Reverse Dieting: What Is It, Benefits, and How To Do It

Take a closer look at this dieting approach and learn how to break out from a calorie deficit without rapidly gaining weight in the process!

Reverse Dieting: What Is It, Benefits, and How To Do It
8 min. read 9/23/2022, 3:42 PM

Dieting methods come and go all the time, some being more successful at getting you closer to your goals than others. And while a diet can be any kind of eating approach, no matter what your goals are, most popular diets are aimed at weight loss, meaning that they’re designed to make you eat fewer calories than you burn to help you lose weight.

That said, after finishing a weight loss diet, you might be left wondering what to do next. A lot of people tend to gain all the weight back after a few weeks because they return to their usual eating habits. Luckily, there are ways to go back to eating more without risking a sudden weight gain, such as reverse dieting.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this dieting method, how it works, and its benefits. Plus, the steps you need to take if you want to approach reverse dieting while keeping weight gain at a minimum.

What is reverse dieting?

Reverse dieting is simply the opposite of a weight loss diet: slowly increasing your daily food intake, thus increasing your calorie intake to raise your metabolism and get back to maintenance levels or slightly above. In other words, it’s reintroducing the calories that you previously reduced without gaining back the lost weight in the process.

What separates the reverse dieting method from simply finishing your diet and eating normally again is that it’s controlled. This means that you’ll be tracking your calories, slowly speeding up your metabolism and burning the extra calories that come in as energy. If you reintroduce all the calories at once instead of in increments, your metabolism won’t have time to catch up properly, resulting in weight gain.

That said, reverse dieting isn’t a magical method to help anyone eat more without gaining weight. This strategy is for those who have been in a severe calorie deficit and want to get back to maintenance without completely losing what they’ve achieved, such as:

  • Chronic dieters who are constantly hopping from one dieting approach to another, also known as yo-yo diets due to the constant weight loss and subsequent weight gain that happens when you don’t control your calorie intake after a weight loss diet.
  • Bodybuilders who have been training on a calorie deficit to get as lean as possible for a contest and need to get back to maintaining without gaining back all the weight that they lost.
  • People on a weight loss plateau that have reached a point where they’re not losing more weight or it’s gotten very difficult, so backtracking and gaining some weight can actually be beneficial.

Benefits of reverse dieting

If you fall under any of the above categories or you’re simply coming out of a calorie deficit, then reverse dieting might be effective for you!

Here are some of the main benefits of trying a reverse dieting approach:

Bigger meals

This is a huge benefit of reverse dieting since dieting for weight loss more often than not involves reducing your food portions to lower your calorie intake. By applying this strategy, you’ll be able to go back to more full-sized meals without getting all the weight back.

Of course, this is as long as you reintroduce calories slowly and keep track of them as you go. Remember, the whole basis of reverse dieting is incrementing your calorie intake little by little and maintaining calorie control long-term.

Increased energy and performance

Calories are energy for your body and your workouts. Eating more calories in a controlled manner will help your body make the most out of it by turning it into more energy than you usually have on a calorie-restricted diet without the risk of sudden weight gain.

More energy during your workouts means better performance and the ability to last longer during your workouts, making your training sessions more efficient and maximizing your results!

Controlled weight gain

As you now know, reverse dieting allows you to keep an eye on your caloric intake as you reintroduce bigger food portions to your diet. This way, you’ll be able to go back to your maintenance eating habits while avoiding rapid weight gain in the process by adjusting your body to it.

Of course, this is as long as you keep close track of your calorie intake and avoid overeating to make up for the time you had to restrict yourself. Reverse eating isn’t a free pass to eat as much as you want!

Reduced fatigue and hunger

Increased levels of energy also result in less fatigue in your day-to-day life, and more importantly, during your workouts. The hunger that comes with eating less can also worsen your fatigue, plus it’s mentally draining, making you feel tired and even irritable at times. Eating more and consuming more calories can make these unwanted effects go away.

How to approach reverse dieting without gaining weight

Now that you know the benefits, it’s time to show you how to approach reverse dieting correctly. And yes, there’s a correct way to do it!

Since you’ll be increasing your calorie intake after being on a deficit, sudden weight gain can definitely happen, which is why it’s important to follow the correct steps to make sure you avoid that. Here’s how to begin your reverse dieting journey:

1. Determine how many calories you need

The first step in many dietary approaches, including this one, is finding out the number of calories that your body needs daily. When you know your ideal calorie intake to maintain, you can then make the necessary adjustments so that the approach works for you.

You can determine your daily calorie target by going to the One Fitness Macro Calculator and answering a few questions about yourself and your lifestyle, such as your age, height, body weight, and activity level. At the bottom, make sure to choose “maintain” as your goal, and this will calculate and show you your daily calorie goal.

2. Figure out your macronutrient balance

If you’re going to be eating more calories, it’s important to be smart about how you’re going to do it. This means knowing how much of each macro you’re going to eat so that reverse dieting works for you without the unwanted weight gain.

For this approach to work, you’ll want to prioritize protein and make that the bigger percentage in your diet. This macronutrient is incredibly important for muscle protein synthesis and maintenance, leading to more muscle gain and helping you improve your body composition in the process.

When it comes to carbs and fats, both are equally as important for your body. Carbohydrates fuel your workouts, and healthy fats are essential to keep your body functioning. You can decide how much of each you’re going to eat depending on your goals as long as it doesn’t interfere with or exceed your maintenance target.

3. Increase your intake in small increments

This is where the real reverse diet begins! Once you know how many calories you need to maintain, you’re going to begin adding to that little by little. Remember, slowly increasing your calorie intake is what will make reverse dieting work.

You can start with a small increment of 5 or 10% over your maintenance calorie intake and keep that increase for a couple of weeks to see how you feel and how your body responds to it. From there, keep incrementing until you reach your pre-diet calorie intake, or what used to be your maintenance intake before your weight loss.

4. Keep track of your daily intake

Lastly, the trick to succeeding during reverse dieting isn’t just increasing your calorie intake, but actually keeping track of it during those weeks of transition – and even after!

Make sure you log every meal that you eat in a day as well as how many calories you had, whether it’s on a notebook or a tracking app. If you’d rather keep it on your phone and handy at all times, the One Fitness app is a great place to track your calorie journey! The Kitchen feature allows you to track your macros and calories daily so you can visualize your journey and keep it under control.

Precision is key when it comes to reverse dieting, so don’t forget to also weigh yourself daily to keep track of your current weight on top of the calories that you eat. It can be a bit of work, but if your goal is to avoid rapid fat gain, this is the best way to do it! This will help you adjust your calorie intake as you go, so if you notice sudden weight gain, you can slow down the process until you’re at maintenance.

Slow and steady wins the race

The whole idea behind reverse dieting is being able to break from a calorie deficit and eat more without gaining all the weight back in the process, but you can only achieve this if you do it slowly to give your body and your metabolism time to adapt. Be patient with your body and don’t try to rush it, or those lost pounds will rapidly catch up to you!