If you’re tired of strict diets that reduce your calorie intake, which results in cravings and unwanted binge eating, you might want to try reverse dieting. Restricting your food intake lowers your weight but, at the same time, also slows down your metabolic rate. Reverse dieting allows followers to increase their calorie intake for a while, thus boosting their metabolism and resulting in a higher calorie burnout per day. This helps you go back to a regular eating pattern without worrying about weight gain. 

However, the effects of a reverse diet plan depend on the person following it and how cautious they are about gaining unnecessary weight.

What Happens in Reverse Dieting?

Reverse dieting should ideally be followed after a calorie-restrictive diet where a person has decreased their calorie intake to lower than normal. This effect is the body’s metabolic adaptation. The body starts to conserve energy since there is little fuel to function. Due to this, the body develops a starvation response, including fatigue, increased cravings, severe changes in the digestive system, and a decrease in motivation to carry out daily activities. [1]

Reverse dieting rather than focusing on macronutrients only takes into account calories. The process of carrying out a reverse diet is a gradual process that could take weeks or months.

The increase in calorie intake should not be sudden since when a body is shocked by a sudden increase in calories, it is unable to burn it out, and that causes weight gain. Supporters of reverse dieting suggest that calorie intake should be increased to between 50 to 100 calories per week. 

Following a reverse diet can help in curbing cravings, increasing metabolism, and even reducing the risk of sudden weight gain, according to its proponents. However, if you start eating normally like your pre-diet days, you can gain unwanted weight and fat. 

Is Reverse Dieting Necessary?

reverse dieting

The question about the necessity of following a reverse diet depends on the strictness of the diet plan you followed earlier. Many people end up reducing their calories much more than what is required. Simply put, the lower calories you eat, the easier and quicker it is to lose weight. Drastically cutting down your calories can result in a slow metabolism temporarily. Despite that, a bogged-down metabolic rate can be problematic for people. [2]

Another factor that counts when choosing to adopt reverse dieting is muscle mass. If you have been able to build muscle with the help of a diet that is high in protein, then it is possible to lose fat and weight. Having a higher muscle mass leads to a higher energy level. Because the metabolic rate and body muscle mass are directly proportional to each other. More muscle mass means a higher resting metabolic rate; hence you can eat more calories without gaining extra weight. 

Many argue that reverse dieting is completely unnecessary due to multiple reasons. Firstly, counting your calorie intake can be a tedious process and may not be entirely accurate. A study carried out on people following a 1200-calorie intake diet showed that they had higher levels of cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone that induces belly fat production. On the other hand, those who were not keeping track of their calories showed visibly lower stress levels. [3]

Does Reverse Dieting Work? 

Even though there is little research on reverse dieting and its effects, the anecdotal pieces of evidence show quite some benefits of this diet. Consuming a high-calorie diet also leads to faster burnout and balances body hormone levels. These, when combined, promote weight loss in the body. 

Following a diet that restricts you from eating your favorite food pushes you to cave into your cravings and end up binge eating. Theory suggests that it is better to increase your calories gradually rather than suddenly to allow your body to burn out the calories you consume. 

The success of reverse dieting depends on those who follow it. If you are keeping track of your calories accurately and avoiding binge eating, then reverse dieting will create a positive result. However, many people have medical conditions and limitations, in which case reverse dieting does not help in weight loss. More research needs to be carried out in this area to give more definitive answers regarding this diet. [4

When to Stop Reverse Dieting 

reverse dieting

Whenever you follow a diet, there is a time limit you need to adhere to as well. Once that required time is up, you need to stop dieting. During reverse dieting, as you consume more calories, there will be a point where your weight will start to increase. When this increases more than your desired weight, it is a sign that your body is no longer responding to the high amount of calories you are consuming. Your metabolism will reach its peak point, after which it won’t be able to burn more calories anymore. 

The extra calories you are eating will start storing in your body as fat and increase your weight. As soon as you notice that your weight gain is becoming linear, you should discontinue reverse dieting. 

How to Follow a Successful Reverse Diet

reverse dieting

Many people follow a reverse diet to lose weight or to maintain it after a strict regimen of calorie restriction. To ensure that you don’t get sidetracked from your goals, there are certain steps you should keep in mind:

1. Figure Out Your Calorie Intake 

Before jumping on the reverse diet bandwagon, estimate the number of calories you can consume through a body composition test.

2. Slowly Increase Calories

Don’t increase your calories suddenly when reverse dieting. Take your time and see how much your body can burn out so you don’t gain excessive weight. The initial jump should be between 5% to 10% of your original calorie consumption.

3. Keep a Daily Track

Since you need to be accurate when calculating your gradual increase in calories each day, get a mobile application to help you achieve that. This will keep track of your calories.

4. Only Cater to Your Needs

While you need to achieve a weight loss goal, you should only opt for healthier food options when increasing calories so it meets your body’s needs while fulfilling the requirement. 

Bottomline: Reverse Dieting and Weight Loss

Reverse dieting works towards improving your metabolism, increasing energy levels, and maintaining weight by controlling your binge eating ability after a strict diet. While many people claim that it helps in weight loss, there is no scientific proof that it does since it only takes into account the number of calories consumed per day. It may be better to opt for a balanced healthy diet rather than following a calorie-restricting or increasing diet.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  • Redman, L. M., Heilbronn, L. K., Martin, C. K., de Jonge, L., Williamson, D. A., Delany, J. P., Ravussin, E., & Pennington CALERIE Team (2009). Metabolic and behavioral compensations in response to caloric restriction: implications for the maintenance of weight loss. PloS one4(2), e4377. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004377
  • Schwartz, M. W., & Seeley, R. J. (1997). Seminars in medicine of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Neuroendocrine responses to starvation and weight loss. The New England journal of medicine336(25), 1802–1811. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199706193362507
  • Tomiyama, A. J., Mann, T., Vinas, D., Hunger, J. M., Dejager, J., & Taylor, S. E. (2010). Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosomatic medicine72(4), 357–364. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c
  • Fuhrman, J., Sarter, B., Glaser, D., & Acocella, S. (2010). Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet. Nutrition journal9, 51. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-51

Farah is a veteran writer, season journalist, and copywriting expert with over six years of professional experience in the content creation field. Her forte lies in translating medical jargon and complicated health terms into easy-to-understand language for readers who may not have a medical background. LinkedIn