Eat in a calorie deficit (less calories than you're burning in a day) and you'll lose fat forever right? Not always the case! If you've been eating in a calorie deficit with your goal being fat loss for a while (anywhere from a few months onwards) then there's every chance your metabolism has adapted so well, to the point in which you're no longer able to lose fat. Sure you may have successfully lost a lot or a little fat, but your body cannot sustain this for too long.
I'm going to write about Reverse Dieting and how you can still manage to lose fat if you've potentially damaged your metabolism from eating too low cal for too long!
Eating in a calorie deficit can really mess up your metabolism. Our bodies are constantly working to maintain homeostasis, so fast increases and decreases in calories consumed can cause issues. When we decrease our calories, our metabolism attempts to close the gap by decreasing our metabolic rate with leptin, the metabolism regulating hormone. When leptin is high, metabolism is high, when leptin is low (like when we're in a deficit) our metabolism rate goes down. This explains why our diets/ deficits work really well for the first month, but then become less and less effective as our bodies work toward homeostasis.
The impact of eating in a deficit for a prolonged period of time:
- Hormones that regulate your metabolism begin to down-regulate
- Thyroid + leptin lower in order to create homeostasis in the body (your bodies state of equilibrium ie your maintenance state)
- Muscle tissue begins to break down as a source of energy
- Slowed metabolism
- Reduces the number of calories your burn during he day
- Can cause weight gain
There's only so far you can continue to decrease your calorie intake and up your work out volume, it would mean a pretty miserable existence and I wouldn't recommend it as a sustainable approach to fat loss, which really is the only way to keep it off. If you feel like you've hit a limit to how low you can drop your cals, it might be time to consider reverse dieting!
This process has the potential to freak out those focussed on fat loss quite a bit, but hear me out! There's actual science to back this up. It's the process of going from your calorie deficit with medium - high amounts of cardio in your workout routine, to gradually increasing your calories and decreasing your cardio periods. It requires patience and strategy because as you know you can easily pile on the fat you worked so hard to keep off once you up your calories, don't just quit cardio and go bananas on the carbs, you've gotta do this right to avoid the fat lash back!
Who should reverse diet?
- You're consistently working out and working hard, your eating is on point put you're not losing fat
- You were losing fat but now you've hit a bit of a plateau despite working that butt off
- You have a history of fad diets or yo-yo dieting, despite putting in the effort you're struggling to shift that fat
Why reverse diet?
- Muscle gains without gaining fat (if done properly)
- Some manage to get leaner than when they were dieting
- Conditioning your metabolism to increase (which means you get to eat more food.. and you know, food!)
I'm currently reverse dieting because I feel as though my metabolism has been damaged from dieting for too long, I want to up my cals, fix my metabolism and get my hormones right to keep working on those gains.
How to reverse diet?
- Start with your current calories or maintenance (I'd suggest tracking macros for this to ensure you're doing it properly)
- Consistently and incrementally increase your calories by 20-50 each week (I leave my protein + fat the same and up my carbs)
- If depends on where you're at with your macros, you can also try upping your grams by 2-5% each week (don't touch protein this should stay the same as 0.8-1 pound per body weight)
- Ensure you're weighing in each week, measuring, taking pics and evaluating how you're feeling, you want to find the sweet spot where you're able to eat at your max without gaining fat
- Once you're there, it depends on what your goals are, you might want to stay here for a while you might want to bulk to build them muscle gains, or you may wish to cut again and slowly go back into a deficit to lean out again, that's up to you!
I'm currently reverse dieting and cannot wait to share my results with you all! Until then, let me know if you've got any questions in the comments below! I'll try to get back to you asap.
Lot's of love + good luck