To perform the calculations, you will need the following numbers:

  • 1 g of protein provides 4 kcal/17 kJ
  • 1 g of carbs provides 4 kcal/17 kJ
  • 1 g of fat provides 9 kcal/37 kJ


Decide How Quickly You Want To Increase Carbs And Fat.

If you’re concerned about accumulating fat, go slowly but surely. On the other side, if you’re planning on packing some serious muscles while reversing, or have a history of binge-eating behaviour, you may want to speed up the process.


Raise Carbs And Fat At A Rate Compatible With Your Goals.

If you’re going with slow and steady reverse, start by increasing your carb and fat intake by just 2-5 percent per week. If you’re feeling like fast reverse is for you, we recommend increasing your carb and fat intake by 6-10 percent per week (also, try increasing fat and carbs by 15-25 percent the first week for the initial boost).


Weigh Yourself Multiple Times Per Week To Control Weight Gain.

When you’re doing reverse dieting, weighting yourself 2-3 times a week first thing in the morning is a great idea to monitor progress closely and adjust your ratios promptly if necessary.


Slowly Reduce The Time You Spend Doing Cardio, And Add Heavy Lifting To Your Workout Routine.

Specifically, add no less than 3 heavy lifting sessions per week to boost your metabolism. When it comes to cardio, be very careful with prolonged steady state sessions, as they may interfere with your hard earned progress [7].


When You Reach Your Desired Caloric Intake, Stop And Choose Your Next Action.

Once you’re satisfied with your calorie intake and overall progress, stop, evaluate and go from there. Feeling good? Stay at this level a bit longer. Ready to lose weight? Trust yourself and go ahead! The beauty of reverse dieting lies within it’s flexibility, so do whatever is right for your body at the time and don’t be afraid to make little mistakes here and there, as those can be reversed promptly.

Conclusion

There you have it – an ultimate, metabolism boosting tool to battle plateaus and yo-yo dieting! Implementing the reverse dieting approach requires some planning and may be a bit tricky at the start, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a professional personal trainer for help, support and individualised program customization.

References

1.         Montani, J.P., Y. Schutz, and A.G. Dulloo, Dieting and weight cycling as risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases: who is really at risk? Obes Rev, 2015. 16 Suppl 1: p. 7-18.

2.         Dulloo, A.G. and J.P. Montani, Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: an overview. Obes Rev, 2015. 16 Suppl 1: p. 1-6.

3.         Dulloo, A.G. and Y. Schutz, Adaptive Thermogenesis in Resistance to Obesity Therapies: Issues in Quantifying Thrifty Energy Expenditure Phenotypes in Humans. Curr Obes Rep, 2015. 4(2): p. 230-40.

4.         German, A.J., Obesity Prevention and Weight Maintenance After Loss. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, 2016.

5.         Rosenbaum, M. and R.L. Leibel, Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. International journal of obesity, 2010. 34: p. S47-S55.

6.         Phillips, S.M. and L.J. Van Loon, Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 2011. 29(sup1): p. S29-S38.

7.         Fyfe, J.J., D.J. Bishop, and N.K. Stepto, Interference between concurrent resistance and endurance exercise: molecular bases and the role of individual training variables. Sports Med, 2014. 44(6): p. 743-62.