Nutrition: Reverse Dieting 101

Have you heard of the term reverse dieting? Do you know what it’s used for?

Reverse dieting is when you increase your calories slowly over a period of time in order to increase your metabolism, with the goal of keeping fat gain to a minimum.

Diets that are on the market today are all about restriction, where something from the diet is cut out or labeled as “bad or off-limits.” When someone starts a diet of some sort, with the goal of weight loss, they think that if they eat less and exercise more then they will lose weight. That is NOT always the answer.

This rule of fewer calories in and more calories burned does not take into account that a long-term hypocaloric deficit causes your basal metabolic rate (BMR) to drop and metabolic hormones like thyroid hormone and leptin (fullness hormone) to drop as well. With these adaptions from a long-term caloric deficit, your body becomes less efficient in burning fat.

Reverse dieting is a great way to reset your metabolism after a long period of time in a calorie deficit and can help you reach your weight loss goals. Your metabolism must be revved up to a baseline level before it can tolerate a cut of calories without going into storage mode.

For example, If you are only eating 1,000 kcal/day, and your weight is not dropping, you might think that if you eat even less and add an additional hour of exercise/day, your weight will drop. Wrong. Your weight will likely increase even more because your body thinks that it is in “starvation” mode so it needs to store everything it gets to keep you alive.

The goal of a reverse diet or “recovery diet” is to increase your metabolic efficiency and to mitigate and reverse the adaptations that were done due to the caloric restriction. When starting a reverse diet the process needs to be slow and consistent. The process of a reverse diet is highly individualized so reach out to a Registered Dietitian with questions about the process.  The Registered Dietitian team at Home Base is equipped and available to provide you with personalized assessments and advice on what you can do to meet your goals and objectives. To learn more about Home Base’s nutrition team or to speak with one of our Registered Dietitians, click here.


About the Author: Emilie Burgess, MS, RDN, LDN s a Registered Dietitian within Home Base’s Warrior Health and Fitness Program and Intensive Clinical Program. Emilie brings her love for performance nutrition, wellness, and cooking to Home Base to help each person find a healthy relationship with food. She has volunteered for two NCAA Division-I Sports Nutrition programs around the country and is currently a Registered Dietitian specializing in sports nutrition and eating disorders at Laura Moretti Nutrition, a private practice in Somerville, MA. She believes in an individualized approach to nutrition counseling and wellness to help each person achieve their goals. Emilie is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA).