The Case Against Reverse Dieting

In Nutrition by Eugene Teo

Here’s the scenario –

You’ve spent several months slowly reducing your intake, hitting 5 or 6 weight sessions a week and doing some cardio and you’ve finally reached your goal. The next logical step is to slowly increase your intake, while reducing your output to slowly rebuild your metabolism and all the hormonal systems that are now close to non-existent.

The premise is, the body cannot handle a large surge of calories, carbohydrates, fats etc so you need to do this incrementally over a long period of time – adjusting maybe 100 calories, or 20g of carbs at a time – to a point where you have maintained the majority of your condition and are eating a huge amount of food.

Here’s the issue –

All of these down regulated hormones, for the most part won’t respond to this minimal incremental rise in intake. Put simply, this is usually not enough to create any adaptive response from the body to up regulate and stimulate these hormonal systems – and if it does, it occurs over an extremely long time. The fact is, dieting down to these extremely low levels of body fat has put your body into a state of breakdown and stress. Every day that you’re in a state of hormonal dysfunction from reduced calories is causing negative effects on your precious muscle mass and overall health – As such, it should always be your priority to ramp up these systems as quickly as possible.

With the popularity of different nutritional systems, prep gurus claiming to be nutritionists, the need to differentiate yourself in the market and pharmacological agents people seem to have forgotten the most important factor that we as physique athletes have at our disposal – the ability to train intelligently.

The Solution –

What I normally recommend is to get someone back towards their baseline maintenance calories literally overnight.

For a couple of days the might find it a slight struggle to get the excess food down as they’re used to minimal calories and their digestion has slowed considerably – but with this extra food comes extra intensity in the gym and more stimulus for improved insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning. This is key.

As it stands, there is no drug, supplement or dieting method that will yield better results for making the muscle cell more sensitive to insulin whilst simultaneously making the fat cell resistant to insulin than training. And there is no greater stimulus for the metabolism and digestion than smart training

With the extra calories, hormonally, the body is no longer sensing danger or stress from being in a starved state and it can begin devoting precious Pregnenolone towards productions of hormones like Thyroid, Testosterone and Estrogen instead of pushing it all over to Cortisol.

This takes a few days for the body to kick into gear – but when it does, you’ve just saved yourself months of unnecessary reverse dieting to restore your hormonal axis and put you back into a state of anabolism and lowered inflammation.

Under the right training parameters, you can easily come out of a cutting phase and surge your calories up not by 100 or 200 across the week, but by 1000 or 2000 in a week – without gaining excess body fat. You’ll find those hormonal systems responding positively in a matter of days or weeks, instead of the months or even years it can take to rebuild slowly.

Extra Considerations

The type of training you do here is important. Remember that you’ve just spent a decent amount of time stressing and over working your body – so even with the extra calories and nutrients your body is still going to be in a state of stress, at least for a couple of days. Training should be more frequent and far less intense. We simply need to stimulate the right processes for nutrient partitioning and cell signalling and tell the body to soak up the extra food. You may be tempted to crank hard once you push the calories up, but this would potentially further add to the metabolic stress and be counterproductive to your long term gains.