In the previous article, we discussed metabolic adaptation - or in other words, what happens to our body when we are in large calorie deficits for prolonged periods of time. Why it gets harder to lose weight over time, and what physiologically is going on in the body.
If you haven’t read that one yet, go back and read it! Because this article is going to discuss how you can heal your body, your metabolism, and your hormones to eventually reach a place where your body WILL respond to a diet or calorie deficit properly.
This process is known as REVERSE DIETING.
Alan Aragon, a nutritional researcher phrased it well by describing it in the following way (1):
“The broad definition of reverse dieting is a gradual, incremental re-introduction of calories (mostly from carbohydrate) into the diet for a prolonged period after the dieting phase. There is no universal of official set of reverse dieting rules, but the general incarnation in coaching circles is to increase carbohydrate (and to a lesser degree, fat and protein) on a weekly basis, to the order of roughly 5-10g carbs/week (I’ve also heard of figures like 20g thrown around) until maintenance levels are hit, at which point a decision is made to either hold steady or continue bulking or surplus phase.”
I know that after a prolonged calorie deficit, the number one thing we are fearful of when adding food back in is weight gain, but we want to cover all of the benefits of adding calories back in because there are a TON of them. And just for peace of mind, when doing a reverse diet properly, weight gain rarely is more than a couple of pounds of weight fluctuation.
These benefits also serve as ways to help burn more calories in the long-term!
Note: Not everyone has the genetic make-up to reverse diet and maintain extreme leanness, or not see any weight fluctuations. Everyone will respond differently to a reverse diet, and the ultimate goal during this time-period is to restore health, restore proper hormone function, increase metabolic function, and be able to diet successfully again in the future.
Before you begin adding in calories, you must first know how many calories you are currently eating. So these are the steps we would recommend for those looking to begin a reverse diet**.
We also suggest to keep macronutrient breakdown balanced at 35% of calories from protein, 35% of calories from carbohydrates, and 30% of calories from fats.
You may see small fluctuations of the scale, but we recommend focusing on as many bio-feedback markers as possible OTHER than the scale including:
Remember: weight loss is not a prime marker of health.
We’ve done a number of successful reverse diets with clients, and we wanted to provide an example of what this may look like for someone to reverse diet.
Female/36 years old/187 lbs/5’6
Exercises 4 days a week for 30-60 minutes, but sedentary otherwise
Average Intake has been 1180 calories
Goal Maintenance = 2100 calories
We will increase by 10% weekly until hitting maintenance
Week 1 - 1180*0.1 = 118 calorie increase = 1298 calorie goal
Week 2 - 1298*0.1 = 130 calorie increase = 1430 calorie goal
Week 3 - 1430*0.1 = 143 calorie increase = 1573 calorie goal
Week 4 - 1573*0.1 = 157 calorie increase = 1730 calorie goal
Week 5 - 1730*0.1 = 173 calorie increase = 1903 calorie goal
Week 6 - 1903*0.1 = 190 calorie increase = 2093 calorie goal
So it took 6 weeks to reach maintenance level intake and we would stay at that intake for a minimum of 4-6 weeks.
**Disclaimer: This is NOT a prescription. This is a general recommendation and will vary based on each individual. Before you make any changes to your diet, we always recommend speaking with your physician first.
 - Aragon, Alan. AARR February/March 2014 Issue. http://alanaragonblog.com/aarr
 - Paoli et al. High Intensity Interval Resistance Training Influences Resting Energy Expenditure and Resting Ratio in Non-Dieting Individuals. 2012
 Mifflin et al. A New Predictive Equation for Resting Energy Expenditure in Healthy Individuals. 1990