You have just completed between 3 or 4 months of long hard prep. During it, all your attention and focus were pointed to was how your body was looking, changing, and feeling. The day of the show comes and you show what you have worked so hard for, and are so proud of. The day after, you get to eat a lot – let’s say you have earned it. The next week starts and you start wondering “What’s next?”
If you’re a competitor like me, you know the post-show aspect isn’t all that talked about at all. It’s somewhat difficult to get good advice on how to approach a reverse diet. Even if you have competition coach it can be a feat, simply because they usually stop putting focus into you because their job has been done. They prepared you and got you to stage looking the best you have ever looked, so they’ve done what they came for. However, you might not feel the same way. That’s why today we’re taking a look at the best ways to approach reverse dieting from a competition – so you can get the information you need from a coach that doesn’t leave their clients post-show!
What exactly is reverse dieting?
Reverse dieting is exactly what it sounds like: a diet turned upside-down. You speed up your metabolism by gradually adding calories back into your diet and reducing cardio. This is the opposite of normal dieting where you cut down your calories and bump up the cardio.
It may sound very simple, but there is more to it than “eat more, run less”. If you want to look the best way possible and not gain a lot of body fat, you must make an actionable plan and stick to it. This means giving your body the needed time to adjust by making small, deliberate changes, rather than hitting the buffet on a daily basis and cutting out your cardio overnight.
When people decide that they want to maximize their results and looks, they go on a diet. But is everyone ready for that step?
For those of you who have repeatedly failed to diet, doing it once again is unlikely to bring you the desired results even the opposite – it will do more harm than good.
When you stay on a calorie deficit for too long, your body suffers a lot. Most notably, it reduces the calories you burn throughout the day, often priming your body for surprisingly rapid weight gain.
This is process is known as “metabolic adaptation” and can really throw a wrench in your way to weight-loss goals. When your body continuously fights to stop the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, staying on that deficit can become very tricky. You can only drop so many calories and increase your exercise so far before you get burned out.
Luckily, for everyone who is in the same situation, there is a solution. It’s possible to “re-start” your metabolism and lower what’s known as your “body-fat set point” – the level of body fat your body finds easiest to maintain through a process known as “reverse dieting”.
To understand the science behind it, you need to understand what happens in your body during metabolic adaptation.
Metabolic Adaptations From Dieting
We all know it – our bodies are smart! Don’t try to trick them, because they will trick you. Whether you restrict calories or lose weight drastically, your body senses the energy gap and in a desperate attempt to erase it and stop the fat loss, several body systems work together to slow your metabolism by:
- Your body consuming less energy.
- Your heart beating slower as sympathetic nervous system activity declines.
- Hormones that influence metabolism and appetite such as thyroid hormone, testosterone, leptin, and ghrelin being affected.
- You burn less energy during non-exercise activities, such as fidgeting, walking around the house, working, and doing chores.
- You need fewer calories to absorb and digest food because you’re eating less.
- Your muscle becomes more efficient, requiring less fuel for a given amount of work.
These changes ultimately get your body to burn fewer calories, both at rest and working out. Fortunately, the metabolic adaptation is not a one-way street. As you can slow down your metabolism, you can also speed it up!
Many of the changes that occur during calorie restriction can work in the opposite way when you start eating more calories to make your metabolism faster.
But don’t go on a pizza or chocolate binge and expect your metabolism to speed up overnight. It requires time!
Researchers at Laval University in Quebec did a research in which they overfed 24 people by adding 1000 calories to their menus for 84 days. At first, almost all of the extra calories turned into fat or helped for building lean mass. But by the end of the study, as each subject’s metabolism adapted, the number of calories burned increased rather than them being used to create a new tissue.
The lesson here is that your metabolism will eventually speed up to dispose of some of the extra calories you absorb. But if you increase them drastically before your metabolism catches up, you’ll gain a ton of weight.
The major benefits of reverse dieting are:
- You get to eat more, not as soon as you might want, instead of with small, gradual increases monitored by a specialist in that field.
- Your diet will be more flexible – you can add and consume tastier things to your meal plan.
- You’ll have more energy fueling your workouts as well as improving your mental function and mood.
- You will lose the fear that if you change anything to your diet, the gains will stop and you will start gaining fat. This is why many people stay on the same food intake and workout plan after reaching their weight goals. They don’t want to lose that hard-won weight loss. Reverse dieting not only gives you a mental break but also shows you the best of both worlds: you can relax while eating more without gaining fat.
- You will see progress in the gym. The increased calories along with the correct type of training will lead to new lean tissue growth. If you hire the right type of coach, he will be able to set your workouts so you will see improvements in areas in which judges have said that you need improvement during the bulking season.
- Lifting heavy and doing less cardio most likely will lead to getting your body out of the energy preservation mode and building more muscle in the process.
As fitness competitions become increasingly more and more popular the number of people who go through post-show anxiety will increase.
As a coach and an athlete, I feel that the post-show period in some cases is more difficult to work on than the actual competition prep! Unfortunately, there are a lot of coaches who stop looking after their athletes after the competition.
I feel that contest prep should be done in a way that is healthy, enabling you to feel amazing before, during and after a show. With that priority in mind, my goal as a coach is to help competitors maintain new and improved body compositions so they can be comfortable in their skin for the rest of their lives.
Keep in mind, that reverse dieting is just a tool I use to support my athletes in the improvement season and for competitors who do multiple shows a year.
I wrote this blog post simply because I care about the competitors and their long-term health! Take it from me, experiencing rapid weight gain is not fun! The work doesn’t stop with the end of the competition, even the contrary, it has just begun. The real award after a show is staying in a healthy shape.
If this sounds like something you may be experiencing, you can book a free consultation call so we can make sure you eat and train properly to support your goals.