Throughout my years of training clients, I’ve witnessed amazing fat loss results, improved lifestyle changes, stress levels dropping, building healthy relationships with food and, overall, people becoming better versions of themselves. However, there is a particular phase of goal setting that tends to shake clients, almost scare them to their core, worrying they’re going to reverse all the hard work that they’ve achieved and revert back to their old selves: reverse dieting.
What is this taboo process that’s known as reverse dieting? It’s essentially bringing back your macronutrients to a healthy baseline. Why is it so important? It brings back your energy levels, hormone balance, and joy of eating calorie-dense foods. You’ll have the freedom to enjoy life and its fruits (chocolate covered *wink*), minimising the “I can’t eat this” situations, ALL while maintaining your newly achieved results. So, do you want to keep your summer body but still enjoy a pizza and cocktail on the weekend with pals? Where do I sign!
First, let’s take it back a notch. Though a simple process, reverse dieting can be slightly complex. It factors in various aspects of fitness and eating, and not only challenges this, but also challenges one’s mindset of having to come to terms with “eating more”. This is what makes reverse dieting so tricky.
So yes, reverse dieting is more of a mindset game, but science, of course, comes to the rescue with the facts of why a realistic reverse diet is imperative for long term maintenance and overall lifestyle.
“Hang on Dan, if I eat more, won’t I get fat?”. Well, not exactly. If you’re in a calorie SURPLUS (eating more than you’re burning) then yes, your body will not be able to handle the excess energy, therefore causing fat gain through energy storage. Reverse dieting is a steady process of adaptation, controlling the increase of your calorie intake (macros) overtime and maintaining/increasing energy output through weights, cardio, steps etc. so fat gain is less likely to occur. This systematic approach will allow you to maintain your hard-earned body fat percentage and allow you to get off the chicken and broccoli, and onto hyperpalatable foods as you go!
A standard example of a 9-week reverse dieting process would look something like:
End of dieting/fat loss calories: 1,100
Maintenance calories: 1,800
- Week 1: 1,200 calories – 10,000 steps daily, 2x 30 min weight sessions (cardio minutes included in steps)
- Week 2: 1,250 calories – 10,000 steps daily, 2x 30 min weight sessions
- Week 3: 1,350 calories – 11,000 steps daily, 2x 30 min weight sessions
- Week 4: 1,400 calories – 11,000 steps daily, 2x 30 min weight sessions
- Week 5: 1,500 calories – 11,500 steps daily 2x 30 min weight sessions + one group training session
- Week 6: 1,600 calories – 12,000 steps daily 2x 30 min weight sessions + one group training session
- Week 7: 1,650 calories – 12,000 steps daily 2x 30 min weight sessions + one group training session
- Week 8: 1,700 calories – 12,000 steps daily 2x 30 min weight sessions + one group training session
- Week 9: 1,800 calories – 12,000 steps daily 2x 30 min weight sessions + one/2 group training sessions
This example shows no drastic jumps in calorie increase and no high intensity cardio sessions 7 days a week; everything is set up for a gradual process. Your body allows adaptation to occur over the course of the program, which benefits you by eating more, and, therefore, you are able to train harder and more frequently.
Eating more = Increased energy = More frequent training = Maintaining results = Freedom REPEAT
So, mindset. Where does this fall through? It comes down to trusting the process. Reverse dieting will challenge your current understanding of food and fat loss, so it’s important to understand the purpose of it. Think of it this way; there will be a point where your body will adapt to low macronutrient targets. Therefore, having the knowledge and understanding, with the guidance of your trainer through a healthy and realistic reverse dieting process, will not only make you bulletproof against future fat gain, but will allow you to continue to build onto new fitness heights. Ultimately, it will help you extend that horizon to achieve bigger and more amazing fitness goals.
So, say goodbye to that chicken and broccoli lifestyle, and en route to wine and pizza.