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Reverse Dieting Guide

Let's talk about reverse dieting.

Reverse Dieting is the approach to eating after a prolonged fat loss phase when a diet is over. Instead of reverting to your pre-weight loss eating habits, you should determine your new maintenance calorie level.

It's basically a nutritional strategy which is typically used by people, especially athletes and bodybuilders, after a period of dieting for fat loss. After following a caloric deficit for weight loss or a competition they start their reverse diet.

The primary goal of reverse dieting is to gradually increase caloric intake in a controlled manner to prevent fast fat gain, boost metabolism, reverse metabolic adaptations and restore normal metabolic functions.

Essentially, a reverse diet is a maintenance diet, but finding out what that exactly is, is crucial.

How to Plan an Effective Reverse Diet

After a fat loss phase, our bodies are in a "starvation" state, making them more prone to regaining fat. We may experience cravings and binges, thinking, "My fat loss diet is over; now I can eat whatever I want." A reverse diet plan should prevent falling back into old habits while providing more freedom in food choices and increased calories.

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reverse diet

The primary goals of a reverse diet are:

*If your fat loss phase didn't result in negative side effects like cravings, extreme hunger, or low energy, you don't necessarily have to follow a reverse diet; you can simply continue eating at maintenance.

6 Steps to Reverse Diet Correctly:

1) You need to know what your calorie intake was at the end of your diet. This requires tracking calories accurately or else it becomes more of a trial and error process.

2) Estimate what your new maintenance calories should be at your new weight. You can start with a rough, realistic estimation and adjust accordingly, or revert to your pre-weight loss maintenance calories and adjust based on your new weight.

3) Start by choosing an amount of calories that falls between your last calorie intake at the end of your diet and your new estimated maintenance calories. This is because metabolic and activity adaptations may result in your maintenance calories being slightly lower immediately after the diet.

4) Keep tracking your weight, hunger levels, and any diet-related symptoms like lethargy or low energy. Also, monitor your training outcomes to see if you're losing or gaining strength. It's common to experience increased hunger initially as hunger hormones decrease, but it's important to stick to the right amount of food and not lose control.

5) Adjust your calories every 2-3 weeks: If you're still losing weight, increase your calories by roughly 15% per day. If you maintain, increase calories by roughly 10%, and if you gain too much, reduce by 10%. A slight increase may be normal in the first few weeks due to water weight and stomach content.

6) Continue increasing until your weight remains stable for 4 weeks at the same calorie level, and all negative diet effects have disappeared, such as low energy and food focus, cravings, etc.

Reverse Diet and Post-Diet Phase

post diet phase

Don't make these common mistakes after your fat loss diet is over

After achieving weight loss goals, many people face challenges in transitioning back to a normal eating routine. But if you understand the common post-diet mistakes, it will help you to continue with your progress and prevent setbacks, like fat regain or an unhealthy relationship with food.

Avoid making these common mistakes:

  1. Trying to stay too lean: After reaching a lean physique, some people attempt to maintain an extremely low body fat percentage. This is not only unsustainable, but can also lead to physical and mental health problems, such as constant fatigue, hormone imbalances, food focus or even disordered eating behavior. Therefore, it's really important to understand that a certain amount of body fat is necessary for overall health and well-being. What is healthy and sustainable means can vary from person to person. Read more about healthy body fat percentages here.

  2. Attempting to remain in a constant calorie deficit: Continuing to eat at a caloric deficit after reaching a weight loss goal can harm your body and mental health. Prolonged caloric restriction can lower your health, slow down metabolism, decrease muscle mass, and lead to nutrient deficiencies. A sustainable approach involves transitioning to a maintenance phase where caloric intake matches energy expenditure. That's where the reverse diet comes into play.

  3. Overeating and losing control, leading to binging and weight regain, by eating too much junk food and sweets: After restrictive dieting, some of us may experience intense cravings and a sense of deprivation, leading to overeating or binging, particularly on junk food and sweets. This is caused by low leptin levels and high ghrelin levels after a diet. Once we start to eat more, our satiety signals and hormones change and can make us extremely more hungry. This can result in rapid weight regain and negative feelings of guilt, shame and failure. To avoid this, it's important to reintroduce calories gradually and trying to stick to your regular meals (the ones you ate during your diet), just in larger amounts. If you include a variety of high palatable foods, like fast food and sweets, your urge to overeat them might become too high and it's hard to keep control over it.

  4. Freaking out over small increases in weight or weight fluctuations: Weight WILL naturally fluctuate due to factors like water retention, muscle gain, and food intake, once you start to eat more calories . Small increases in weight are normal and not indicative of fat gain. Panicking over these fluctuations can lead to unnecessary stress and unhealthy thoughts. Instead, focus on long-term trends and overall well-being rather than daily weight changes.

  5. Decreasing activity levels and reverting to old habits: After achieving weight loss, some people subconsciously reduce their physical activity and return to previous sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits. This can quickly reverse all the progress you've made during your diet. Especially after a fat loss diet, it's important to maintain activity levels, like steps and exercise.

A reverse diet should aim to avoid all these common mistakes and setbacks.

weight gain

What will happen to your weight during a reverse diet?

Don't be afraid to gain some fat; it might be necessary and can help you maintain or regain your quality of life with more balance.

In the best case scenario, you have built routines and habits during your fat loss phase and continue to stick to them.

Your training remains intense and progressive, and you still track your progress to avoid falling back into old eating habits. This will make it a lot easier to maintain your new body weight without constantly feeling like you're dieting or restricting yourself.

post diet phase

After you have maintained your weight for at least 3 months without experiencing binges or any negative side effects, you could involve incorporating a more intuitive approach to calorie counting until you are able to eat intuitively and keep your weight, without having to track calories anymore.

Conclusion: A Reverse Diet Makes Sense in Most Cases

A reverse diet helps mitigate the body's "starvation" response after a longer fat loss phase or diet phase. It prevents rapid fat regain and restores metabolism to normal levels. A reverse diet also offers a balanced approach to increased calorie intake and more flexible food choices while maintaining established healthy eating habits and staying on track.

Achieve your fitness goals now through personalized guidance from your online nutritional and fitness coach. Book a call now!


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