Eat more, weigh less? Diet without the yo-yo effect with normal calorie intake? Reverse dieting promises exactly that. We took a close look at the trend.
Reverse dieting is becoming increasingly popular in the fitness scene and among celebrities. The basic idea of the “reverse diet” is that with normal calorie intake you keep your weight. No matter whether directly after a reduced-calorie diet or in everyday life. You are fit and in top shape.
Unfortunately, representative scientific studies on reverse dieting have so far been in short supply. Nevertheless, the diet concept follows a comprehensible logic and the positive experiences reported by reverse dieting fans are very promising.
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There are two different definitions of reverse dieting. We will explain both, but we will mainly focus on the second definition of reverse dieting as a gradual increase in daily calorie intake.
Reverse Dieting: Turn your day upside down
A definition of the reverse diet is: dinner in the morning, lunch at noon, breakfast in the evening. The idea behind it is simple. You should consume the most energy in the morning and at noon because your body has time to burn many calories during all kinds of activities during the day. Overnight he then concentrates on regeneration and recovery without having to expend energy for digestion.
A good portion of carbohydrates, healthy fat and protein should stimulate the metabolism in the morning and provide energy for the day. At noon there is a light lunch with protein and fiber and in the evening a small breakfast such as yoghurt with muesli, a smoothie bowl or your breakfast egg.
It sounds like getting used to, but it can work. In the end, it all comes down to the total number of calories, the correct distribution of carbohydrates, protein and fat and your food choices. With junk food and excess calories, you won’t reach your goals with your morning dinner either.
Reverse Dieting: Metabolism Boost Instead of Famine
The definition of reverse dieting as “dieting after the diet” is far more promising, but also more complex. Reverse diet in this case means that you increase your daily calorie intake in a controlled manner in order to stimulate your metabolism.
This can help you to avoid the yo-yo effect after a diet or to get a generally sluggish metabolism going again. At the end of your reverse diet, you will be back to your normal daily calorie requirement.
This principle is based on the knowledge that the metabolism switches to economy mode during a low-calorie diet in order to restore homeostasis. That is, your body wants to keep all of its processes in good balance.
So if you consistently eat fewer calories than you consume during a diet, your body will gradually burn fewer and fewer calories. It switches to energy-saving mode.
If you suddenly increase your energy intake after the diet, your body stores these unusual calories preferentially as fat in order to be prepared for the next famine. The yo-yo effect occurs. In the worst case, you will even gain more weight than you have lost.
This is exactly where reverse dieting comes in. With a slow and controlled increase in your daily calorie intake, your metabolism should be woken up from the economy mode and started up again.
As your daily calorie count slowly increases, so too does food-induced thermogenesis and metabolic efficiency. Instead of building flab, your body burns the energy it supplies.
In addition, eating more automatically makes you less hungry. On the one hand, this puts you in a good mood, but it also reduces the release of the hunger hormone leptin. Leptin slows down your metabolism and promotes the build-up of love handles to save energy.
That’s the theory. Experience confirms the idea, but so far there are no scientific studies that prove the effect of the reverse diet. Nevertheless: We think it’s worth trying!
This is how reverse dieting works - 5 tips
In order for your diet to be crowned with success after the diet, you must follow the rules of the diet. Because even if the scientific information about reverse dieting is missing, there is enough in-depth nutritional know-how with which you can maximize the chances of success of your reverse diet.
Increase your calorie intake, but slowly
Much doesn’t help much. To slowly wake up your metabolism again, you need patience. As a guideline: Increase your daily calorie intake by 50–100 kcal per week.
If you ate 1800 kcal per day as part of your diet, you would eat 1850–1900 kcal per day in week 1 of your reverse diet and 1900–1950 kcal in week 2. And so on. You continue this principle until you have returned to the total calorie consumption for weight maintenance.
How long your reverse dieting lasts depends on your deficit and your normal daily calorie requirement.
If you calculate your increased calorie intake in chocolate chips, we have to disappoint you. Your eating plan should include healthy, low glycemic index foods that will slow your insulin levels up. This avoids cravings and unnecessary storage of food energy as love handles.
Foods with a low glycemic index include natural yogurt, green lentils, whole-grain rye bread, carrots, apples and cashews.
Mind your macros
With a good planned low-calorie diet, you have already calculated your macronutrient requirements. Unless you change your lifestyle radically or exercise a lot more or less, the percentage distribution of macros can remain the same as during the diet, especially in the first few weeks.
It’s best to use a macronutrient calculator to check about every two weeks whether your macronutrient distribution still fits your goal and your activity level.
Your body fat percentage (KFA) shows you if you are on the right track. Calculate your body fat percentage at the beginning of the reverse diet and check it every two weeks. If it increases by more than 1%, check the adjustment of the number of calories and your macros.
As a quick measure of rising KFA, minimally increase the amount of protein in your diet. Then minimize the carbohydrates by the appropriate proportion and skip increasing the daily calories for a week.
If you increased your protein intake significantly during the diet, start about halfway through your reverse diet to gradually shift the protein intake in favor of a little more carbohydrates.
Stay in motion
Did you train to build, define or lose weight? Then keep that up. If you change the amount of exercise, your calorie requirement will also change. It doesn’t matter whether you train more or less. Take your training plan into account when planning your reverse dieting. Fitness trackers are helpful in determining your actual calorie consumption. Especially with reverse dieting, the more precise, the better.
Keep the overview
The be-all and end-all of reverse dieting. In order for the successive increase in calories and thus the whole concept of the diet after the diet to work, you have to follow your diet and your training exactly. The following parameters are particularly important:
- Your calorie intake at the end of the diet.
How high was your calorie deficit or how many calories did you eat each day before you decided to reverse diet? This number is the basis for your further plan. Write down your starting calorie intake and plan to increase it by 50-100 calories each week. So you can see exactly how many weeks you need to reach your goal.
- How much do you really eat
Track. Each. Separate. Calorie. Even those from the apple spritzer. Or the latte macchiato. You exceeded 50-100 kcal faster than you think. Even an average sized apple has 50 kcal.
- How much do you really use
There can be worlds between calculated and actual calorie consumption. Therefore, track your calorie consumption every day.
- How much do you weigh?
Weigh yourself daily to avoid falling back into old patterns over time without realizing it. But don’t drive yourself crazy if you have 1 kg more on the scales. Full glycogen stores or water retention – often due to the cycle, especially in women – can affect the number on the scales. Weight fluctuations of 1 to 2 kg are completely normal for women and men.
Based on this information, you can see at any time whether you have achieved your daily goal and where you are on your way. After 3–4 weeks you will notice how well your metabolism can handle the extra energy and how much time you still have to plan for your reverse dieting before you have reached your goal.
Sounds like a lot of work? It is. But if you can keep your shape long-term and eat however you like, it’s definitely worth it.
Is Reverse Dieting Healthy?
So far, there are no scientifically proven findings on the health effects of the reverse diet. As with any diet, the same applies to reverse dieting: How healthy it is depends, among other things, on how you structure your diet. Opt for healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, quality proteins, and foods rich in fiber.
Make sure you eat roughly the same amount each day. Spread out your meals evenly throughout the day to avoid insulin peaks and keep your blood sugar level stable. This prevents food cravings and supports fat burning.
Who should do reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is suitable for everyone who wants to normalize their lifestyle after a reduced-calorie diet and avoid the yo-yo effect. Reverse dieting can also get the metabolism going again and shed the pounds as a measure when weight stagnates despite a calorie deficit.
After a definition phase or special competition nutrition, the post-diet diet is well suited to return to normal eating behavior without gaining too much fat.
As a general rule, tracking calories and knowing what you are eating is great. However, successful reverse dieting requires a high level of precision. So after a diet you have to invest a lot of time and energy in shaping your diet.
Calorie tracking as a compulsive act?
The permanent tracking of every single bite – required with reverse dieting and strict diets – can also take on compulsive traits. In the end, nutrition should help you achieve your goals, but it should also be fun and healthy – for body, mind and soul.
Documenting very precise macros and maybe even microscopes for a while can definitely help you get better on your diet. But it can also do the opposite.
Then you lose your body feeling and the fun of nutrition. If you worry about the calorie and sugar content of an occasional ice cream, you have reached a critical point. Therefore, pay close attention to what tracking does to you.
Summary: Reverse Dieting
- Reverse dieting means gradually increasing the calorie intake after a reduced calorie diet.
- Reverse dieting can help avoid the yo-yo effect and be a first step towards a healthy change in diet.
- Reverse dieting can be a useful countermeasure if weight stagnates during a diet.
- Reverse dieting requires precise recording of calorie intake and energy expenditure over a long period of time. This harbors the risk of developing an unhealthy relationship to diet, exercise and your own body.
- So far, there are no representative scientific studies on the subject of reverse dieting.