Why Reverse Dieting Makes Sense After a Contest
I have had a fabulous coach for four years now. She has listened to me whine through contest prep and has helped me with everything after.
I will always have her in my life, because she keeps me on track and is a sounding board for all of the days I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere. Sometimes, though, I don’t listen to her. Which is dumb, because I pay her so that I can take her advice.
Related - Learn How To Use Reverse Dieting
She is a huge proponent of reverse dieting, and I thought it was dumb back in the day. Not anymore.
I competed back in 2014 for the first time. Afterwards, Melanie (my coach) harped on me about reverse dieting.
I tried. I didn’t tell her how out of control I felt.
I was terribly embarrassed about not being able to control my eating, especially after I had lost over 160 pounds by myself. It was humbling and demeaning. I gained 12-15 pounds about 3 weeks after my figure competition.
God bless her, she didn’t harass me or make me feel less of a person. She did call me out about it and was honest about why she wanted me to reverse diet, but told me to use all those calories I had overindulged in and get a new goal. She was a big proponent of doing something that had very little to do with aesthetics, which was the thing that saved me.
I started another goal right after my body building competition – I started powerlifting. It saved me. I didn’t concentrate on being fluffy, I concentrated on lifting a lot.
I loved powerlifting even though I am not very strong nor am I very good at it; however, it didn’t matter. It was a wonderful experience, and I was so grateful I had done it.
This prep, I made it my mission to reverse diet. So, after my competition, I was given 200 calories extra a day immediately. I was SO hungry, but stuck it out.
Then, more food the next week and the next week.
I am 1-2 pounds above stage weight eating a grip of food because I allowed my metabolism and body time to adjust to new calories given versus going back to eating a ton while I was on my off season. If you don’t understand the reasoning behind reverse dieting; let me do a synapses of it.
I am not a nutritionist or some muscle bound guru. There is science behind this. So take my advice or not, its up to you. However, if you are having a problem eating a whole jar of peanut butter in the closet a month after your show and you now look like the Stay-puff Marshmallow Man, then I am thinking you should read on.
Reverse dieting is just that.
You are slowly going back up in calories after being in a calorie deficit for a while. It is hard; it's grueling and your body will rebel.
My first two shows, I ate like a pig afterwards. My belly was so distended I couldn’t fit in to anything but sweat pants, and even that was iffy. I felt like crap, but continued to eat.
I was frustrated, embarrassed and hid my eating from everyone. What reverse dieting does is allow your body that is in a calorie deficit to adjust to the new increased calorie adjustment without storing everything for a time that you may be on Naked and Afraid and have to eat grubs all day.
Your body is trying to save you from famine. It gives you a hunger response, and when you eat your face off, it stores it as body fat. It takes a lot of discipline to walk up your cals slowly, but I can guarantee you, when you do, your body responds a lot better than if you ate to your hearts content.
Here are some tips on how to reverse diet.
Reverse Dieting Tips
Tip #1 - Track Your Macros
Continue to use the My Fitness Pal app, or any other device that you were using to track your macros while you were in prep.
You need to see that you are actually walking up your calories and tell your body that this is what you are doing; because it wants to go on a McDonald's run as well as a Baskin Robbins run to store some good old fashion fat.
Tip #2 - Drink a Lot of Water
I have a super hard time doing this, but it does help.
I hate water and looked forward to any water cutting I needed to do for powerlifting and bodybuilding, because I hate it so much. BUUUUTTTTT it does help abate your cravings.
Tip #3 - Find Support
Get an accountability buddy that is going through the same thing. That is why I keep Melanie all year round – she is a sounding board that helps me when times get rough in my diet.
I am sure she would like to stab needles in her eyes sometimes dealing with me, but its important to have someone that gets where you are coming from.
Tip #4 - Make a New Goal
It's kind of a let down after all that work for contest prep.
You did your competition and now what do you do? Well, another goal is important. A goal that is maybe not an aesthetic goal.
Do a spartan, train for a powerlifting meet, do a Tough Mudder. It is imperative that you have another goal.
My goal coming off my contest prep this time is to make a crap ton of muscle so I can fill in more of my extra skin. Aesthetic? Kind of, but its so slow that its like watching paint dry, so I cant get too bogged down with it.
I know I have to increase my cals even more to make more muscle. I know I will likely have to gain a bit of weight to do this. I am OK with that, but not OK with gaining so much that my pants don’t fit and I am binge eating in my closet.
Tip #5 - Creep Up Slowly
You can walk up weekly about 100 cals or more depending on how you are responding.
My coach knows me well. She knows my body better than I do. She also knows my psyche and knows I have some food issues. She has been increasing it about 100 cals every week.
I am so excited about getting more food that I want to stay on track, so the increase in food doesn’t stop. This is a positive feedback loop for me, because if I lift heavier, and am eating to my macros, I know that I will likely get more food–I am a simple person. I want to eat a ton and be ripped, too.
Tip #6 - Detach
Be unemotional about your food. I know what you are saying... Yeah, right! But hear me out.
Your body is the one that is making you emotional about food. You are in control of your body, and you have to tell it what is what. It is trying to save you in what it perceives as a famine, so you cant really blame your body.
It's going to tell you to eat that box of Captain Crunch. It's going to be so freaking persuasive that you are going to think that you are actually doing this because you want to; it is doing whatever it can to store fat.
You have to look at food unemotionally.
Now, you know that I have been a huge foodie all my life. I freaking love food. So does my body.
Every day it wants me to go back to being 300 pounds. It screams at me when I pass by a Wendy’s or the candy aisle. I don’t listen to that voice anymore.
I had to treat reverse dieting like I was dieting for the very first time when I was losing the 300 pounds. My body's voice was way louder then; the volume on full blast.
I remember sitting in a corner wrestling with myself on whether to eat a bag of M&M’s or just walk away. Sometimes my body will win. It's the same with reverse dieting.
You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to try. I am not perfect, sometimes my hunger cues win, but I get back on the horse right after, and i do mean RIGHT after.
I never skip meals because I ate too much; otherwise it is another cycle I cant get out of. In short, reverse dieting will cause less fat gain, keep your metabolism humming and keep you mentally sane.
Can you eat a ton and gain fat if you want to? Of course you can! Just be aware that you will gain more body fat and if you ever want to lose it, it may be harder to do so.
Reverse dieting is an excellent way to stay leaner while trying to gain more muscle in my humble opinion. It does take practice and a lot of mental fortitude, but if you were able to dial it in for a show, I am positive you can dial it in for the most important portion of any off season – making more muscle!