Reverse dieting- what is it and how does it work?

Reverse dieting is getting a lot of attention in our days, so it is worth a closer look. The usual sales pitch goes something like this “eat more and still lose weight”.
Now, any headline like that must fall victim to my red pen, so sit down and grab your quest bar while we look at reverse dieting (RD)

Who is it for?
In short, people who are coming off a lengthy diet or competition prep. Like I said in a previous post, every diet works only for so long. At some point, your body starts breaking down more or as much muscle as fat and you become a skinny fat version of your old self. This is when you should take a diet break.

Disclaimer: This only holds true for people who have achieved a very low body fat percentage, think 8% or less for males 12% and below for females (adjusted for age) and who have been on a diet for more than 10 weeks.
How to set up a reverse diet?
Just pull up a chair a the next buffet and go? Sadly, that is often what happens.

Usually competitors coming off a show are told: eat as much as you can, it will all become muscle. That would be great, but nature does not work like that. If someone has been dieting for a long period of time, the body’s first instinct is to store as much fat as possible. The reason competitors do not notice it at first is because they are so lean that the changes are not all that visible at first.
The human eye is funny that way since it has a hard time perceiving changes until you hit 14-15 % body fat.
Then, out of a sudden, competitor X looks in the mirror and screams: ” Crap,I put on 15 lbs since yesterday” Which is wrong of course, since he did that gradually.

What to do instead?
How about a gradual caloric increase?
Here is how I would go about it:
Set up:  add 200- 300 calories a day for 5 days, once your weight stabilizes add another 200-300 calories for another 5 days. Do so until you hit basic caloric needs. If you need help to figure out what your intake should be use, this article of mine

Benefits of RD?

1. A better mind set:
Everyone who has been on a severe diet for a while knows that you can become, well shall we say “slightly irritable aka a public menace” Taking planned diet breaks will make you a nicer person and keep you out of jail.

2. A better body:
It will your body a chance to breathe and optimize its hormonal levels, mainly ghrelin and ghrelin. Leptin signals fullness and satiety, ghrelin is the mean uncle aka the hunger hormone. Now when you are dieting,  leptin levels drop and appetite goes up. So during a diet, all of a dieters nightmares come together: higher protein turnover combined with a lower levels of T3, IGF-1 ( insulin like growth factor, one of the strongest muscle building hormones), leptin, and testosterone. What this means is you will be very hungry while losing muscle.
Reverse dieting will give you a chance to reset those levels without going into full blown fat storage mode.

Additionally, any subsequent diet will be more effective since you body had a chance to recover.

All in all, reverse dieting does not mean eat what you want and lose fat (nothing ever means that) but it has its place in a well thought-out training and diet approach.