Reverse Dieting 101: Get the Best Results (With FREE Printable Guide!)

Reverse dieting involves gradually increasing calorie intake after a period of restriction, aiming to counteract metabolic adaptation and promote weight loss. Learn how to get started in this post! #reversediet #weighttraining #metabolism



Have you ever wondered why, despite your best efforts to eat well and stay active, it feels like your metabolism is working against you? A lot of people can find themselves stuck in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, only to hit a plateau or experience weight gain after stopping a diet. Reverse dieting might be the answer. In this post, I want to talk about what reverse dieting is, how it works, who it’s for, and how to start. Welcome to Reverse Dieting 101!


Table of Contents

Reverse Dieting 101: What is Reverse Dieting?

Reverse dieting involves gradually increasing your calorie intake after a period of calorie restriction. The basic idea is to reverse the effects of metabolic adaptation that can happen during and after dieting. In simpler terms, it’s a strategic way to boost your metabolism, allowing your body to adapt to higher calories without significant weight gain.

The Science Behind Reverse Dieting

The science behind reverse dieting lies in the understanding of metabolic adaptation – a process that happens when your body adjusts to a change in calories eaten over a sustained period. When you restrict your calories, your body responds by slowing down its metabolic rate, making weight loss harder over time. Metabolic adaptation isn’t a bad thing, it’s your body trying to preserve your current weight for survival. But if your goal is to lose weight, it can make it much harder.


The Step-By-Step Process

  1. Change in Calorie Intake:
    • You make a consistent change in how much you eat by eating fewer calories.
  2. Initial Weight Gain/Loss:
    • If you eat less, you lose some weight initially.
  3. Hormones Come into Play:
    • Hormones, like leptin and ghrelin, get involved. Leptin decreases when you lose weight, telling your body it’s using up energy. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, may increase, making you feel hungrier. (Both my free Nutrition eBook and my Complete Weight Loss Guide cover Leptin & Ghrelin more).
  4. Body Adjusts the Basics:
    • Your body adjusts its basic energy needs at rest (BMR) based on what it thinks is going on. If you’ve been eating less, it will slow things down to save energy.
  5. Weight Plateau:
    • These changes can lead to a point where your weight stays the same, making it harder to lose more or gain more.

Reverse dieting is a way to counteract this adaptation by gradually increasing calories, signalling to the body that it’s safe to start burning more calories again. Essentially making it work the other way.

Who Should Consider Reverse Dieting

Reverse Dieting is suited to anyone who is looking to increase their metabolic rate. But it’s typically aimed at people who have noticed a significant slowdown in weight loss, or a complete plateau.

In particular, if you have struggled with yo-yo dieting, this can wreak havoc on your body’s metabolism. This is because yo-yo dieting usually involves more severe “crash” diets, forcing your body to conserve energy through metabolic adaptation. But crash diets can often end in binges, and excessive calorie intake in a short period can result in gaining the weight back, because your body doesn’t have time to readjust. The you start another crash diet, and it becomes a never-ending cycle.

reverse diet weight gain

So if breaking this cycle and adopting a more sustainable approach to weight management sounds good, reverse dieting may be for you.

Reverse Dieting 101: How to Start Reverse Dieting

Before you start a reverse diet, you should know your starting point.

1. Calculate Your Calorie Needs

TDEE is an important concept to understand when considering your calorie needs. It is the total number of calories that your body burns in a given day, and is made up of the below:

  • Basal Metabolic rate (BMR): The amount of energy (measured in calories) your body needs to maintain its basic functions such as breathing, circulating blood, and digesting food.
  • Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA): The amount of calories that are burned as a result of physical activity. It is also known as exercise-induced thermogenesis, and it is the energy used up during activities such as walking, running, and playing sports.
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The energy expenditure that occurs in our bodies when we consume food. This energy expenditure is due to the body’s metabolic processes that are involved in breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from the food we eat.
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): An important part of a healthy lifestyle. It is the energy we expend through daily activities that are not categorized as formal exercise. NEAT includes activities like walking to work, taking the stairs, doing chores around the house, gardening, and even fidgeting.


The free Reverse Diet Guide included with this post has a guide on how to manually calculate your TDEE, but you can also use online calculators.

I also recommend the app MacroFactor, it’s a calorie and macro tracker that actually adapts to your metabolism. The more you track your calories and weight, the more accurate it becomes at calculating your needs.

2. Know Your Weight

reverse dieting for muscle gain

Weigh yourself to establish your current weight. Use a consistent scale and measure at the same time of day for accuracy. Understand that this initial weight is only a snapshot, and fluctuations are completely normal. It’s the trend over time that is important.

3. Understand Body Composition

This isn’t something you have to do, as it’s not accessible for everyone. But knowing your body composition can offer additional insights. Tracking changes in muscle mass and body fat percentage provides a more better view of your body’s response to the reverse diet. This can be done through things like DEXA scans, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), or skinfold calliper measurements.

4. Implement Incremental Adjustments

Decide where you would like your TDEE to be. If your current TDEE is 1500, and you want it to be 2000. To begin increasing your calories without fat gain, you only want to go up by 5%-15% intervals. You’ll also be increasing your activity levels with strength training. So it’s important to keep an eye on your energy levels and make sure you are eating enough to fuel your new training.

5. Regularly Check-In

Adjust your calories based on your progress and goals. If your weight is stable, consider a slight increase; if performance is improving, continue with the current adjustments.

6. Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. The goal is not to force-feed but to fuel your body. If you experience discomfort or undesirable changes, consider adjusting the rate of increase.

Macronutrient Adjustments

reverse dieting weight gain

When reverse dieting, paying attention to macronutrients becomes key to achieving a balanced and sustainable nutritional approach.

Understanding Macros

  • Proteins: Protein is essential for any healthy diet, but especially when starting a reverse diet. It helps to build muscle, maintain muscle mass, and support muscle growth, which is important when trying to increase your caloric intake. To ensure your body has the right nutrients to support muscle growth and repair, it’s important to keep a steady supply of amino acids in your system to stop your body breaking down muscle.
  • Fats: Fats are an important part of a healthy diet and should make up the smallest percentage of your total daily caloric intake.
  • Carbohydrates: One of the main functions of carbohydrates is energy production. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is then used as an energy source for the body. They are also important for energy storage, as they are converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles for later use. Carbohydrates are especially important when trying to gain muscle as they are a protein sparing nutrient, meaning they help to prevent your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy.

How To Calculate Macro Targets for Reverse Dieting

  • Proteins: Aim to eat 1g of protein for each 1lb of body weight. So if you weigh 170lbs, you should aim to eat 170g of protein. 170g of protein would be 680 calories. So if your calorie goal is 2000, protein would make up 35% of this.
  • Fats: Take your total calorie target for the day and multiply it by 0.2. This will give you the number of calories that should come from fat. Then, divide that number by 9, as there are 9 calories per gram of fat. That number is the minimum amount of fat, in grams, that you should be eating each day to meet your goals. So for a calorie goal of 2000, the amount of fat to consume is 44g. In calories this is 396, making up 20% of total calories.
  • Carbohydrates: Once you have calculated your protein and fat goal, carbohydrates should make up the rest – around 40% to 55%. So for our example, with a calorie goal of 2000. carbohydrates would make up 45%

Reverse Dieting 101: Exercise

how to start reverse dieting 101

Including weight training and muscle-building exercises into your routine is an important aspect of reverse dieting. Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories even at rest. By doing weight training, you stimulate muscle growth, which can contribute to an increased resting metabolic rate.

Sustained periods of extreme calorie restriction can lead to the loss of both fat and muscle. Weight training helps counteract this effect by promoting the retention of lean muscle mass and should be incorporated into any fitness plan. Preserving muscle is essential for sustaining long-term metabolic health.

The exercise goal when reverse dieting is to build enough muscle to absorb the calorie surplus and have that surplus contribute towards muscle gain, as opposed to fat gain. Joining a gym is preferable when trying to gain muscle, as you will have access to a number of different machines and different weights to help you progress. Working out at home is possible, but you will need enough equipment to be able to increase weights and progressively overload.

beginners running guide

My free Reverse Diet Guide includes a complete breakdown of building a weight training program and includes:

  • Hypertrophy VS Strength Training: Which is better when reverse dieting.
  • Compound and Isolation Exercises: Know the difference and how many of each to include in a plan.
  • Best Split: How often to work upper body, lower body and full body.
  • Progressive Overload: How to know when to increase weights safely to keep building muscle.
  • Recovery: Importance of warm-ups and stretching

Reverse Dieting 101: Conclusion

A reverse diet is a great way to break the cycle of calorie restriction and regaining weight. Through reverse dieting you can not only reset your metabolism, but improve your relationship with food and your body. It’s important to take it slowly and incorporate changes gradually, including diet and exercise. Achieving sustainable health and well-being long-term should be the ultimate goal with any diet and fitness plan.

I hope you have found Reverse Dieting 101 helpful and have had your questions answered. If not, leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer!

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