Most diets work by slashing calories to help you shed the weight fast. But, as most yo-yo dieters will know, they are really hard to stick to long-term – and as a result, often don’t work.
So imagine a diet which works by eating more – not fewer – calories. Reverse dieting is just that! It’s a way of eating what you want, while maintaining your weight loss after shredding pounds.
The theory is that by gradually increasing calories you can teach the body how to maintain fat levels.
There’s one catch though – you do have to spend a bit of time restricting calories and losing weight before trying out “reverse dieting”.
Bodybuilders swear by the trick to help kick-start the metabolism – which can slow down when you cut calories.
Darren Sealy, PT and founder of gym, MindSet, told The Sun: “Reverse dieting is a way to get back to a healthy and sustainable calorie intake after a period of dieting.
“The idea is to slowly add high-quality calories back into your diet and build up your metabolism to handle the calorie increase.”
And Kim K’s trainer, Melissa Alcantara, swears by the idea.
Last year she told her Instagram followers she uses the trick to, “bring my metabolism back up to speed”.
She added: “Goal here is to take me up to 100 kcals every couple of weeks till about 2,300 calories at a consistent weight, so that when I lean down a bit.
“I can be lean at much higher calories – somewhere around 1,900kcals.”
So, how does it work?
The key thing about reverse dieting is it’s power to maintain your weight loss after a period of restricting calories.
Once you’ve managed to shed the pounds, reverse dieting can help you stay slim.
It involves increasing your calorific intake by 50 to 100 kcals a week – until the point at which you start to put weight back on, which will be different for everyone.
“When a person restricts their calorie intake, their metabolism slows down to conserve energy due to the lack of outside calories (or energy),” Darren explained.
“This also has the same effect on our resting metabolism, or BMR (which is the rate at which we burn calories when we’re resting).
“Our BMR slows down when we restrict calories.
“So, when we heighten our calories back up after a failed diet attempt, this can have an adverse effect on our metabolism in general.”
Cutting kcals ‘slows fat loss’
Not only does eating more boost your metabolism, it can also help balance hormone levels – specifically the “hunger” hormone, leptin.
When leptin levels fall you feel hungry – and as a result the body stores fat rather than burning it, thinking it needs to prepare for starvation.
A six-month study looking at 48 dieters found cutting calories decreases leptin levels by 44 per cent.
So, on the flip side, reverse dieting and increasing your calorie intake can help maintain those leptin levels – and boost your body’s ability to burn fat.
Don’t panic if your weight creeps up
Unsurprisingly, a side effect of eating more can be that the weight you lost creeps back.
But, Darren told The Sun Online if you do see the numbers on the scale edging up, do not panic.
“This just means you are eating too many calories and need to cut back a little bit,” he said.
He said it’s important to combine reverse dieting with exercise, and suggested weight training.
“It will speed up your metabolic rate in the short-term and you will build muscle, which speeds up your metabolic rate in the long-term,” he added.
“Keeping protein levels high is very important for that to happen.”
There are downsides…
As with any calorie-counting plan, reverse dieting isn’t without its downsides.
It can be hard to constantly keep a track of what you’re eating, but apps like MyFitnessPal can help.
And it requires a lot of self-restraint to up your calorie intake, week-on-week by such small amounts.
Then there is the danger that it could lead to an unhealthy obsession with calories, and potentially a concentration on calories over nutrients.
Just because you’re eating the “correct” number of calories, that doesn’t mean that you’re eating the right types of food.
There are other factors to losing body fat beyond calorie counting, including sleep, hormones and stress.
There’s not enough research around reverse dieting to come down hard either way – particularly as it’s a method often used in the bodybuilding community, rather than regular dieters.
So, by all means, give it a go but don’t necessarily presume that it’ll be the solution to all your weight loss woes.
100kcal snacks to add into your diet
While upping your calories, it’s obviously important what you eat. You can’t just add in 100kcals worth of crisps every week.
This is about adding extra nutrients and fuel which will benefit your body and help it to run efficiently on a higher reserve without stockpiling fat. Here are some of the 100kcal snacks you might want to add into your daily diet:
- Baked beans on (one slice of) toast
- Cheese and pickle on water biscuits (x3)
- 25 strawberries
- 50g sliced apple and 1 tsp of peanut butter
- 3 cups of plain popcorn
- One large banana
- 129 blueberries (how’s that for a filling snack!)
This article originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.