In the world of fitness, it’s not uncommon for trends to start in the bodybuilding world then trickle down to the masses. Reverse dieting is the newest sensation to have made its way out of the bodybuilding sphere and found a place within the fitness industry in the last few years.
This only means one thing for me: time to put on my Bill Nye hat and experiment on myself to see if it works!
In a previous post I mentioned my “Spring Shred” was a two-part experiment with reverse dieting being the second component. After 10 weeks, two weeks longer than I planned, I ended my experiment.
Before I go any further, let me outline what reverse dieting is.
In a nutshell, a reverse diet is a protocol where you slowly add calories back into your diet after you have been in a long period of caloric restriction.
Experiment to Learn
Instead of dropping an atomic bomb of calories into your system and expanding like a mushroom cloud of fat and water retention post diet, a reverse diet Jedi mind tricks your body into accepting the increased calories.
Typically, a reverse diet takes about as long as your initial diet, but this can vary person to person.
Following this approach, according to its proponents, can have a whole host of benefits, especially in regard to your training and muscle building all while helping you stay lean.
Anytime I do an experiment I reach out to those who are smarter and more experienced than myself.
In this case, I tapped the minds of two colleagues, Ben Tormey and Mike Vacanti (former guests on the podcast, you can listen here and here). These guys stay pretty damned lean all year round, so I knew they were the right guys to ask.
Following Mike and Ben’s suggestion, I slowly added in about 100 calories.
Every two weeks, I would increase again by another 100 calories (mostly from carbs) and steadily brought down my fats. I wanted to continue keeping my protein at the .82g per pound mark which gave me around 150-160 grams of protein a day.
Until I got higher in calories, my daily fat intake remained fairly high. It remained near 80 grams until about mid-May when I could finally bring it down and ramp up my carbs.
I never added more than 40 grams of carbs at a time, and only added that many once I got closer to “maintenance” levels in mid-May.
Currently, I am up to about 375 grams of carbs a day as I write this (I may push it higher to continue experimenting for a bit), 65 grams of fat and still holding out between 150-160 grams of protein.
Training wise I stuck to Ben’s suggestion of lifting four days a week with a focus on volume. I cursed his sultry-sexy British accent the first week as my hamstrings were on fire for five days thanks to RDLs.
As calories increased, training and recovery slowly got better as the carbs began to become more plentiful. Not feeling obliterated after workouts was a plus! Spurred by the added calories, I was more inclined to take walks on rest days!
Walking for 20 minutes while at my desk job, along with interning at a gym Tuesday and Thursday evenings where I was on my feet and moving the entire time, I probably maintained a decent deficit due to my energy expenditure even six weeks into the experiment.
**note here on energy expenditure.** Moving more definitely means more calories burned. However, since things like NEAT can change every day I am not entirely sure when my “deficit” ended as I still take long walks on rest days now.*
A few times during this 10 week period I went off the deep end and had too much food/booze (cough Fitness Summit cough) and consumed more than I should have in a day.
Yet, even those times did not affect the scale nor measurements the following week. It probably goes to show you that getting back on the horse and being consistent is the driving force behind a lot of this.
There is not a lot of scientific research out there on reverse dieting yet, most of it is anecdotal evidence from those experimenting with it.
There are some who think that it is not necessary and that there is no real reason to attempt it. I am not a scientist nor claim to be one as my undergrad degree is in theater, so I won’t act like one here.
However, from my experience and from what I have seen with others it’s possible that there could be some credence to reverse dieting.
Reverse dieting, in Armi’s opinion, provides a more systematic way to find your maintenance level once you have dieted down and lost weight.
My approach to this reverse diet may not be “by the book” but I feel the results, which you can see below, speak for themselves.
As a baseline marker, I used a tailor’s measuring tape to keep an eye on my waist circumference measuring every two weeks along with weighing myself. I took measurements with calipers at the beginning and end of the experiment and used this site for the body fat calculations.
Waist remained at 31 inches for the entire ten weeks. Caliper measurements at the beginning were 4mm pectorial, 12mm thigh, and 10mm abdominal, per the site roughly 7.6%. Ending caliper measurements were 4mm pectorial, 14mm thigh, and 12mm abdominals, putting me around 8.9% bodyfat, so I gained about 1.3% body fat overall. Starting weight was 161 pounds, I went down as much as 159 and up to as much as 163 and have been holding steady at 163 for the last 6 weeks.
Wrap it Up
I am not advocating that reverse dieting is a must do or that everyone should “drink the Kool-Aid” and apply this to clients post-cut programming. I simply wanted to experiment with it to see if it worked.
For me, the experiment was a success. I have maintained my weight and staved off the influx of fat and water weight gain as opposed to last summer and now I am hoping I sneak up on some gainz like a ninja. #Ninjagainz!
Some people may prefer to bump their calories up to maintenance immediately after their cut ends and enjoy the excess food, and deal with the added water weight or any small accumulations of fat.
It may simply just come down to what you are comfortable with and for me it was more comfortable to slowly add calories back in rather than belly-flop into the pool.
If you have questions about my process or reverse dieting feel free to hit me up below and email me or head to my coaching section and let me help you unlock your Hero and achieve your highest level!