What’s a Reverse Diet?
Although you won’t find the term in any dictionary, reverse diet is a term used within the bodybuilding and competitive weightlifting communities (aka “bro-science”) to describe a period after a calorically restricted eating protocol during which you slowly work to increase calories back to a maintenance level. Using this strategy, and by assessing progress weekly and tracking increases in body fat in comparison to lean muscle mass, athletes can recover their metabolisms and increase calorie intake with minimal increase in body fat.
“For the majority of individuals, maintaining an extremely low-calorie diet is not sustainable for long-term health, happiness, and function.”
The theory behind the reverse diet is that after prolonged periods of restricted caloric intake the athlete’s metabolism adapts to operate more efficiently. Meaning, the athlete is able to operate at a lower energy expenditure and burn fewer calories.If the proper dietary adjustments aren’t made to account for this slow down, the body will store those extra calories in the form of fat.
Why Would I Want to “Reverse” My Diet?
There are a few reasons to implement a reverse diet. The most common is to bring calories (and strength) back up to a healthy and sustainable level after a prolonged weight-loss diet. Whether you are a bodybuilder who has implemented a restricted diet to achieve low levels of body fat, a competitive athlete who cut calories in order to qualify for a weight class, or someone who has simply been on an extended weight-loss plan for aesthetic benefit, a reverse diet can – and, in my opinion, should – be implemented in order to slowly increase food intake to a maintenance level. For the majority of individuals, maintaining an extremely low-calorie diet is not sustainable for long-term health, happiness, and function.
A reverse diet may also be implemented to accelerate fat loss and avoid a fat-loss plateau when dieting. Although counterintuitive, this tactic can recuperate essential metabolic hormones such as T3, testosterone, and leptin, which become down regulated during extended dieting.By making small and calculated increases to calories, the metabolism is often able to adapt to the increase with a corresponding uptick in metabolic output and thermogenesis. The incremental additions in calories enable the individual’s metabolism to burn more energy as a result of increased energy input.
“By making small and calculated increases to calories, the metabolism is often able to adapt to the increase with a corresponding uptick in metabolic output and thermogenesis.”
Finally, a reverse diet may be implemented in an attempt to increase an individual’s metabolic capacity and stretch the ability to intake calories while holding at a maintenance weight. Research is limited on the ability to increase the body’s metabolic capacity when an individual is already consuming energy at a level to maintain bodyweight, but if effective, the benefits would be similar to a “bulk” (when an individual consumes more calories in order to increase strength and muscle mass). Except that the moderate calorie increases and regular assessments would help the athlete to avoid the unwanted body fat gain that often accompanies a bulk.
Benefits of Reverse Dieting
The most obvious benefit is the ability to avoid the dreaded post-diet rebound. You know, the one that happens after you reach your diet goal and then stuff your face for weeks until even your socks are tight. By increasing calories incrementally, a reverse diet allows your metabolism to reignite and catch up to the surplus calories. If too many calories are introduced too soon, the body will, in essence, attempt to store these calories for the next time you expose it to an extreme calorie deficit. This can lead to rapid weight gain and potential long-term metabolic damage.
The psychological benefit of reverse dieting is vast. By controlling yourself and having a structured plan post-diet, it is less likely that you will experience the rapid weight gain and discomfort that often lead to depression and body dissatisfaction. The goal of the reverse diet is to increase calories with minimal weight gain. If done properly, it allows an easier transition from contest or competition shape to offseason maintenance eating.
Tricia Cunningham’s weight loss method of eating meals in reverse has created quite a stir.
So much that Tricia has written her own book: The Reverse Diet Solution.
The book is most about how she managed to shed 172 pounds using the methods she discovered, which are featured in the Reverse Diet.
A number of weight loss diets call for a tapering of carbohydrates during the day (i.e. eat most carbohydrate in the morning, and the least at night).
Many people go even further to say that we shouldn’t eat after 7pm.
Common Reverse Diet Solution Questions
Does Tricia’s regime taper carbohydrates in the opposite way?
Is it that the body likes to have changes in order to break plateaus?
Does the diet help because people eat more protein in the mornings (most people tend to eat very carb-heavy breakfasts – sugary cereals, toast, milk, fruit, etc)?
Here are some answers
Salt, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages.
Processed foods should be avoided as well because The Reverse Solution Diet focuses on whole, natural foods.
- All vegetables, fresh and frozen, including potatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil (the darker, the better)
- All seafood, chicken and turkey
- All berries, peaches, pineapple, apples, grapes and plums
- White cheese
- Fat-free sour cream, salad dressing and skim milk
- Low-sodium margarine
- GARLIC, GARLIC, GARLIC
- All spices, excluding salt, read your labels!
- Post Shredded Wheat and Bran
- Uncooked Old Fashion Oatmeal
- Orange juice
- Red meat and pasta, in moderation and small portions
Tricia Cunningham’s Top 9 Diet Tips:
- Eat a BIG breakfast.
- If you don’t normally eat breakfast, take tonight’s dinner and put it in the refrigerator and have your breakfast for dinner. This will jump-start your metabolism so fast, you’ll be running to the scale!
- Never skip breakfast.
- Don’t overeat. Save leftovers for snacks.
- Eat a medium lunch and small dinner. You do not need to fill up at the end of the day.
- Use water, margarine, olive oil or orange juice when preparing meat.
- Drink two glasses of hot lemon water per day.
- Drink when you’re thirsty. Don’t force eight to 10 glasses of water per day.
- Eat when you’re hungry
Tricia Cunningham also enjoys loads of tofu and eats 3-4 servings per day.
What Really Makes This Effective?
This concept isn’t entirely new.
Eating more calories when your most active and cutting out sugar and processed foods are recommendations found in many plans.
Cutting out all the junk food is probably the reason The Reverse Solution Diet is so effective.
However, the plan is based on solid nutriton and has a lot of good resources to assist dieters in losing weight.