There is a lot of talk in the fitness industry about metabolic rate and the different measures we should all be taking in order to “speed up” our metabolisms. Some you may have come across include eating every two hours, drinking copious amounts of lemon juice and adding cayenne or other hot spices to your foods. Yes, these may have small effects on your metabolism but the true secret to getting your metabolism up to the speed of light lies in the art of reverse dieting.
To put it simply, reverse dieting is allowing yourself to slowly increase your caloric intake in order to make lean muscle gains and not put on fat, in fact you’ll probably even lose fat in the process. Eating more food, losing fat and gaining muscle? It almost sounds too good to be true. There are plenty of people who can benefit from putting some time and effort into reverse dieting: competitors coming out of a show, people who have hit a plateau in their weight loss, people who have hit a plateau in their training but want to remain lean, people who want more energy whilst remaining lean – the list goes on. Basically the benefits of reverse dieting are more food, more energy and more muscle without the fat gain.
If you’re coming out of a show, or finishing a cut you may be looking and feeling great but your metabolism is most likely in a sorry state. If you have been eating a low amounts of calories, and doing cardio for a matter of months, your body will be in shock if you suddenly bump up your caloric intake again. The result? Your body ends up storing lots of food as fat and the shreds you worked so hard for disappear once again. Reverse dieting increases your metabolism so that this doesn’t happen.
All a reverse diet involves is adding a few extra calories into your diet every week, slowly increasing the amount of food you can eat without your body freaking out about excess food and storing copious amounts of fat. In order to do this, you simply add a few grams of carbohydrates and fats to your daily intake every week depending on how your weight and measurements have changed. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of tracking carbohydrates, fats and proteins, you can check out this blog post on tracking macronutrients here.
To make the process less complicated, let’s use Joe as an example. Joe has just finished his 12 week cut for summer. He’s looking lean and feeling happy with his body fat percentage but doesn’t plan on eating 1800 calories a day forever. In order to keep making gains and keep his energy levels up he’s going to need to slowly increase those calories to reach his maintenance level again. Joe increases his carbohydrates by 10 grams and his fats by 5 grams in the first week of his reverse diet, and his weight remains the same. Great, his metabolism is responding to the calorie increase and is speeding up. So next week he goes for it again and increases by the same amount, but this time perhaps he gains a couple of pounds. Whenever your weight/measurements/body fat increases all you have to do is slow down with the calorie increase and give your metabolism a few days to catch up. If you increase slowly enough, you’ll eventually be able to get back up to your maintenance calories and enjoy donuts and ice cream again whilst maintaining your lovely lean summer body.
Another important thing to consider with reverse dieting is that next time you want to lose weight you have a nice big chunk of calories to cut down from. So rather than chipping away at that measly 1800 calories a day in order to keep losing weight, you could potentially cut down from 2500 to 2000 and lose body fat efficiently, whilst maintaining your energy levels and sparing muscle mass.
Obviously reverse dieting is a concept that requires a lot of dedication, will power and precision. It can be all too tempting to go all out and eat whatever you want in the weeks following the end of a cut, but put in the time and effort to increase your metabolism and your body will thank you later!