You’re weight loss has stalled, OR, you’ve reached your goal…now what?
Weight loss is not as simple as “calories in vs. calories out.” Many have the idea to keep eating less and/or exercising more in order to lose weight or get better muscle definition. If this were true, then where does it stop?
Or, what happens when you obtain your weight loss goal? Where do you go from there? Having the mentality “Oh great, I’ve reached my weight loss goal – this ‘diet’ is finally OVER!” is a recipe for re-gaining the weight you worked so hard to lose.
Reverse dieting may be the next step that’s right for you.
It is a scientific fact that you cannot build muscle while under-eating. If you are under-eating consistently, you’re body will waste/use muscle for fuel instead of using body fat. You’re body will be catabolic (breaking down muscle tissue) rather than anabolic (building up muscle tissue). If your body is catabolic, your muscle mass decreases. If your muscle mass decreases, in turn your body fat increases. When this happens, the 1st thought is typically, “I need to cut calories more and do more cardio.” This will make the problem worse as your body releases hormones to slow your metabolism even more to conserve energy. However, I’ve found that most people who are under-eating have absolutely no idea they are. To determine your caloric intake, keep an accurate food diary for a week, then have a professional evaluate it.
So, if the answer isn’t to cut calories and increase exercise, why not give the opposite a try? A very effective way to get over a fat loss plateau or maintain a lean physique is reverse dieting.
What is reverse dieting? It’s slowing increasing your calories (by about 5% per week) until you see a true weight gain over a 2 week period (not a day to day fluxuation of a pound or two). Increasing calories slowly over time helps the body adjust gradually to caloric increases. The goal here is to determine your weight maintenance amount, giving you a base at which you can cut from. Increasing your calories slowly over a long period will not likely cause weight spikes. You will notice improved workout performance and energy levels, improved sleep quality, improved mood, better handling stress, and feeling less deprived and hungry all the time.
Reverse dieting may sound downright scary to some. It is counter-intuitive to increase calories when trying to lose weight. I get that. But think about this: If you have been eating, say, 1000-1200 calories per day for several months while killing yourself with long workouts and you aren’t losing weight, does it really sound reasonable to cut more food?? Your body is deprived of calories and nutrients, you’re worn out, exhausted, not motivated, frazzled, have brain fog, and hungry! Sounds miserable. The only thing left to do is try something else. Eat MORE.
This is also a terrific long term solution and plan, whereas eating 1000-1200 calories per day definitely isn’t. Having a higher caloric base will decrease the likelihood of weight re-gain over the long term, and give you greater flexibility for periods when workouts are less frequent, say, during a vacation or when you’re just super busy with other things.
Athletes EAT. Bodybuilders with ripped abs EAT. They’re no different from you or I – we are all human. That being said, reverse dieting is what many bodybuilders do after weeks of cutting for contest prep. They implement reverse dieting, this is how they stay lean year-round. After you’ve increase your calories to your maintenance amount, you’ll have a lot more flexibility and it actually makes fat loss much easier!
Reverse dieting is most successful with the support and coaching of a trainer or nutritionist so adjustments can be made for each individual case. You also want to be sure your macronutrient ratios are right for you and workouts are appropriate. Do not over-train. The focus of workouts should be weight training, NOT cardio. To get the most out of weight training workouts, work with a qualified trainer.