Reverse Diet

Disclaimer: * Jessica Fisher – In Your Stride Fitness is not a physician or registered dietitian. The contents of this post should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem - nor is it intended to replace the advice of physician. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health.

Now that the summer holiday period is here (ish) you might be tempted to slash your calories, stop eating carbs and start training every day in an attempt to undo the past few weeks of indulging and wanting to get to the ‘bikini body’ stage - which again, shouldn’t be a priority, its your health that is the priority.

If this is what you are planning to do… you need to read this first.

Chances are, you have tried multiple diets in the past. You stick to relatively low-calorie year-round; you avoid carbs and you train 6-7 days per week doing mainly cardio or HIIT group training. Over repeated bouts of calorie restriction, resulting in your metabolism taking a beating. You then drop your calories too low for too long and your body intervenes on several fronts, then resulting in surprisingly rapid weight gain

I am going to take a wild guess here that this has not got you the result you want. Yet you are so keen to hit this regime more now than ever because its ‘summertime’ because you have been fooled into thinking this will make you happy, feel better and look how you are supposed to? You then feel more frustrated because you haven't got to your goal yet?

Unfortunately, for those with a history of crash dieting, severe calorie restriction, or multiple failed diet attempts, jumping once more on the latest diet bandwagon is unlikely to yield results, and will probably do more harm than good. Yes you may drop a KG or two, but will you be happy during the result without the constant mood swings, feeling sick and lethargic? When most people decide they want to take control of their physique and lose some fat, the next step seems clear: Go on a diet. But honestly, not everyone should take that step.

Did you know diets have a 95% failure rate? And the weight regains stats are massive. With 75% of people regaining weight lost in the first 12 months, 85% of people in 2 years and 95% will have regained all the weight lost within 3 years. Not only that they are also terrified of certain foods and falling of track by eating an extra potato or piece of bread. As oppose to enjoying healthy, fresh food in abundance. So, what options do you have? Continue eating low calories, not getting enough protein and training daily producing minimal results as it has in the past or raise your calories and risk gaining weight?

This is where reverse dieting comes into play

But what exactly is Reverse Dieting?
there is more to reverse dieting than just "eat more, do less." If you want to maximize gains in metabolic rate without storing a ton of body fat, you must be strategic and patient. This means giving your metabolism time to adjust by making slow, deliberate changes, rather than hitting the unhealthy aisles and options every day and cutting out cardio overnight. Basically, it gets your body into a healthy and stable position to lose fat…. Forever! No need to worry about the type of food / amount you are eating, or experiencing the guilt, you are eating intuitively.

When we eat really low calories for a long period of time or bounce from diet to diet… 3 things will happen:

1)Metabolic Adaptation
This biological phenomenon, known as "metabolic adaptation," can really throw a spanner in to your weight-loss goals. With your body continuously fighting to erase the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, eating fewer calories than you burn can eventually become very tricky. You can only drop calories so far and increase exercise so much before that lifestyle becomes miserable, as well as impossible to maintain. From here your body will start to burn less at rest, during exercise and through Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which is the unintentional movement you perform every day such as fidgeting when seated. Essentially, metabolic adaptation works by reducing the body’s total daily energy expenditure.

2)    Hormonal Adaptations
As a result of the above you know have decreased thyroid output, decreased Leptin (the hormone that tells you when you are full), increased Ghrelin (the hormone tells you when you are hungry) and increased Cortisol (this is our stress hormone and elevated levels of this hormone has been correlated with belly fat in women). So basically, we aren’t burning as much, we are getting more signals we are hungry and less signals when we are full, and elevating a hormone that can cause us to hold onto fat!

3)    Fat Tissue Adaptations
Did you know your body has a set point? This is a weight and fat cell number that your body likes to sit at. And it will fight you to get back to it after a diet. Which is why it is so important to work out foods that wok for your body, not following strict diets or taking weight loss products for a quick fix. When we regain the weight lost after a dieting phase this can create the formation of NEW fat cells. This means, our fat cells are fighting us to get back to their original size but now we have more of them. This is often why people will gain more weight after a dieting phase then they began with!

precision nutrition

How to plan for your reverse diet?
You need to have a good idea of where you calories are at currently before you tuck into any more. It will serve you to spend a few days tracking your current diet if you don’t already know your daily calories/macros. This will give you a base to move forward on. Your daily caloric increase can be anywhere between 3-20% and you should increase at this level week on week until you reach maintenance calories.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post – make sure that you see a professional for any of these diet / lifestyle changes.

A final note about reverse dieting
There are pros and cons to reverse dieting and as with everything, you should carefully consider if it is right for you. Keep in mind that when it comes to shifting your body out of a slow metabolism, reverse dieting isn’t the be all and end all.  Some people choose to use ‘cheat days’ as a way to yield similar results.  Ultimately, you should take this as a guide and choose what is best for you.

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