10 Questions About Reverse Dieting Answered.
Not so long ago, competing in a bodybuilding or figure event was followed by an epic binge. As soon as they walk off stage, competitors would eat anything and everything they had eliminated over their prep. This would continue on for a few days or a week, and next time they jumped on the scales, they had gained significants amount of fat tissue.
This triggered guilt and could often lead to body dissatisfaction and severe energy restriction to lose the accumulated fat tissue. One week of post-comp fun now turned into another month of cardio and cutting carbs, just like the prep. Alternatively, competitors would retain the fat tissue and not worry about it at the time, but this would add duration to their next comp prep.
More recently, the idea of reverse dieting has come along. Reverse dieting has increased in popularity over the past few years, as competitors and coaches discovered its numerous benefits, which have been outlined below. However, reverse dieting is still new and its understanding can vary.
To help you learn more and decide whether it is right for you, I have answered 10 questions about reverse dieting. These questions are a combination of what I have been asked, and what I think you need to know. I highly recommend discussing reverse dieting further with your coach or adviser.
Please note: our spaces for new clients is at Integrated Fitness & Nutrition is currently limited. Reverse dieting clients will be selected on a first come, first served basis. If we cannot help you, we will happily refer you to someone who can! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our contact page for enquiries or further information.
1. What is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is the process of progressively increasing energy intake over time, with the goal of minimising fat tissue accumulation. The process also restores metabolic rate and function, which is often suppressed during severe and/or long-term energy restriction.
2. Who should reverse diet?
Bodybuilding/figure athletes or long-term dieter's can greatly benefit from a reverse dieting protocol. The process allows the individual to restore their metabolic rate and function, while minimising fat tissue accumulation. This is important for competitors in aesthetic-based events and individuals who are conscious of body fat levels.
3. What are the benefits of reverse dieting?
The primary benefit is the minimisation of fat tissue accumulation, which also has a number of flow-on effects. Individuals are more likely to remain content with their body composition and avoid the negative effects of rapid weight gain. Competitive bodybuilding/figure athletes also benefit from less fat tissue accumulation, meaning there is less fat tissue to lose prior to their next competition. This has the flow-on effect of minimising duration, maximising muscle retention and improving conditioning for their next competition.
4. How long does reverse dieting take?
Timing varies between individuals response to re-feeding and their end goal. At Integrated Fitness & Nutrition we recommend following a reverse dieting procedure for a minimum of six weeks to ensure individuals are supervised during the most challenging phase. However, individuals can extend a reverse diet for extended periods of time to enhance their metabolic rate with minimal fat tissue accumulation. This has the same benefits for bodybuilding/figure competitors are listed above.
5. Is reverse-dieting easy?
No. The initial stages of a reverse diet can be as challenging or harder than the final weeks of a comp prep. Energy intake is only slightly elevated from comp prep, and there is no stage and bright lights to look forward to in the immediate future. However, once energy intake builds, the process becomes easier and the added benefit of minimal fat tissue accumulation provides motivation to adhere to the reverse diet plan.
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6. How do I begin?
A reverse diet will often begin with a slightly higher energy intake than the final stages of competition prep. If you finished your competition prep at 1200 kcal/day, increase this by 5-10% to 1260-1320 kcals/day. From here, slowly elevate your nutritional intake each week and monitor your physique's response.
Please note: The above guidelines are not personalised to your requirements and reverse dieting needs can vary significantly between individuals.
7. Should I add more energy initially?
This depends on your final stages of competition prep and variables such as training volume, duration and other energy requirements. To minimise fat tissue accumulation, it is better to be conservative in the initial stages of reverse dieting and closely monitor the individuals response. Having a coach or advisor that can offer external feedback is highly beneficial, as it can be difficult to objectively assess your own needs.
8. What about training?
Resistance training should continue post-competition. This will ensure the retention of muscle mass and provide the platform for muscle development. Cardio and conditioning can be tapered down, but it is important to consider its impact on daily energy expenditure.
9. What about my post-comp binge? I want to eat pizza and Nutella!
Don't worry, you can still enjoy the foods you haven't eaten in your prep after your competition, albeit in a slightly more controlled manner. After your comp, go out for dinner and eat the meal you desire most (it's usually pizza). Eat until you are content and then stop. Don't gorge yourself to make up for the previous restriction, as this will only come back to bite you. Over the next few days, consume the other foods you desire in small quantities and in line with your energy requirements. This allows you to enjoy the foods you have been craving, without the excess accumulation of fat tissue.
10. Who/what will help me reverse diet?
Having a coach or expert opinion is important to keep you accountable and on track. If you decide to reverse diet alone, it may be beneficial to document your physique changes and progress, to ensure correct addition of energy each week and minimise fat tissue accumulation. Talk to your contest-prep coach about your reverse-dieting plan. If your coach does not offer reverse-dieting services, you can contact Integrated Fitness & Nutrition for reverse-dieting advice and recommendations.