Most athletes are faced with an eating dilemma once they have competed in their big show and come off the restrictive diet. It’s common for physique competitors to indulge in a celebratory cheat meal or two post-competition but once they start going through the photos of the big night and see their physique on stage, they’re suddenly hit with the question: Where does my diet go from here?
A Figure Competitor’s Dilemma
Most physique competitors and athletes spend a lot of time, money, and energy in getting in the best shape of their lives on the big day but very few have a plan for what comes after the competition is over.
Lack of planning often leaves people binging excessively after coming off the restrictive diet and they gain weight and loss muscle conditioning rapidly after the show.
This isn’t the ideal scenario for a competitor who invested months on stage prep, spent hours and hours every day in the gym, struggling to get to the lowest body fat percentage possible and eating nothing but rice crackers before competition – all the effort just to look good for a few minutes on the stage and gain back the weight rapidly within a few days?
Gaining Weight after Restrictive Dieting
Many women have experienced the consequences of restrictive dieting at some point in their lives: as soon as the diet is off, the binge eating begins and the weight creeps back on. If you want to maintain your progress even after coming off a restrictive diet and don’t want all the hard work and effort to disappear within a few days, there is a certain amount of planning that should go into your diet after the restriction period is over – and no, eating an entire box of donuts in one sitting is not the answer to the problem.
Most people choose a calorie-restrictive diet with the goal of losing fat while gaining more lean muscle mass to improve the overall body composition. However, being in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time can lead to metabolic adaptation whereby your body simply gets used to the restriction and becomes more efficient in using up stored energy (like fat) to sustain various biological processes.
Reverse Dieting: What is it?
The biggest downside of a restrictive diet is that your body learns to burn less calories in order to be more fuel efficient which negatively impacts your metabolism. So, essentially, when you go back to eating regularly – or, excessively binging in some cases – your body is still running on its fuel-efficient mode which means that you’re technically now in a calorie surplus; and guess where all the excess calories go? Back to your fat reserves.
So, how do you reduce the negative consequences of calorie restriction after coming off the diet? The best approach according to health experts in Reverse Dieting.
Reverse Dieting, as the name suggests, is the opposite of dieting where you progressively increase your daily calorie intake until you reach maintenance level. The goal of this approach is to minimize the weight gain that usually occurs after a diet by letting the body get used to a calorie surplus gradually instead of abruptly switching from a restrictive diet to the previous eating pattern.
Reverse Dieting helps the body return to its old energy expenditure level through a healthy adaptation process. One big advantage of this approach is that people are able to lose fat more easily even after they reach their maintenance level, which means that you’ll be able to eat more and lose weight after reverse dieting – who doesn’t want that?
The Ideal Way to Reverse Diet
Reverse Dieting is usually recommended for a six-week period, although some people prefer to stretch it out to 12 weeks in order to achieve better and more consistent results. Each week, the daily carb intake is increased by 5 to 10 grams and fat by 2 to 5 grams. The protein intake remains the same as during the restrictive dieting phase.
If you feel that you’re putting on the weight too quickly, you may slow down the reverse dieting and cut the carbohydrate and fat by half. It is important to note that carbohydrates have the potential to cause water retention, with each gram of carb increase leading to 3 grams of water retained – in other words, weight gain is inevitable during the reverse dieting phase.