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How To Reverse Diet – Comprehensive Guide To Prevent Fat Rebound After Cutting

How To Prevent Rebound Fat Gain After You Finish Your Cut?

Reverse Diet Guide

So you just busted your ass training hard as hell for several months, eating a very strict and restricted diet, did your cardio even though you wanted to fucking kill yourself, and you are finally shredded and done your cutting phase and on the brink of wanting to binge eat like a single girl on Valentines day……

The most common question that will arise at this point:

WTF Do I Do Now?

Well I’ll tell you. Two Words.

REVERSE DIET

Losing the weight is a battle in itself yes, but another test of your will power will come AFTER you are done your cut.

At this point you may very well be totally taxed mentally, be famished as hell 24/7, and ready to get back into a calorie surplus.

Let’s not be so hasty guys, there is one thing you need to know first. When you have been chopping your calories by the week and increasing cardio sessions to several longer and longer sessions per week, your metabolism will gradually slow down.

This process is your body’s natural response to preventing itself from starving to death.

Basically, if you start a cut phase with a maintenance of say 3000 calories (hypothetically), that is what your body will maintain its’ weight on at that particular point.

As you get leaner and leaner and lose more weight by increasing your calorie deficit via eating less and with extra cardio, your body adjusts to this by essentially lowering your maintenance calorie level accordingly to prevent itself from starving.

As you eat less, your body’s metabolism will slow down to accommodate your continuous pattern of eating less, and your body’s baseline for maintenance will slowly go down as well.

So, by the end of a 12 week cut where you started at 3000 calories per day and needed to get down to 2100 calories per day (hypothetical again) to get shredded, your body’s maintenance calories are DEFINITELY no longer 3000 calories.

At this point, you have been eating in a deficit for so long, if you threw 3000 calories back into your body, your body would be shocked by a large calorie surplus because your metabolism has slowed down on purpose as a result of your intentional calorie restriction.

So What Does This Mean?

This means that if you jump into a bulk phase literally right after a cut phase where you haven’t revved your metabolism back up to normal, you will put on copious amounts of fat very quickly even if you are only eating what was your maintenance level caloric intake 12 weeks ago.

This is the Pattern I Typically See With People Who Diet Down And Is Why 99.9% of People Can’t Stay Shredded

Even if they do complete a successful cutting phase and get their body fat levels down to a very respectably lean level, they totally saturate their body with calories after they finish their contest prep, or their cut phase, or whatever they are shredding down for.

When they do this, they BLOW THE FUCK UP with water weight, glycogen/carbohydrate over-spilling, and fat gains because they didn’t take a calculated approach to getting their metabolism back to normal before jumping back to a level of calories they would normally eat at if they weren’t cutting.

Even when I competed at bodybuilding shows, the majority of competitors would literally be 20 pounds heavier than their contest stage weight less than a week after they stepped on stage because of going to shitty eating habits after the show while simultaneously having a slowed down metabolism.

At first, the weight might look like it’s muscle for the first couple days because your muscles are getting saturated with glycogen again, but it doesn’t take a lot of carbs to refill your glycogen stores, and within a couple days these people are on the express lane to fat ass city.

It is actually very common for competitors to cut down for 14-18 grueling weeks of cutting, look great on stage, and then within 4 weeks be completely out of shape again.

They literally just throw all their hard work in the toilet and look like shit again within a matter of weeks.

I’ve been guilty of this too in the past before I understood how to properly reverse diet, and I would literally watch my abs disappear more and more by the day.

I’d go from a sliced vascular hard grainy physique that I worked my ass off to attain, to a soft doughy bloofy shit brick house physique within 5-6 weeks, it was horrendous.

The Other Way You Can Screw Up After Cutting

Being paranoid of weight rebound and gaining a bunch of fat, some individuals will continue to eat on their extremely restricted calorie intake and pound themselves into the ground with cardio to stay shredded.

Not only is this extremely unhealthy and will just continue to cause negative metabolic adaptation, but you can actually start fatiguing your central nervous system by operating in such strenuous activities with such a restricted level of energy for a long period of time.

Eventually, it will get so bad that even fucking up a little thing on your diet could result in much more amplified fat gains. This is not only physically taxing, but mentally as well.

So What Should I Do To Not Disintegrate Into The Dust And Also Not Turn Into A Fatty?

REVERSE DIET!

I will explain how it works now for you. Essentially, if you cut down in a somewhat safe/smart way you are probably starting in a minor calorie deficit, slowly decreasing your calories as you plateau, and slowly increasing your cardio.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about by the “safe/smart way” I suggest you read this first as I outline how to lose fat efficiently with the greatest amount of muscle sparing possible: How To Get Shredded: For Beginners

A reverse diet is the exact opposite of this. What you will do in this phase is literally the exact opposite of what you did to cut down.

So, by opposite I mean you will SLOWLY REINTRODUCE CALORIES BACK INTO YOUR DIET and SLOWLY DECREASE HOW MUCH CARDIO YOU ARE DOING PER WEEK.

By doing this in a slow and controlled manner, you can severely limit how much fat rebound you will experience as you increase your caloric intake, as well as slowly stimulate your metabolism by introducing more energy into your diet, and reducing the energy deficit you were in each day.

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As you do this, you will begin to rev your metabolism back up, allowing you to eat a little bit more calories each week, and have your body actually utilize that newly re-introduced energy (calories), consequently getting your energy levels back up, as well as getting your body back to a point where you can maintain a lean physique with a healthy amount of calories in your diet.

How Losing Weight Affects Your Metabolism

Usually when guys are learning about the mechanics of weight loss, they will get as far as learning the concepts behind energy balance, energy expenditure, and how your body requires a constant state of negative energy balance (caloric deficit) to lose fat.

Basically, eating less calories then you burn each day.

Usually, if people even get this far with their nutritional knowledge, they assume this is the end of the information they need to know regarding fat loss.

How to reverse diet is rarely covered, and accounts for why so many individuals who actually successfully diet down, end up Yo-Yo’ing with their weight loss and will be fat for half the year, and lean for the other half.

While they may be cutting down properly, they are certainly not increasing their calorie intake in a responsible way to prevent excessive fat storage.

Your body is always trying to reach a state of homeostasis, whether you are bulking or whether you are cutting, so if you eat a predetermined amount of calories every single day for a prolonged period of time, eventually, your body will adapt and that level of energy intake will become your new baseline or maintenance level of energy.

Research has shown that 80 to 90% of people that diet to lose weight return to their previous, pre-diet weights!

Your body adapting to new baselines of energy isn’t necessarily super dangerous, but it certainly plays a GIANT role in being able to manipulate what your body composition is.

Why A Reverse Diet Is The Best Option After A Cutting Phase

When you’ve been in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time and you have a weight loss goal or a milestone that you finally reach, your brain is wired psychologically to overeat and indulge.

There’s nothing wrong with a cheat meal or anything, by all means reward yourself for reaching your goals, BUT keep in mind your body is literally so primed for weight regain after being in a prolonged state of a calorie deficit that if you overdo it, you WILL absolutely rebound HARD and gain weight like you never imagined you could before.

The LAST thing you want to do after a cut phase is drastically raise your daily caloric intake. It must be approached strategically with slow caloric additions to your diet each time you plateau.

Where Do I Start?

Okay so for example let’s say you started at a maintenance of 3000 calories with no cardio at the start of your cut.

Each time you reached a plateau you slowly decreased your calorie intake or increased your cardio each week.

By the end of the cut let’s just say you are down to 2000 calories and had to do 4 thirty minute fasted cardio sessions each week to achieve your desired level of leanness.

At this point you will add something small like 100 calories back into your daily caloric intake and maybe decrease your cardio sessions by a couple minutes each.

You will keep this consistent over the next week or week and a half and assess how your body responds.

If you aren’t gaining weight, then it’s safe to decrease the caloric deficit more once again by adding another 100 calories to your daily intake.

You will SLOWLY add a tiny bit of calories back into your diet each week or two, and decrease your cardio frequency or length SLOWLY as well, until you have reached a caloric intake that you are content with.

If you could get your maintenance back up to 3000 calories without gaining much or any body fat, it is safe to say you properly executed your reverse diet phase to a tee.

Ideally, by the end of it you want to be eating a normal level of calories again, without having to do much cardio at all, and maintaining close to the same level of leanness you were at several weeks back in your heavily restricted cut phase.

What Macro Do I Increase Each Week?

As protein should always be high whether you are bulking or cutting (my protein intake is usually pretty much the exact same, and the only thing that influences my overall caloric intake to determine if I’m at a calorie surplus or deficit is my carb intake, which I increase for bulking, and decrease for cutting) I advise you start reintroducing whatever macro you started to restrict yourself of in your cutting phase to drop your calorie intake each week.

Most commonly, guys will start their cut phase with carb restriction, and each week slowly cut more and more carbs out of the diet, thus increasing their caloric deficit.

In this case, I would suggest you slowly introduce more carbs back into your diet each week, to slowly build your caloric intake back up again, without allowing yourself to be subjected to drastic weight increases because you will be taking a slow calculated approach to the reverse diet.

This method is also commonly referred to as the “clean bulk”.

By following a strictly regulated reverse diet, you will get to eat more, have more energy, get a better pump from the increased glycogen saturation in your muscles, and most importantly, speed your metabolic rate back up.

Getting your metabolic rate higher will allow you to burn substantially more calories throughout each day, as well as pack on more lean muscle mass.

If The Scale Goes Up A Bit, Don’t Worry!

As you increase your caloric intake (usually your carb intake), you are going to start saturating your muscles with glycogen, which will in turn also allow them to hold more water, giving your muscle bellies a fuller look.

This in turn, will cause the scale to go up a bit.

Don’t fret though, these aren't fat gains, this is beneficial weight, as glycogen levels are what are responsible for giving you a good pump in the gym, and giving your muscles that “pop” look.

HOWEVER

If the scale is jumping by a pound a week or more, you are likely eating too much and need to either taper back the calories a tad before you do your next incremental increase, or you dropped too much cardio too quickly.

Hope you guys enjoyed this article 🙂 Don't let all your hard work go to waste next time you cut down!

21 thoughts on “How To Reverse Diet – Comprehensive Guide To Prevent Fat Rebound After Cutting”

  1. Very informative post. Thank you for responding to my reply earlier and for writing this post.

    Keep up the good work.

    Genghis

  2. what about non training days? if my macros are 180 p. 220 ch and 55 fat on training day, should they be the same on non training days ? thank you

    1. On non-training days you should eat less carbs as you won’t be training and won’t require them to fuel a workout.

      1. Charlie Kenyon

        Derek, great article but personally I disagree with that response. Non training days should be viewed as Growth days and not Rest Days. Surely you want to be allowing your body the best chance it has to recover and grow on these days by feeding it the same level of surplus and carbohydrates. If not you are not fully giving your body its best chance to recover.

        1. So carbs (a fuel source) should be used to fuel sitting on the couch? You’re basically saying that energy requirements are the same on an intense leg day as it is for sitting on your couch and playing video games. We can agree to disagree 😛

  3. How long do I eat at maintenance for?Im done reverse dieting and got to my maintenance and want to start cutting slowly again.

  4. Let’s say you were given reverse macros to follow and you f**ked up for 7 days post show and didn’t adhere to them. Can you still redeem yourself if you begin following/adhering to your macro targets or have you done irreversible damage in that week of not following macros? Basically am l too far gone?

    1. No man, that’s like saying if you are months into cutting will you be fat overnight if you go binged one night.

      Get back on track (no more screw up days where you eat more than your caloric allotment) and things should stabilize themselves quickly without too much damage having occurred.

  5. How long do you think an average person should do reverse diet before switching to regular diet (calorie deficit)? Do you think i should wait some period of time before my metabolism adapts on higher calorie intake?

    1. However long it takes for your metabolism to adapt to a sufficient calorie intake and be able to stabilize your weight at that level (ideally what your maintenance is according to a traditional BMR calculator with activity level factored in imo).

  6. Barath Prashanth

    I have dieted for 6 months to loose more than 15kgs in a healthy way. Now I couldn’t stay in that diet any longer coz I really want to get some quality muscles. (Looking like a weakling) . But I still have some fat around my hips and lower abs ( 14%bf to say) . Can I start reverse diet now? So desperate to eat more food :V

    1. You can reverse diet but you aren’t at a favorable body composition for bulking. I’d reverse diet for a month or so and then go back into a cut (if it were me). Or I’d eat at maintenance and try and recomp if you don’t really have much muscle mass.

  7. Great read Derek, thanks. I´ve been reversing conservatively (adding 100 cal every 3 weeks) and have come from 1900 to 2500 calories/day without adding weight and gaining a lot of power on my bike (i measure watts and increased over 20% power output on 2h rides). I know that while reversing I should cut on long cardio sessions but as a keen cyclist I can’t stay of the bike so as a compromise I tend to do short and intense efforts alternated with longer and softer (interval sessions).
    First question, if I’m on 2500 cal at the moment and I have a gut feeling that I can go up to 3000 cal/day (40YO, 6.1”, 185lb) without adding weight, should I finish the reverse or can I pause it and cut for 4 to 5 weeks (at a 25% cal deficit) and then resume the reverse dieting? I ask this because I could use dropping 6 to 8lbs for the upcoming races.
    Second question, on non-training days I’m at the 2500 cal mark. On riding days, if I burn let’s say 1000 cal, how much should I add on top of the 2500?
    Note: On lifting days I carb up pre-workout but doesn’t add more than 100/150 cal to the overall daily intake. And protein intake is at least 1.2grams per pound of total body weight. Appreciate your time and advice. Cheers

    1. 1) I don’t see why you would jump up to 3000 calories per day if you need to lose weight.
      2) I wouldn’t add anything based on energy output, I look at weight loss as an average weekly thing, I don’t adjust calorie intake based on my energy expenditure on a day to day basis, that makes life far more complicated than I would like. I have a set calorie allotment and I stick to that every day until the time to adjust it comes. If you want to add a bit more calories on days that you are burning more than is typical you can, but just make sure it doesn’t push you over your allotment for that day relative to your energy expenditure. E.G. if every single day you typically burn 2500 calories and you eat 2500 calories, and then you suddenly expend 3500 calories on a particular day by adding a new cardio session in on that specific day, then you could in theory add an extra 1000 calories in on that day and still achieve the same net result of maintaining your weight. It’s just simple math at the end of the day, I prefer to keep it far more simple than that though.

      1. Hi Derek and thanks for your input.
        1- I would go all the way up to 3000 calories as I think it’ll be the end of reverse dieting. And whenever I research about reverse diet it all points to ending the process until one finds the maintenance calories before cutting. Yes, I want to lose wait but I don’t want to compromise metabolic recovery due to unfinished reversing. Hence my dilema if RD should be taken to the end or if it can be paused for some cutting weeks.
        2- noted. I just asked because sometimes I burn 2000-3000 calories on a bike ride. And I wanted to know if there is a way to calculate how many calories I should have during these rides to fuel them. Cheers

  8. Derek,

    First time reversing. It is great that you are answering comments, as it is very hard to find specific information. I finished my cut on 1,000cals and did a show. Understandably after 8 months dieting, I have a lot of social events coming up (weddings and stags etc). I am tracking weight etc, but my question is, can I use a calorie bank to end up on the same weekly calories to account for such events as the bachelor party that I am attending. FYI, I am being vigilant and tracking weight daily.

    I greatly appreciate any help that you can provide.

    1. Yes, as long as your overall caloric amount by the end of the week equates to what your goal is, the end result should be more or less the same.

      You shouldn’t ever have had to get to 1000 calories though if you’re a guy (just assuming from your name). That’s brutally low, starvation/malnutrition territory.

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