How, When, And Why To Do A Reverse Diet


You’ve been dieting down for a show or shoot… what’s next? Could reverse dieting be right for you?

Anyone who’s ever dieted down to low levels of body fat (usually for a physique competition or a photoshoot) will know how tough it gets towards the end.

This kind of dieting is totally different to just losing a bit of weight to feel healthier. Dieting to get really lean means pushing your body places it doesn’t want to go. And it means living in a calorie deficit for months. Tracking macros, weighing food, and explaining why you can’t “just have a tiny bit” of cake every time your family offers it.

But what happens when the diet is over, and you’ve done your show or had your shoot? You’ve achieved your goal and you no longer need to diet. It’s no longer necessary to eat in a calorie deficit (and, actually, it’s no longer a good idea!) You need to bring those calories up to a sustainable level so you can be healthier and enjoy a social life again!

Does that mean you should immediately eat at your maintenance calories? Or forget tracking altogether and just eat whatever you like?

You can do those things, if you want to. But there’s a new approach, one which is popular with dieting bodybuilders and their prep coaches. It’s called Reverse Dieting.

If you’re someone who actually enjoys the structure of a diet, and who definitely does not want to pile on a ton of weight within a few weeks of your show, reverse dieting could be for you.

What Is Reverse Dieting?

Reverse Dieting is the diet after the diet. It’s a method of gradually increasing calories (via one, two, or all three macros) so you can increase your weight to healthier levels without losing all control around food.

Reverse Dieting uses the same principles that you used to get lean. You’ll still monitor your macros and calories, track your intake, incorporate cardio, and train with intensity.

The actual numbers of reverse dieting will be as individual as your cutting diet was. But the general rule is to increase carbs (and to a lesser extent fats) by a small amount, wait until your weight settles, and then increase again. Slowly add back calories, primarily from carbohydrates.

Over time, you should get your calorie intake up to impressive levels without seeing the huge spikes in weight (and bloating) that comes with bingeing. Don’t forget that your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) will go up as you reverse diet, because your body weight will increase and your energy output might increase as you feel more energised!

The Pros and Cons Of Reverse Dieting

It Gives You A Plan

Without a plan, some people will binge, restrict, and yo-yo diet after their show or shoot. Reverse dieting gives you a plan and a structure, so you won’t feel lost.

Your Body Dictates The Pace

With reverse dieting, you will increase your calories as your body increases in weight. You won’t over estimate your maintenance calories. But if you start eating at (presumed) maintenance straight away, it’s easy to get the numbers wrong. Reverse dieting works with your body as it changes.

It’s More Reliable Than Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is a great concept, but it’s a skill that some people don’t possess yet. Maybe this was your first cutting diet, and you don’t have anything to compare it to. Or maybe you have a disordered history with food and appetite. Some people can eat intuitively and get it spot on. But that might not be you.

But… You’ll Have To Still Track

This is the only downside to reverse dieting, but it’s a big one. You’ll have to weigh, track, and calculate your macros to make it work. Some people won’t want to (or feel able to) do that after months of dieting. Only you know whether it’s worth the effort.

When To Use Reverse Dieting

– if you’ve recently dieted down to less-than-normal levels of body fat

– if you want to stop dieting (because you’ve reached your goal, done your show, or had your shoot)

– you like having a plan and a structure

– you don’t mind tracking your food for another chunk of time

– you are committed to reverse dieting and can track every day

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