We spend the majority of our time talking about how to diet down. Calories out versus calories in. What does it take to lose body fat and get shredded? We typically circle a date on the calendar and go full steam ahead until we reach that goal.
…. now what? The diet is over and it’s time to not worry about calories and macros for a bit, right? Well if you want to look like a water buffalo in a matter of weeks sure. However, if you want to slowly progress your weight upwards in a controlled manner that is going to ensure we maximize muscle gain and minimize body fat gain we need to take a different approach. Following a diet or a contest it’s important to put on and regain lean tissue that we lost during that dieting phase.
It’s perfectly fine and normal to splurge one night. Following my contest, I ate an entire Little Caesar’s (don’t you dare judge me) pizza and a dozen cupcakes. It’s nice to let lose for a bit. It’s also very easy to put on unwanted body fat extremely quickly following a strict dieting phase. The body is primed to gain; good and bad.
To gain the least amount of body fat and put on quality tissue we must reverse diet. Reverse dieting is the concept of gradually increasing calories to maximize lean tissue gain, while minimizing body fat gain. The body is in a very sensitive state after dieting so hard for so long. It’s also in a very vulnerable state, positively and negatively. You can use this post diet window as an opportunity to set up the rest of your offseason or bulk.
Metabolic downregulation occurs when your body becomes accustomed to a certain amount of energy input consistently. Maintenance before dieting might have been 3000 calories, but by being in a caloric deficit for a period of your time you created a new set point. That new set point might be significantly lower than what it was before your diet. So, say this new set point is 1300 calories; you cannot just jump back to a diet with 3000 calories. That is a surefire way to get fat.
It’s important to understand where your calories are following a diet. This is your new set point and your new maintenance calories. You want to gradually increase your caloric intake to gain new muscle and speed up metabolism. It’s difficult to give a general guideline when it comes to reverse dieting as this is person dependent, but a good rule of thumb is to start with a 5 to 10 percent increase initially. These calories will come in the form of carbs or fats, or a combination of the two. Begin by adding these extra calories around the workout window, before, after, or during.
Now, let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of a proper reverse diet.
- Following dieting your insulin sensitivity will be at an all-time high. Insulin sensitivity refers to your body’s ability to process carbohydrates and glucose in a manner that is efficiently using the least amount of indigenous insulin. Having greater insulin sensitivity is great for gaining muscle, putting your body into the greatest anabolic environment. Being hyper insulin sensitive means that your body will use lesser amounts of insulin in a more efficient manner. By reverse dieting and adding carbs slowly you can extend insulin sensitivity and prevent insulin resistance.
- Obviously minimizing fat gain should always be a high priority. By adding calories back in slowly we ensure we lessen the possibilities of this.
- Anything over where calories were at the end of a diet will be great for adding on quality muscle tissue. It’s also great for the psyche to get any kind of calorie boost.
- Leptin levels dip very low in extreme dieting stages. A decrease in leptin means a decrease in metabolic rate, making your body less apt to burn calories and body fat. Your body is constantly trying to reach homeostasis, entering survival mode and holding on to as much body fat as possible. By adding calories back in slowly we restore leptin levels back to normal.
- It’s healthy. Rapid water retention is very detrimental to overall health; affecting blood pressure, cholesterol, and kidney function. It can also cause headaches and hand pain. By decreasing water retention immediately post diet, health will stay intact.
- Your body is at an extremely advantages place to put on muscle tissue regardless of calorie increase. By increasing slowly, you can maximize this window post diet. Too much and too quick will only ruin your offseason following a diet.
- Dieting after a diet sucks. Nobody wants to jump back on a strict diet following another strict diet. The mental break from a diet can also be very beneficial.
- Ectomorphs may need a larger calorie bump than what is outlined in a normal reverse dieting protocol.
- The results will come on slow. Inevitably as you diet down you think in your mind how you cannot wait to put on some size again. Results may come too slow for some people who want it now.
- It’s difficult to determine exactly what your body needs in a reverse diet.
Maybe more than any other “diet” I would recommend everyone follow some kind of reverse diet backing out of a caloric deficit. Gaining muscle needs to be the main priority following an extended run of being in a caloric deficit. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and your body, mind, and health will thank you in the long run!
Chicken Stir Fry Over Cauliflower Rice
- 2 cups whole boiled cauliflower.
- 1 pound chicken thighs.
- Garlic Salt.
- ½ cup soy sauce.
- 1 package frozen stir fry veggies.
- 1/3 cup grated low fat parmesan cheese.
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper.
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil.
- Place boiled cauliflower into food processor or blender. Blend until it has the consistency of rice.
- Mix in cheese.
- Heat coconut oil in skillet and put in diced chicken thighs.
- Cook until done and mix in garlic salt, cayenne pepper, and soy sauce.
- Mix in cooked stir fry veggies.
- Serve over bed of cauliflower rice.