Reverse diets have been all the craze on Instagram and Facebook lately with dietitians and nutrition coaches. But what exactly is a reverse diet, how do you do it and who is it for? Let's dive in from the perspective of a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach who's been helping people reboot their nutrition for years.
A reverse diet is meant for someone who has been in a calorie deficit for an extended period time, especially those that have been working on losing weight, it is important to bring you back out of the deficit to a place of maintenance. This usually involves slowly increasing your caloric intake, week over week, back up to a maintenance level. This is usually about 300-500 calories below where you were eating in order to lose weight. The biggest piece to remember is, this is something that should take time. Jumping back up 300 or 500 calories can trigger a weight and fat gain if not done slowly and correctly.
Reverse dieting started to become more and more popular over the past 5 years as people started to realize that staying in a deep deficit and in restriction for a while was causing more metabolic damage and health concerns. Everyone has a basal metabolism rate, meaning, the minimum necessary energy requirements in order to sustain all of lifes processes. Many diet try to take you well below that, the reverse diet brings you back up to maintenance intake and can help with reducing weight regain risk as well as correct metabolic changes that often occur with dieting.Currently, research is pretty limited on reverse diets with most of the information coming from experience with a Registered Dietitian or from the person who has gone through it.
The benefits of a reverse diet can really help promote metabolism and overall health in the long run. Here's my opinion on them:
- Reverse diets can be a great way to reset your metabolism after a being in a calorie deficit for extended periods of time. Our bodies are forced to make metabolic changes the longer we are in a calorie deficit so when we slowly bring our food intake back up to a true maintenance level, you'll have more energy, better digestion and burn more calories.
- This is one of the few ways to help make a weight loss stick. Most diets teach you how to lose the weight through points, restriction or other means. Reverse dieting helps you keep the progress you made and give you a more liberalized diet to help you stay at your goal.
Reverse diets can be used before someone has reached their goal when they find that the gains they are seeing are becoming less and less. If you've been at a weight plateau for 2 months, not seeing any increased strength or endurance in the gym or feel really low energy levels, taking yourself through a reverse diet can be helpful.
I always recommend having a Registered Dietitian on your team to help you through the reverse diet. It can seem scary to think you have to increase your calorie intake when your goal is weight loss, as well as have to increase your intake after you reached your goal. However, having the guidance from a Registered Dietitian can help to ensure you're getting enough food in and doing it the right way. Reverse diets can benefit anyone who has had a history of dieting.
Here's how you can implement a Reverse Diet and how we help our clients through them: - Before starting a reverse diet, you will need to figure out where your current calorie intake is trending. I usually recommend to my clients to track about 1 week's worth of food, tracking everything they are having, and then we run the average intake of calories as well as carbs, protein and fat to see if we are in balance.
- After finding what your starting deficit average is, it's important to determine what your end point will be so you can pace out how fast you will add back in calories. Usually, it will be 300-500 calories beyond the deficit you where in. But, if you were in a deep deficit, it may be between 500-1000 calories added back in. We are not meant to survive on 1200 calories alone.
- Start adding in 50-100 calories each week to slowly bring you back up to maintenance. This will take some time and it is important not to rush it as jumping up in intake too fast can result in rapid fat and weight regain. Add only 50-100 calories each day before increasing again the following week. If you started at 1550, for the first week you should aim for 1600.
- After reaching goal, you should not have to track intake as much any longer. However, it can be helpful to spot check every so often to make sure your intake is not dipping nor are you eating too high.
If you've been someone who habitually dieted for year, a reverse diet may be the best way for you to reset your metabolism and start fresh. If you need help with starting this process, Nourished with Emily can help!