So, you have spent the last 16 weeks, or however long you have been dieting for, segmentally decreasing your caloric intake, week by week, with the goal of maintaining muscle mass and dropping your body fat percentage. You have either achieved the composition orientated goal you desire or have reached the point with which dropping calories is no longer a viable option.
Now you are left with a dilemma, what next?
With all this time spent in a caloric deficit, your body undergoes a process known as metabolic adaptation, during which it lowers its energy expenditure through slowing down many metabolic processes such as;
- Down regulation of sympathetic nervous system acitivity, slowing down the heart rate therefore lowering the ability to push through grueling training sessions like previous.
- Hormone production is reduced, both sex and metabolic hormones, meaning the body is left with lowered amounts of both anabolic hormones like testosterone but also hormones like Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine which are responsible for speeding up metabolic processes in the body.
- NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is reduced due to lack of energy from decreased thyroid out put, meaning activities like walking now have a reduced caloric expenditure.
These are but a few of the reasons as to why proceeding a lengthy period in a caloric deficit we feel slower, we feel lethargic and have less energy in general.
Your body has grown accustomed to your restricted intake and adapted accordingly, thus expending less energy where ever possible with respect to both external stimuli and typical bodily processes. At this point you are the most susceptible you have been to gaining unwanted weight accredited to such adaptions.
In a similar manner to that which we utilized to encouraged the loss of fat by segmentally decreasing our calories, we must slowly increase our caloric intake to encourage the body to adapt yet again to the stimuli it is now subject to and thus ensure we do not bring undone our efforts over the last 16 or so weeks.
So what is reverse dieting?
It is as the name suggests, the reverse of dieting. Reverse dieting entails the steady increase of our caloric intake over an extended period of time to encourage improvements with respect to the function of one’s thyroid, immune system, sympathetic nervous system activity, Leptin levels, and the bodies ability to manage cortisol.
Provided the reverse dieting phase has served its purpose and you have segmentally increased your calories correlative to the rate with which such bodily processes mentioned above improve, you can expect to end such a phase on a higher caloric intake than you were prior to your cutting phase, in better condition with respect to composition than you were prior to your cutting phase, thus leaving yourself with more room to move and less fat to lose should you decide to decrease your calories again.