Reverse dieting is the process of adding calories back into ones diet after a period of deficit. The time frame and approach to this process is quiet a debatable topic and there are many different strategies and ways one can go about this process and it will depend on a variety of factors. Some of these include:
The severity and length of the caloric deficit
Level of body fat achieved
Fat loss plateau
N.E.A.T (non exercise activity thermogenesis)
There are a variety of ways a reverse diet can be initiated, with the most common being a weekly increase of carbohydrates / fats or both. It doesn’t matter as such which one you choose to increase, although it is to be noted, that fats have 9 calories per gram as opposed to carbohydrates and protein having 4 calories per gram, and therefore if fats are to be added the increment will be less. Protein generally doesn’t need to be increased, it will in most cases remain the same or be reduced as individuals already tend to consume more than more than an adequate amount (1 g / lb of LBM).
The length of a reverse diet is highly subjective and will relate to the individuals goals, future plans and a variety of other factors relating to the extent of the fat loss phase the person was previously engaged in. As a general rule of thumb, a post show increase of a few hundred calories should be added in to the diet and then ongoing adjustments to reach maintenance calories are to be made in the time frame according to the individuals goals e.g. if competing again relatively soon, then smaller increases on a weekly basis will be preferred, if a long offseason is planned then a more aggressive approach of a few hundred calories per week will suffice.
There is no set rules in place for a reverse diet protocol; however the main goal should be to restore the metabolism and the current hormonal imbalances as fast as possible. If the individual is wanting to continue to gain muscle, then calories should be raised to a surplus as soon as possible, and if the goal is to prolong fat gain and maintain near competition conditioning for an extended duration of time, then smaller gradual increments shall be implemented according so.
Reverse dieting and its implementation should be tailored to the individual’s needs and goals. If calories are at a severely low level, a long and slow reverse diet will not be optimal for post comp performance and a variety of other factors; including hormonal levels, satiety, controlling binge- eating, overall health, psychological well-being and the ability to build muscle. These are all factors that should be considered when deciding on the approach you are choosing to take.
My Personal Experience with Reverse Dieting:
I recently completed a 28 week comp preparation for a series of ANB bodybuilding competitions, and I have had first hand experience implementing a reverse diet. As a matter of fact, I actually started my reverse diet 3 weeks before my second competition and my conditioning vastly improved; refer picture below.
In my case, I reached a point where fat loss had plateaued and my daily productivity and energy levels were at an extreme low. I decided to up my carbs by 5g every 2nd or 3rd day. After a day or two I noticed my energy levels started to increase and my workout intensity was improving rapidly, therefore the amount of calories added was still less than the calories I was now expending in the day and fat loss continued. I kept upping carbs by 5g every time my weight would stall for a few days. I continued with this approach right through to competition.
After the competition I continually raised calories by 50-100 and reduced cardio by 50 to 100 each week as I needed to maintain conditioning due to some planned photo shoots in the post-show period. After a few weeks of this procedure and my weight still being at stage weight I took a more aggressive approach and started adding calories more aggressively; 500-1000 calories a day. I then proceeded to raise calories straight back to my estimated maintenance level and then a further increase to above maintenance to place me in a caloric surplus.
I started my 28 week contest preparation at 88-89kg on 3400-3600 calories a day and am now currently weighing 83kg on 4000 calories a day.
My Current Conditioning: weighing 83kg on 4000 calories a day
For further assistance in reverse dieting, contest preparation, customised training and nutrition plans; email me on email@example.com. Be sure to add me on Instagram @mattythenatty and keep an eye out for my website www.mattythenatty.com.au which shall be up and running shortly.