April 15

Can reverse dieting break your weight loss plateau?


Today we’re talking about reverse dieting. Can it be the answer to breaking your weight loss plateau?


This is the third blog in my series of metabolic adaptation/reverse dieting/diet breaks. If you haven’t read the other two episodes, go ahead and read the blogs from Monday and Tuesday, or indeed, listen to the podcasts.


The idea of reverse dieting is, first of all, a gradual increase in calories. Usually, this is done through carbohydrate increases on a weekly basis.


It is very simple to do if you’re using tracking methods, you can quickly and easily see and follow a weekly increase in just your carbohydrates.


You can still manage this without tracking, as long as you have a good awareness of calories and a good awareness of food. You are essentially doing a slight increase week in, week out with food in general, mostly coming from carbohydrate foods.


In terms of amounts; you’re looking at very, very gradual increases like 50 to 100 calories. Some people say to reverse diet for the same length of time as you diet for. Other people say, just get back to maintenance as quickly as you can, as opposed to going through this reverse diet.


This really depends on your psychology, which one you’d prefer and the reasons for doing the reverse diet.


I’ve used this with some people who have basically been unable to lose body weight on lower calories, despite the fact that they are 100% adhering. Cases where people have been through a weight loss phase in the past, trying to lower their calorie intake further and not getting anywhere.


This reverse diet could be a good way for you to get your calories back up to a very high level while still maintaining body weight, which then in the future will allow you to go through a deficit, drop your calories and lose body fat.


This is not a body weight loss approach, first off it is an approach to help you maintain your body weight while eating more calories. Then further down the line, you can go back into a calorie deficit and lose weight.


This has been done much more anecdotally, than it has been done in research, but the idea around it, is that as you increase your calories and you increase your carbohydrates over time, your body naturally starts to get used to eating more food again.


As this happens your non exercise activity naturally increases again. It brings up your ability to use this extra energy in the gym and in your training thus bringing up your energy expenditure. So you have an overall increase in the amount of energy you burn.


This increase in energy burnt allows you to maintain your weight while eating more food. We are not overcoming energy balance through this protocol. What we are doing, by giving the body more food gradually, is allowing that body to adapt and use that food.


This is very, very popular with Layne Norton and with the 3D Muscle Journey crowd as well. They’ve got some great videos over on their YouTube channels if you want to check out much more detail on this topic.


So it depends on your psychology, there’s going to be some weight gain, due to increase in carbohydrates, but you just have to note that this isn’t body fat as long as you aren’t in a calorie surplus.


It’s just due to storage of those carbohydrates and the water storage that comes as your body stores carbs, every one gram of carbohydrate, gets stored alongside three to four grams of water. So if you stored 100 grams of carbohydrate, you would store 400 grams of water as well. That’s half a kilo right there.


The purpose is to maintain your weight loss, bring up your metabolic rate through increases in activity, thermic effect of food and energy expenditure.


The idea would be to think about starting at your new maintenance. So if you’ve lost X amount of weight, you want to start at the maintenance calorie intake for your new body weight, minus 10 to 15% because of the adaptation to dieting.


Then you’re going to add in every week or so, depending on how your body weight shifts. So you need to note your average body weight every one to two weeks to notice what’s going on.


As long as there’s not a major increase, allowing for a small increase due to the storage mentioned above, then you can increase calories again because you’re not actually putting on body fat.


You can check this through continuing to do measurements and pictures while noticing how your body composition feels and looks as well. Remember, body weight does not equal body fat.


The goal here is to get back to eating the correct amount that you should be eating at this body weight to maintain weight.


Then what you can do from there, is look back into heading into another deficit phase. All of this is quite simple to do if you are tracking.


If you are not tracking then at the end of your weight loss phase, think about the methods that you used in order to create that deficit. Whether it was by reducing food quantities, or with fasting, or with some other non tracking protocol.


Then think about how you can add a small amount of food back in, then gradually add food back in week in, week out, as long as your body weight remains stable.


Once you’ve done that, you’ve reached a position where you’re maintaining body weight and eating more food, you can decide whether you want to lose body fat again, or whether you’re happy, maintaining your bodyweight there.


This then is how and why you might use a reverse diet, as I said if you want more details, go ahead and check out the YouTube channels of Layne Norton and 3D Muscle Journey, because they go into it very very high levels of detail.


Tomorrow I’m going to talk about the 10 pillars of intuitive eating, how they can help you lose body fat, help you maintain weight and improve your relationship with food.


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