Reverse Diet Science Explained (And Guides)

Reverse diet
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The key to a reverse diet is to increase your daily calorie intake gradually on a weekly basis. This strategy is often used on those that had hitting a plateau in weight loss, or those that were already in a severe deficit due to their past dieting history. A reverse diet helps brings their metabolism back to a normal level.

Hey, tough soul. I’m Alyssa.

Reverse diet, as it’s name suggested, require us to increrase our calorie intake after dieting for a period of time.

However, this might sound intimidating for those that trying to lean out. Especially for those that had a dieting history and struggled to lose weight. A reverse diet seems like a myth that is unreliable and you are often worried that you can afford to give it a try.

Well, if you are someone that still concerned about the reality of reverse diet and hesitant to give it a try. Keep reading and I’ll clear your thoughts!

How does Reverse Dieting work?

I’m sure that you had comeacross this propadanda at some point in your life:

‘When you eat each an extra of 100kcal on top of your maintenance calories day, you’ll consumed 700kcal each week. After a year, those calories added up to be 36500 calories, which means you will gain about 10 pounds.’

Although above is true when it comes to the prinsiple of calorie in calorie out, however, that’s just partially true. A theory is just a theory and we still need to consider other aspects. The human body is complex and are highly adaptive. The fact is that, in reality this is hardly happen. Let’s say one person really consumes an extra 100 calories every day. I could say in the end, they probably just gain not more than 2 pounds.

How can this be possible? That’s why it makes the topic of reverse diet appeared to be so interesting.

Debunking the paradox

It’s totally possible for someone the eat and extra 100kcal every day, and in the end, gained nothing.

It’s true that surplus means weight gain, but here’s the interesting part. Our body is highly adaptive and if you are constantly adding in a small amount of calories consistently and carefully. The small increase for about 100~200 calories turns out to be small so that your body is able to handle it. And by allowing time for adaptation on a weekly basis, it is no longer a surplus anymore.

how your body adapt to reverse diet?
By introducing a small amount of calories gradually, your body will adapt to a highier calories while limiting weight regain.

If you heard of progressive overload before, you might be able to picture what does it looks like. This is the same as how we progress to a heavier load in a training. Once we are adapted to a load, it no longer feels heavy. This same goes to our body too!

Higher Metabolism?

People believe that a reverse diet leads to a higher metabolism. I have an ‘err’ for this. Although reverse diet do improve our metabolism overally, but surprisingly our BMR doesn’t actually change much. In fact, there isn’t any scientific proof that we could increase our metabolism by just eating. What actually happens is, during a reverse diet, you are allowing more energy for the body to ‘recover’ from starvation mode and bring back some of your bodily functions. At the same time, by eating more, you will have more energy and it unconsciously makes you move more. As result, increasing your TDEE overall.

These Are Not Reverse Dieting

Let’s look at the difference because most people get confused about introducing calories gradually. There is still a difference between a strategic reversing diet and the other overeating diet behavior. And the impact for each of the dieting patterns will make a different impact on your long-term weight.


We did this all the time. Especially at some family gathering or thanksgiving party. In this case, eating more is done intuitively and most of the time it’s hard to measure how much we are actually eating on top of our regular calorie intake.

Most of the time, the estimated extra calories we tend to overeat will be about 300 surpluses more or less. However the good news is, this is not a big deal if you only did this occasionally. once you return to your normal regular diet, you won’t actually gain any weight.

Of course, fat gain occurs slowly throughout the months. An occasional overeat doesn’t affect much on our overall progress. But for those that did it with a higher frequency, that is the time why weight gain happens overtime.


However, if you are someone that are on a restricted diet, then yoyo-dieting will be more likely to occur.

For someone, this also leads them to another worst situation–yoyo dieting. This is another reason why they gain weight even if they tried to eat less. They had overeat occasionally, then feel guilty the following day, therefore they forced themself into restricted dieting, eventually repeating the overeat process because their body can’t stand it again. It’s the overtime that leads to fat gain.

From the above examples of eating and surplus and yoyo dieting, there is a common place between both of this. Which is not doing things gradually for the first and lack of consistency for the latter. Every of these ‘ocassional’ act doesn’t have a specific plan in mind therefore and we don’t have much control over it. Your body doesn’t have a steady reference point on how much you actually eat every day. As I mentioned in one of the post, the importance of the set point theory often is the key to sustainable fitness goal.

Top Reverse Diet Prinsiple: Gradually and Consistenly

The key here is to make a small change in a controllable measure.

A Reverse dieting required more attention to detail and you need to keep everything in control. You know that you need to eat more, but how much? According to different condition for the individual, their degree of gradualness will varies and that is the most important thing to take account for. For normal overeating, all you need to do is just eat more despite how much it is.

In reverse dieting you ned to have a plan in mind. Often time, a successful reverse diet plan will have clear goal of how much the individual will increase their intake on a weekly basis.

Let’s look at the exact step you need to do for a sucessful reverse diet.

Step 1: Know your baseline calories

The first step you need to do is to get know how much you are currently eating. You might need to track your intake for a few days to have a basic idea of how much you actually eating. This is to make sure the calories increment that you willbe doing later on, won’t be either ineffective or overdoing it.

Step 2: Add in calories

The next step is to decide how many calories to add on top of your baseline calories. The common range of calories to work on is between 50~200kcal. Of course, everyone has a different starting point. Some individuals might find themself able to go for a larger increment while some need to be more gradual. Take some time to experience the best increment calorie that works comfortably for you.

Step 3: Reverse dieting Length

According to how long you have been on a diet, the typical length of a reverse diet will be at least half of the dieting period. This could be between 1~3 month or more. However, for those individuals that have a longer time stay in deficit, they need to be more patient and make things more gradually. Some individual might even take half a year for a reverse diet.

Determine your reverse diet calories
Follow these steps to decide your reverse diet calories and time.

Step 4: Repeat and track progress

Repeat these steps and continue adding in new calories on a weekly basis. Do check on your progress by weighing yourself weekly and taking progress photos. Whilst making necessary adjustments to your intake based on what the weight tells you. Those that are getting comfortable by adding in more calories as they progress, feel free to do so. You can scale up and scale down anytime.

What you need to know

If you found your weight suddenly skyrocketed. Don’t panic and considered these few possibilities: Do you eat carbs and it leads to water weight retention? Do you get enough sleep? Do your body still not get use to it and is bloated? Do you experience stressful life?

If the above reason is the reason for your weight gain. Then just sit back and relax. These are just temporary and you’ll probably notice the weight goes off after a few days. If , you might need to reevaluate whether you had add in too mich calories

Do Take note:

For some individuals, they might still gain a small amount of actual weight in a reverse diet. Since we expected to gain as little weight as possible in reverse dieting, it doesn’t mean the weight regained is non exist at all. However, not all of the weight gain is fat, most of the time it’s the fat-free mass that increased due to you having better access to energy right now.

You should now have some idea of how to start a reverse diet. For those that found themself struggling during a low calories diet. Now is your way out!

Let us grow together,


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