Have you heard of the reverse diet?

by Scenit Nutrition on Dec 27, 2022

¿Has oído hablar de la dieta inversa?

If you are tired of doing restrictive diets that greatly limit your day-to-day eating options, immediately demotivate you and have limited effects because you later regain the kilos, surely this reverse diet sounds good to you. A first impression when reading the concept is that it proposes the opposite of what traditional diets promulgate, but is it really so?

The reverse diet can be useful in certain circumstances, then you have to be clear about what they are and how you can implement it so that it is healthy and effects such as rebound do not appear.

What is the reverse diet

In general, weight loss diets are restrictive. The minimum calories that the body needs and the daily physical activity are taken into account, and a plan is designed that keeps the contribution below the expenditure. The reverse diet, on the other hand, proposes the opposite: it is about progressively increasing daily calories to restore them .

To fully understand what it proposes, one must take into account how calories work. The body needs energy to face the minimum vital needs, as well as the daily tasks. A calorie is a unit of energy, and each individual needs a specific number of calories that will vary depending on their characteristics.

There are online calculators that allow you to know the necessary contribution precisely, and that are based on formulas that can also be used manually. One of them is that of Harris-Benedict, which focuses on basal metabolism, that is, on the minimum calories that the body needs at rest. They vary depending on the sex:

  • Men: 66 (13.7 x weight in kg) (5 x height in cm) - (6.75 x age in years)
  • Women: 655 (9.6 x weight in kg) (1.8 x height in cm) - (4.7 x age in years)

On the other hand, a more modern formula like the Mifflin-St. Jeor can be related to the previous one. And it is that the necessary expenditure in rest should be added daily activity, both in men and women. Therefore, the result of the previous formula should be multiplied by a specific figure depending on the exercise carried out:

  • Little exercise or sedentary lifestyle: 1.2.
  • Light exercise, one to three days a week: 1,375.
  • Moderate exercise, three to five days a week: 1.55.
  • Frequent exercise six to seven days a week: 1.72.
  • Exercise at a professional level, with morning and afternoon training: 1.90.

It is important to know these variables to start and control the development of the reverse diet, since it is based on the free and progressive increase in daily calories.

What is the main objective of this diet?

The main objectives of the diet are to restore hormone levels that have probably been modified during the course of a restrictive diet to lose weight. The latter will also have lowered the metabolic rate due to the lower intakes, and will have limited (or even prohibited) the consumption of certain foods.

The reverse diet tries to recover previous levels and help the reintegration of possibly discarded foods into our daily diet. What it is about is designing a well-controlled transition that avoids the appearance of the dreaded rebound effect , the one that will make you recover the kilos that may have cost you a lot to lose.

We must bear in mind that, when losing weight, the metabolic rate is reduced, whose calculation formula we have mentioned above. The body receives fewer calories and this, depending on the reduction, can be counterproductive: the body will slow down the metabolism, and that will generate less caloric expenditure.

What does the last thing mean? That the body adapts. That drop in calories will be perceived as a threat, and mechanisms will be set in motion to ensure that you can perform your vital functions. It's like the body going into energy saving mode, so in addition to slowing down your metabolism you'll also want to avoid losing fat to ensure you're getting the necessary intake.

In view of the above process, it is understandable both the rebound effect and the plateau that occurs in some weight loss regimens. That is why the reverse diet is not only used in the transition, but also as a revulsion in the absence of results when the goal is to lose weight.

Who can do a reverse diet

The reverse diet is not for everyone , among other things, because what it is about is gradually increasing the calories ingested. If you are a person with a sedentary life or do light exercise, it will not make sense for you to increase energy.

In the next section we will see the configuration of the diet, but we already anticipate that it is based a lot on proteins and leaves fats and carbohydrates in the background . If you have already been on a weight loss diet and have a very low body fat percentage, your body will continue to be stressed by lack of energy and the effects can be negative.

So, for whom is the diet recommended? It can be done by those who want to maintain their weight , but they must closely monitor the levels of calories ingested, make sure that the increase is progressive, and maintain the habits related to physical exercise that they have already established with the diet to lose weight.

It can also be done by those who have experienced a stagnation in their diet, as well as athletes who have faced a competition and now, who are not following such exhaustive training, want to avoid uncontrolled weight gain. It would therefore be a recovery diet .

One of the main advantages of the proposal is the increase in calories and foods usually not allowed in restrictive diets, which will help to maintain motivation and not have a constant feeling of hunger . In addition, it speeds up the metabolism to avoid stagnation when following a stricter plan.

However, when undertaking the reverse diet it is also necessary to consider its disadvantages. To begin with, there are no scientific studies that support it , so the evidence of effectiveness is based only on personal experiences. On the other hand, it urges proper calorie control, which means taking note of everything you eat. It is a practice that can be uncomfortable and cause a certain obsession.

How does the reverse diet work?

A brief summary of what has been seen so far: the reverse diet is the one that proposes a progressive increase in calories to achieve a higher metabolic rate. Among other cases, it can be useful for those who have finished a diet to lose weight and want to recover energy, as well as reintroduce foods that were restricted.

In view of the above and knowing how calories work, it is time to know how to start a reverse diet.

1. Calculate the calories

As you may have guessed, the progressive increase in calories does not mean an open bar. You may have been wanting to end your diet to remove the restrictions, but that proves something: the approach has not been the right one. A diet should not only aim to lose weight and, in fact, this objective should be secondary. The most important thing is to implement healthy habits.

These good habits should not be lost at the end of the diet , so it is important to calculate the starting situation. We are talking about the number of calories necessary for maintenance, since possibly up to now you have been in deficit. Reapply formulas like the ones we mentioned above, considering your new weight.

2. Increase calories progressively

The ideal application time of the inverse diet is between 4 and 10 weeks . In each of them, the ideal is to increase the calories between 50 and 100, which is not much. Keep in mind that a medium tomato has 40 calories, and a handful of blueberries and other berries contain 50. Control well so as not to overdo it, otherwise the dreaded rebound effect would arrive.

The truth is that this vigilance must be constant, and that is one of the main disadvantages of this diet. It will force you to spend the next few weeks controlling all your calories , even if you simply drank a fresh orange juice or ate three almonds. Later we tell you what foods you can eat.

3. Go measuring the results

The minimum calories that the body needs and those of a normal diet are something very personal, so the reverse diet has a lot of trial and error . Your caloric increase may need to be higher, but you should pay attention not only to the numbers, but also to what makes you feel good.

Diet should also be in line with other healthy habits, such as physical exercise, so this must be taken into account when introducing changes.

Diet Configuration Example

Let's say you're a 32-year-old woman who just finished a low-calorie diet to lose weight and now weighs 150 pounds. His height is 169 cm and he exercises moderately four days a week. We follow the Harris-Benedict equations and the Mifflin-St. Jeor to know your power needs:

655 (9.6 x 68 kilos) (1.8 x 169 cm) – (4.7 x 32 years) = 1311.20 calories are what you need at rest.

1,311.20 x 1.55 (corresponding to a moderate level of exercise) = 2,032.36 calories.

The woman has lost five kilos, so her energy needs were higher before (about 2,340 calories), but she had reduced them by 500 a day to lose weight (she ate about 1,840 calories a day). The diet has worked and the highest percentage of those lost kilos corresponds to fat.

To plan the reverse diet, you have decided to gradually increase 50 calories per week , so that in four weeks you will eat 2040 calories, enough for your metabolic requirements and your lifestyle.

When configuring your menus, you must take into account that proteins must have a lot of weight in the reverse diet. Specifically, it is recommended to consume 1.2 grams per kilo, so in your case it should amount to 81.6 grams (1.2 x 68 kilos). As for fat, the ideal is not to exceed 0.8 grams per kilo, so you will consume 54.4 grams. And carbohydrates should be between 120 and 150 total grams per day.

During the first weeks you will still be in a deficit, so you could still lose, but by the end of the diet you will have managed to gradually adjust your caloric intake to meet your energy needs.

What can you eat on this diet?

If when you have read "calorie increase" you have thought of chocolates and ultra-processed foods, we insist that you may have focused your hypocaloric diet wrong. In no case should this caloric increase go through foods that are not recommended , even if you resort to them for occasional consumption. The desire to “exceed” again is what most often explains the rebound effect.

We remind you that proteins are important in the reverse diet, and that they must be ingested in relation to weight (1.2 g per kilo). You must also incorporate healthy fats (maximum 0.8 grams per kilo) and carbohydrates (between 120 and 150 grams per day).

Of course, the body needs vitamins and minerals in their proper proportion, so it is best to follow a healthy and balanced diet that gradually introduces more food than those eaten during the hypocaloric diet.

The selection of food must be very careful . Choose those that are complete, such asoatmeal , ideal for breakfast and for making healthy snacks before or after training, as it provides carbohydrates,proteins , and healthy fats. Flavored shakes made with some protein concentrate are also a great option.

In summary, the reverse diet can be very useful in circumstances such as a diet transition, as it helps to recover previous levels in a controlled manner so that you can regain kilos. To do this, we must take into account variables such as the calories in a normal diet and how many the body needs, based on our basal metabolism and daily activity. It must be clear that, far from promoting an open bar, it requires an exhaustive control of calories and the constant measurement of progress.