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Everything You Need To Know About How to Lose Weight (And Keep It Off)

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Losing weight can be a frustrating experience. There are so many diet options that all seem to contradict one another:

”Bananas will ruin your testosterone and break ketosis”

”Animal fat will give you cancer”

”Bacon is the new Holy Water”

”You should eat lots of whole grains”

”Gluten will sneak under your bed and wait until you are at your most vulnerable”

Here’s a handy rule when considering a diet’s validity – “Does this diet require I completely eliminate any type of food?” If so, it’s bullshit.

You don’t have to stop eating your favorite foods to lose weight, and you don’t have to eat a bunch of crap that you hate. However, you do have to take ownership for your eating habits to create the change you want to see.

This article is a step-by-step guide to losing weight effectively and keeping it off. This article is rooted in the science of weight loss and doesn’t promise any magical transformations, but apply your willpower to the methods here and you won’t be searching for an article like this next year.

Highlights

  1. Weight Loss is primarily affected by energy balance
  2. You consciously eat at your TDEE for at least 3 weeks before starting a calorie deficit.
  3. Heavy Weight Training > Cardio for weight loss
  4. Cardio is best used minimally at first and gradually increased
  5. You can either restrict calories gradually in steps (easier/slower results) or do an aggressive caloric restriction (harder/faster results)
  6. Cheat meals reflect an unhealthy relationship with food
  7. Refeeds, Diet Breaks, and “If it fits your calorie days” are healthier alternatives to cheat meals
  8. Losing the weight is half the battle, keep it off with Reverse Dieting

It’s all about Energy Balance

The Primary determining factor of Weight Loss is your calorie intake. Specifically, the level of your caloric deficit.

Weight loss is simple in theory. You need to use more energy than you put in your body to lose weight. This is because our bodies can harvest energy from our tissues – such as fat or muscle.

Calories are the unit of energy we use to measure the energy content of food and how much energy we use during exercise.

So if we are eating 1500 calories per day and using 1800 calories per day then we create a 300 calorie deficit every single day. Our bodies make up for that by taking those 300 calories from itself.

Body fat is an efficient way for your body to store extra energy. If you’re overweight you have a very large excess of stored energy, therefore your deficit calories are likely to come from fat. Calorie deficits rarely affect muscle tissue significantly if you have a high body fat %.

 

Do food choices matter?

You can interpret this information to say “I can eat 1500 calories of fruits, veggies, and quality meats. Or I can eat 1500 calories of candy. As long as I’m under 1800 I’m good.” Technically this is accurate but in reality it’s not, mostly because things like candy are not going to fill you up. For this reason it is wise to adopt the approach of 80-90% of your food comes from filling foods and the remainder can be some sort of junk food.

Filling foods are foods that leave you feeling very full without completely eating up your calorie budget. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber, and lean protein rich foods are a solid foundation to build a weight loss meal plan on.

Eating vitamin rich vegetables and leafy greens may have an additional benefit on weight loss. In 2010 researchers published an article suggesting that the perception of hunger is altered in nutrient rich diets. That is to say that you can lessen the intensity of your hunger cravings by making sure the foods you do eat are rich in vitamins and minerals.

To answer the question – yes, food choices matter but not for the reason you think! The first, and foremost, factor determining your weight loss is your overall caloric intake. Food choices play a bigger role in making it harder or easier to stick to your diet in the long term.

 

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Know your TDEE – For Real

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) refers to the amount of energy we use in a given day, typically measured in calories. It is composed of three parts – Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Activity Thermogenesis (AT), and the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).

BMR is the amount of calories we use just to stay operational. This is the amount of calories you would use if you were in a coma.

AT refers to calories burned through activity, this can be further broken down into Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).

TEF refers to the amount of calories burned digesting the food we eat.

There are a lot of TDEE calculators on the internet, all claiming to be more accurate than the rest. In reality, they’re all pretty close.

As a bioengineer I can tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than trying to determine an absolute constant within a biological system. Let alone trying to determine the exact amount of energy a human is burning on a day-to-day basis. It’s going to change every day based on what activities they’re doing, how well they slept, what they eat normally, what they ate that wasn’t normal, etc…

This is why I say you need to know your TDEE FOR REAL. Start by using a calculator (Our Calculator) to get an estimate and adjust from there. Most TDEE calculations are accurate for ~90% of the population within an error of +/- 200 calories.

A common point of failure for people is that they use these calculators, cut the calories to 80% and then they start tracking their calories. This is setting yourself up for failure.

Instead, start tracking your calories at the TDEE suggested by the calculator and watch your weight. Is your weight going up? Then you need to decrease. Is it going down already? Then your TDEE is higher than the calculator predicted. Spend 2-3 weeks figuring out where your actual TDEE is.

 

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Learn what to eat at maintenance

When you’re figuring out your TDEE your also going to have to figure out what to eat on a regular basis. Leaning how to establish your eating patterns while at maintenance is important because you’re going to have a lot of questions that will make you feel stressed out if you’re also trying to restrict calories while answering them.

Should you eat 3 meals a day? 5? 7?! What about protein, carbs, and fats? How much of each should you eat? There are a lot of people on the internet that will tell you “You need to ‘x’ to lose weight.” But that recommendation is still just a guess. You’re going to have to experiment to find what’s best for you.

Contrary to the popular recommendation of the fitness industry to eat 1g per pound of bodyweight of protein, I find that I’m happier with significantly less (close to 0.6 g/lb). It may not be the perfect approach, but the okay plan you’ll stick to is a million times better than the perfect plan you’ll quit.

I recommend starting out as close to your current eating habits as possible and making small changes. For most people this means eating 3-4 meals per day and some snacking in between. So start with dividing your calories between those meals and focusing on eliminating snacking. You might find that works for you and you don’t need to experiment any further, OR you may find you still have the urge to snack and need to plan in an additional meal.

When you’re brand spanking new to weight loss you don’t have to worry about your macronutrient division as much as someone that’s relatively lean trying to get leaner. In reality, people with a lot of weight to lose need to focus on limiting their calorie intake and deciding on a minimum protein intake.

  • Your TDEE is your calorie limit.
  • To find your protein minimum start with 0.6 – 1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight per day (tend towards the lower end if you are heavier) and try keeping your minimum at that number for at least a week.

Remember – there is no perfect amount of protein to eat everyday for fat loss, it’s about finding an amount you can be consistent with.

Have a regular training regimen

This is another factor of weight loss that is best figured out BEFORE you go into a calorie deficit. If you’re completely untrained then you’ll actually see good results from staying at maintenance calories and starting a training program. People often set themselves up for failure by starting a very intense training program and a severe calorie deficit simultaneously. It’s simply too much new stress to keep up with.

If you’re starting a training program after being inactive for a long time then you need to resist the urge to do too much. Don’t start going to the gym for 2 hour long workouts 5 days per week, again it’s too much new stress. Start slow.

I’ve seen two different approaches to starting an exercise routine be consistently successful:

  1. Start with training 2x a week for one hour each.
  2. Start with training 5-7x a week for 15 minutes each.

The determining factor in figuring out which of these approaches works best for you largely depends on your personality and time constraints. Can you easily carve out a little time each day? Or does reserving two one-hour slots during the week for training match your schedule better? Whichever you pick, the determining factor in it’s effectiveness is your consistency.

 

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Picking a Training Program

You want to lose weight, so you go spend an hour on the elliptical – right? Wrong.

Don’t buy in to the BS that you have to do a ton of cardio to lose weight. Cardio can have a lot of benefits but if you don’t enjoy it, then there are much better options to consider.

Strength training has a profound impact on fat loss, especially if you are new to it. However, it’s important that you have ample guidance when you’re getting started. Ideally, a qualified trainer would design an effective training program for you to follow. Unfortunately, not all trainers are good at program design and they simply tell you to do what worked for them. Do your research when hiring a trainer – ask them tough questions, talk to their current clients, and try to find any reviews online for them.

Not everyone can afford a trainer, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to ineffective workouts. There are plenty of materials available that outline great strength training for beginners to learn from. The hard part about about this approach is finding a program geared towards true beginners and not intermediate exercisers.

This is why I wrote From the Ground Up, as a guide for people with absolutely no experience to build up their strength, lose weight, and start living a healthy lifestyle. If you’re looking for a book that really starts from absolute zero and takes you through all the steps of building a healthy lifestyle, this is the book you want to read.

Whatever kind of training program you choose make sure that it’s intelligently designed and allows for sufficient recovery. When I’m in a calorie deficit I need to take a ‘deload’ week every 4th week, while normally I can go 8-12 weeks between deloads. Taking the time to ensure your recovery is often overlooked despite it being so critical for long term adherence.

Should your program include cardio?

Firstly, if you genuinely enjoy doing cardio (running, biking, hiking, etc.) then continue to do it in an enjoyable fashion. However, if you’re like most of us then cardio is not the most fun thing you can imagine doing.

Cardio has a reputation of being the type of exercise that’s going to enable you to burn the most calories. This reputation is due to the fact that cardio can greatly increase your calorie expenditure while you do cardio. Lifting weights on the other hand won’t burn as many calories while you are lifting. However, the resulting muscle damage and subsequent healing of those muscles will use more energy over the course of 1-3 days! Essentially, cardio burns more now but lifting burns more over time.

That all being said cardio can have it’s place in your training routine to help with weight loss. The trick is to try and use the minimal effective dose of cardio. That is, you want to find the absolute smallest amount of cardio you can do while still getting benefits. The reason you want to do this is that our bodies can adapt to the demands of cardio quickly and we constantly have to increase to continue getting results. When a fun one-mile run turns into a mandatory 6-mile run, life just isn’t as fun.

I recommend doing 2-3 sets of some sort of High Intensity Interval Training, specifically on a bike or sprints. This way it’s very easy to start out low (2-3) sets and gradually add a set every 5-10 training sessions. It keeps the intensity at the edge of your abilities without increasing the volume to an unmanageable level.

 

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Restricting Calories

So now we’re finally at the sweet candy filled center of this article – Calorie Restriction.

As we discussed in the beginning of this article, food choice does matter in the sense that certain foods can make it easier to stay in a calorie restriction but there are no magic foods that you can start to eat or eliminate that will cause all the fat to melt away (Yes, that means you can even eat ice cream and pizza – within reason). Calorie Restriction is going to be the primary factor responsible for weight loss.

By now you should have an idea of what your TDEE is and what kinds of foods you can eat regularly while staying within your TDEE. Now it’s time to put those habits to use, restrict the calories, and watch the scale drop.

Have a plan when cutting calories

When you’re starting a calorie deficit it’s important to have a few things written down:

  • Current weight
  • Current TDEE
  • Goal Weight
  • Amount of time you’re willing to diet for (I limit myself to 12-16 weeks before I require a mandatory reverse dieting period).

From here you have two options – gradual dieting or aggressive dieting. In my personal experience one of these is usually better than the other but that changes for everyone. Personally, I like gradual dieting and tend to crash on aggressive deficits.

With a gradual dieting deficit you’ll want to have a series of steps planned for when your diet stalls. For example let’s say I have a TDEE of 2000 calories – I’ll make my planned steps 1800, 1600, 1500, and 1400 calories (90%, 80%, 75%, and 70%, respectively).

I’ll start at 1800 calories and keep track of my weight diligently. When I’m at a point that the scale hasn’t moved in 7-10 days I’ll go down to the next step. I’ll continue this plan until I’m at the bottom of my planned steps and I’ll need to either increase my training volume to continue losing weight or reverse diet back to a point that I can cut from again.

An aggressive calorie deficit will simply have one large cut from my TDEE (~70%). Aggressive calorie deficits have the benefit of facilitating faster weight loss however they can be harder to stick to as it is a more drastic change from your norm.

 

forget Cheat meals – try this instead

It’s inevitable, and we’ve all done it. You get through 5-10 days on your new diet and suddenly you look down and you’ve eaten a Big Mac, half a pizza, a bowl of ice cream, gummy bears, the other half of the pizza, and a snickers. After that meal you proclaim that that was your cheat meal which likely turns into an entire cheat day. It’s called the ”Screw it” effect.

When we restrict food, we want food more. Psychologically we don’t like being told we can’t have something. This is especially true for diets that eliminate food entire types of food like processed sugar, grains, meat, etc.

This is exactly why I am a supporter of the flexible dieting approach. No foods are “off limits,” but you are responsible for whatever you eat and you have to track it. If you want a burger, then have a burger but plan accordingly and be aware that it may make it more difficult to fit your overall calories later.

Let’s break down why people the reasoning behind a cheat meal and develop better strategies to meet the needs we feel are addressed during a cheat meal.

First and foremost, it’s normal to get to a point of calorie restriction where you’re exhausted and need to eat a little more than your restriction will allow. A good approach to this is to implement a refeed day. A refeed refers to increasing your calories back to your TDEE for a single day, usually by increasing carbohydrate intake. I find refeeds work best for me when the the increased carbs come from a 50/50 mix of whole plant sources (fruits, veggies, grains) and sugary sources (cookies, and snickers bars). Traditionally refeeds are limited to one day per week.

Secondly, some days we are sick of tracking the macronutrients to the degree we are and we just want to step back from the need to consistently track. For this it’s good to have a “if it fits your calories” day. On these days you’re not worried about carbs, proteins, or fats. You’re simply making whatever you eat fit within your calorie allotment. Again, it is wise to limit these to once per week.

Lastly, your willpower and determination have been worn thin over the course of dieting. When this happens you’re likely to slip up A LOT. It’s okay, it happens to all of us. When you find yourself regularly slipping every other day or so then it may be time to implement a Diet Break. A diet break is a week where you’re eating at your TDEE again. Diet breaks are amazing when you’ve been dieting for a very long time but aren’t ready to start reverse dieting yet.

Ordinarily we wouldn’t want to go from a large calorie restriction back to TDEE immediately because it’s possible to put on a lot of rebound weight quickly, however in the context of a single week it’s okay. However, if you find diet break week has turned into a month and you’ve effectively stopped dieting it is time to reverse diet back to your TDEE.

Weight Loss Supplements

As a rule – this entire category of supplements is a snake oil scam. 99.999% of the time someone is selling a pill for weight loss

Remember that the primary determinant of weight loss is going to be the caloric deficit you create through diet. There are no magic supplements that are going to miraculously make the fat disappear. However, there are supplements that can help make certain parts of the dieting process easier.

Caffeine

Caffeine can help weight loss through two indirect means – It can suppress appetite, thereby making it easier to eat less calories in a day. It also can increase the amount of energy we use in day during exercise (EAT) and outside of exercise (NEAT).

NEAT is often overlooked when people are trying to lose weight. NEAT is related to things like fidgeting or the amount of steps you take in a day. When you go into a calorie deficit NEAT starts to decrease, you can mitigate this by tracking your steps with a smartwatch or smartphone app that counts your steps.

Fat Burners

This is the motherload of modern day snake oil! Fat burners are often marketed as “thermogenic fat burners” and usually are just loaded with caffeine and other cheap ingredients that will make you feel like you have a fever. You’re better off just having the caffeine as a cup of coffee or in a pre-workout shake and saving your money.

Fat burners are going to rely on sleazy marketing methods to get you to buy their products. Rarely is the model that’s selling these products ever have to use them to lose the weight. Chances are they took it a handful of times after they lost the weight through diet and exercise.

If you come across a fat burner product and are considering buying it, remember that 99% of these products fall under one of two categories:

  1. It doesn’t work at all and is a waste of money
  2. It does work, but is detrimental to your health (2004 Ban of Ephedrine)

There is one case in which it’s okay to consider a fat burner supplement. This is when it’s very straightforward about the fact that you still have to exercise and be in a calorie deficit to lose weight AND 100% of the ingredients are listed as well as their amounts! If you see the terms ‘Proprietary blend’, ‘special blend’, ‘performance matrix’, or ‘thermogenic blend’ anywhere on the label DO NOT USE THAT PRODUCT!

Personally I have only found one brand that makes a fat burner falling under this category – Phoenix and Forge by Legion Athletics. If you’ve read some of my past articles then you know that one of the few supplement companies I will actually praise is Legion Athletics. This is solely because they are the only company I have seen that lists their ingredients, the amounts, and the studies they are referencing to justify their formulation.

Forge by Legion Athletics

Phoenix by Legion Athletics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: I am affiliated with Legion Athletics. I do receive a small payment when you purchase any Legion products through my links.

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The Aftermath – Keeping the weight off

I’ve mentioned Reverse Dieting a lot over the course of this article. That’s because it’s often overlooked at the end of dieting and it is absolutely crucial for keeping the weight from coming back.

In short, when we diet we have certain metabolic adaptations that occur that prime us for putting fat back on rapidly. Reverse dieting is a method of gradually increasing calories back to TDEE to mitigate this effect. You can read more in my article on Reverse Dieting.

In addition to reverse dieting it’s important to taper off the amount of work you put into your gym time to a more manageable level. This is only necessary if you feel like you cannot keep up the effort you’re putting in. Primarily, this means slowly reducing your cardio efforts.

With reverse dieting and slowly bringing down the amount of effort you are putting in at the gym you should start feeling like your activity level becomes more manageable without the dreaded ‘rebound’ weight gain.

The ideal is to become healthier in the long run and that takes a long term view on things. You have to look at your dieting efforts as a small piece of your whole life. Make sure whatever approach you take is one you can picture yourself doing consistently in 3 months, 6 months, a year, or 10 years. Because at the end of the day what you did won’t matter as much as how consistent you did it.

Summary

  1. Weight Loss is primarily affected by energy balance
  2. You consciously eat at your TDEE for at least 3 weeks before starting a calorie deficit.
  3. Heavy Weight Training > Cardio for weight loss
  4. Cardio is best used minimally at first and gradually increased
  5. You can either restrict calories gradually in steps (easier/slower results) or do an aggressive caloric restriction (harder/faster results)
  6. Cheat meals reflect an unhealthy relationship with food
  7. Refeeds, Diet Breaks, and “If it fits your calorie days” are healthier alternatives to cheat meals
  8. Losing the weight is half the battle, keep it off with Reverse Dieting
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The Essential Guide to Reverse Dieting

Millions of people attempt diets to lose weight and are successful, but only temporarily. Soon the weight comes back and sometimes it brings it’s friends along. If this sounds like you, it’s not just you – it’s everyone.

This is common in fad, yo-yo, and crash diets, but it’s also prevalent in diets based on evidence from current research. It makes a lot of people feel hopeless about controlling their weight.

The reason for the regain of fat after a diet is a lack of understanding about how metabolism adapts to dieting, and how it reacts post-diet. Reverse Dieting is a method used to counteract these maladaptations of our metabolism in order to fix our metabolisms and keep the weight off for good.

Essentially, Reverse Dieting is just dieting in reverse. Instead of gradually eliminating calories from your diet, you gradually add them back in. Don’t worry if that sounds overly-simplistic, we’ll dive into the nuances of reverse dieting in this article.

How is metabolism affected by dieting?=

Metabolism is defined as the sum of the chemical reactions that take place within an organism to sustain life. In simpler terms – it is the amount of energy our bodies use to operate.

Caloric restriction has a few effects on metabolism that result in our net energy output decreasing. The main effect our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) decreases.

This makes sense when you think about it – a diet is essentially a systematic starvation period in which you deprive your body of an outside energy source so that it starts to use an internal energy source (hopefully fat). Our bodies aren’t too willing to burn that saved energy so they also have methods of decreasing the amount of energy we use.

Let’s examine the components by which this happens:

Firstly, basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases as a result of having a smaller body. BMR is heavily influenced by body mass, so it makes sense that losing some of that mass will result in a smaller BMR.

Second, activity dependent energy expenditure decreases. The most obvious form of this is a decrease in exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) – which translates to you’re not burning the same amount of calories during your training sessions. This is when you start to feel like your workouts suck. A less obvious form of this is the decrease in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – you’re less likely to fidget your leg, or take the stairs. In general, you’re feeling somewhat lazier.

Lastly, the thermic effect of food (TEF) decreases as a result of intaking less overall food. Around 10% of normal TDEE can be attributed to TEF, however when the amount of food we’re eating decreases so does the TEF.

It’s important to remember that these changes in metabolism in response to dieting are adaptations, which means they do serve some sort of purpose and understanding that purpose can help mitigate the negative consequences of it. The purpose behind these adaptations is that they aid in survival in times when food is scarce.

Imagine a two prehistoric humans dealing with a sudden lack of food. After a few days the first human experiences a drastic decrease in his overall TDEE, which stretches out how long his body can feed off of his stored fat. Now he can survive for 10 days without food instead of 6-7. The second human has no such adaptations and continues to burn energy at his normal rate. Sure, he has abs and looks way more shredded than the other guy a lot faster but he also dies sooner.

Using the story above it’s easy to see how these metabolic adaptations to a decrease in food were useful to our ancestors. It’s also easy to continue this line of thought to imagine what would happen to the survivor if he suddenly came across a very large amount of food after 9 days of starving – he’d put on all the fat he had to burn and then some.

As an adaptation this makes perfect sense. He has experienced a terrible lack of food which took his body to it’s limit once. It would be advantageous to have even more fat in case this ever happens again.

Our bodies have the exact response to dieting, and unfortunately in our cases it’s rarely an advantage to have our metabolism adapt in such a way. Luckily, we can mitigate the post-diet fat gain by taking the approach of Reverse Dieting.

What is Reverse Dieting?

Dieting is the elimination of calories in order to cause meaningful changes in fat mass. Reverse dieting is the opposite:

Reverse Dieting is gradually increasing caloric intake in order to gradually increase overall metabolic rate.

Thanks to the metabolic adaptations that occur during dieting our bodies require significantly less calories when the diet is over. Additionally, our bodies are primed to store as much energy as possible, in the form of body fat, after the diet. By gradually increasing the calories we can minimize the amount of fat that is stored in the process of increasing our TDEE.

Why Reverse Diet?

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It’s impossible to live the rest of your life on heavily restricted calories. But many of us try, and when we eventually hit that wall it ends terribly – we crash and binge. That’s why nearly 65% of successful dieters return to the pre-diet weight within 3 years. Following periods of dieting with reverse dieting to bring calories back up to baseline can be the answer to the problem of fat loss rebounds.

Additionally, reverse dieting can be extremely useful for people that have repeatedly subjected themselves to fad or crash diets. If you’ve been doing lots of crash dieting for years then you likely are dealing with a maladapted metabolism. Reverse dieting can increase the metabolism back to baseline prior to beginning any other dieting efforts.

Lastly, the psychological and emotional benefits of reverse dieting may be the greatest reason to do it. Reverse dieting enables us to maintain a lean physique while being able to eat more, have more energy, and eliminate the guilt of post-diet rebound.

How to Reverse Diet

Reverse dieting is certainly easier said than done. It can take a tremendous amount of self-control to switch your mindset to increasing calories after a diet without giving into regular binging. To ensure success with reverse dieting it’s important to leave as little to ’willpower’ as possible and have a set plan in place.

The first part of a Reverse Diet Plan is a set date at which to end your diet and begin your reverse diet. I recommend a date instead of a goal weight because it can prevent dieting to the point of diminishing your willpower. Personally, I limit my dieting periods to 4 months at a time and plan on spending somewhere between 50-100% of the time I had spent dieting reverse dieting.

When you reach the point you are starting your reverse dieting period you need to consider your current caloric intake, the desired amount of calories you are going to be working up to, an estimate of how long you can spend reverse dieting, and a realistic expectation for how much fat mass you may put on.

Next, you need to have a rate of calorie increase you are comfortable with. The smaller the calorie increase over time, the less fat mass you’re likely to gain but the more difficult the reverse dieting process will be. Conversely, the larger you’re increase intervals are, the more fat mass you’re likely to gain but the reverse dieting process is likely to seem much easier. The rate at which you increase your calories is typically influenced by the amount of time you have to spend reverse dieting, the amount of fat mass you’re willing to gain, and your current level of burnout.

Determining your rate of increase is largely going to be due to personal preference. Personally I strive to add 80-110 calories per week, but will tend to have some increases as high as 200 calories per week. This isn’t ideal for keeping fat mass off entirely but my goal is to gradually increase my calories to prevent a large rebound effect, so 5 lbs of fat is quite small in the grand picture of things.

Lastly, you need to have a way to continually evaluate your progress and to be prepared to adjust your plan as needed. Typically this includes taking skin-fold measurements regularly throughout the process. If the measurement makes an unwanted jump then it may be wise to lower the rate of change in your calorie intake. Or if you’re happy with the skin-fold measurement but are getting extremely exhausted you may want to increase your rate of change to get it over faster.

Macronutrient composition

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Typically, a successful fat loss diet will have moderate to high protein content that remains constant. Fat and Carbohydrate intake are usually manipulated to decrease total calorie intake.

With reverse dieting we want to maintain a constant protein intake while modulating the other two types of macronutrients. It is smart to pick one to manipulate and keep the other constant. Personally, I do well with keeping my fat constant and gradually increasing my carbs but you might find that you are the opposite, or that you do well by gradually increasing both macronutrients.

There are going to be a lot of people that claim to know the ideal macronutrient breakdown for fat loss, muscle gain, etc… and they’re full of crap. Take their advice as a starting point and experiment to figure out what works best for you.

Training while Reverse Dieting

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Training while reverse dieting shouldn’t look too different from your normal training. Ideally, as you add calories back into your diet you should begin to see the amount of weights you are lifting increase again.

Additionally, you want to begin tapering off the amount of cardio you were doing at the end of your cut. This should be done in a similar manner to adding the calories back into your diet – noting that fast, big changes may result in unwanted fat gain, while slow, gradual changes will probably work better to keep fat mass off.

Example Plan

Let’s imagine I am a 6’2” man that has just finished dieting down to 190 lbs over the course of 4 months. I feel like I could push myself to lose more weight but because I set my diet end-date I am going to begin the process of reverse dieting.

My current calorie intake is 2100 calories/day and my estimated maintenance caloric intake is now at 2800 calories/day. So I need to reverse diet back up 700 calories.

Since I spent roughly 4 months (28 weeks) dieting I’ll plan to invest at least 14 weeks into my reverse diet. If I divide the amount of calories I want to add (700 calories) by the amount of weeks I am planning on (14 weeks) I get the amount of calories I should plan on adding back in every week (50 calories per week).

  • Weeks 1-5: Continually adding 50 calories per week. No significant change in caliper measurement. Starting to feel burnt out by week 5.
  • Weeks 6-11: Counter burn out by increasing rate of change to 75 calories per week. Small increase in caliper measurement but acceptable. Feeling more energized and better in general.
  • Week 12: Have already hit goal of increasing calories by 700, but have not seen any noticeable fat gain. Continue to increase calories by 50 calories per week.
  • Weeks 13-14: End of Reverse dieting. Small noticeable increase in fat mass (~6 lbs), well within acceptable range. New calorie intake 2950 calories per day.

What to expect from Reverse Dieting

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The first thing to expect with reverse dieting is what most people fear hearing – You’re probably going to gain a little weight back. But that’s okay, remember that the goal is to gradually bring your calories back up in such a way that you gain a minimal amount of weight instead of trying to stay on reduced calories indefinitely, eventually rebounding, and gaining a lot more weight. It’s all about being proactive.

Counterintuitively, some people actually see a small amount of weight loss when they begin reverse dieting. This is likely due to a reduction in water retention, however Layne Norton, PhD, has noted that some of his clients have indeed lost additional fat when beginning the reverse dieting process.

Emotionally, you will feel extremely accomplished throughout the process of reverse dieting. Especially at the end when you are still relatively lean while eating at your normal calories. This is the holy grail of weight loss – keeping it off and eating like normal again!

What to do after Reverse Dieting

What you do after you reverse diet really depends on your goals. You can break it down into what you want to do next.

If your goal was simply to lose the weight and you accomplished it, then you should enter a maintenance phase. During this phase your goal is to keep your caloric intake the same and maintain the look you have worked so hard to achieve.

Sometimes, reverse dieting phases are more of a diet break, in which we give our metabolisms a much needed break from the consistent restriction of dieting. Following a reverse dieting phase with another round of dieting can be a good tactic for those that have a large amount of weight to lose and have been dieting for an extended period of time. This method allows the user to attempt to diet on as many calories as possible, which is always the most enjoyable way to diet.

Lastly, you can continue to reverse diet past your maintenance point in an attempt to increase your TDEE. Ideally, this process will slowly add lean muscle mass while minimizing the amount of fat mass that can be put on. Colloquially, this is known as the Clean Bulk.

Reverse Dieting in a Nutshell

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Reverse dieting is the process of gradually increasing calories. The intended uses of reverse dieting are:

  • As a follow up to dieting to increase calorie intake without gaining back all of the lost weight.
  • As a method of increasing energy expenditure prior to dieting to ensure the effects of caloric restriction are maximized.
  • For “Clean Bulking” in which we try to gain quality muscle mass slowly while limiting the amount of fat mass put on.