“Are we there yet?”
Remember those long car rides where the kids seemed to ask that every 5 minutes?
Maybe it was YOU who was asking, “Are we there yet!?”
If you’ve been at this diet thing for a while now and you catch yourself asking that same question, then you’ve gone about things the right way.
But you don’t have to be left asking that for life…
That’s why Part 4 of the Nutritional Periodization Guide is dedicated to showing you what to do when you DO get there.
There are 2 phases to this whole arrival – let’s dive into this.
This is the part where the pilot tells you to take your seat, buckle in, and return your seat and tray to their upright positions.
That glorious last stretch where you turn down the familiar road to your neighborhood.
Think of this as the home stretch – it’s the reverse diet.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the home stretch was sometimes the hardest part of a trip.
There’s nervousness and anxiousness.
I’ll tell you right up front that this is exactly how you’ll feel during a reverse diet.
For most, a life of dieting is what you’ve become accustomed to.
And for even more of you, you might feel as if you’re losing your identity and wondering what’s next and who you’re becoming.
The fear of coming out of a deficit is very real, especially if you’ve unsuccessfully tried before…
Reverse dieting is all about energy balance.
Let’s pretend you’ve been on the plan of losing 1 pound per week.
That means you’re eating 3,500 calories LESS than you’re burning in a week; therefore, in order to MAINTAIN what you’ve lost, we can add back in 3,500 calories to your diet per week (500 calories per day) without gaining any additional body fat.
To gain even 1 pound BACK you would have to eat 3,500 calories MORE than your maintenance level calories.
Now, that’s VERY doable given the surrounding temptations and adaptations your body undergoes during a diet, but if you have a well-organized plan for the reverse diet, you have nothing to worry about.
That’s why I use a 4-Step Process for Reverse Dieting.
Step 1: Return to 90% of Estimated Maintenance
The last thing you want to do is overshoot maintenance calories, especially since your body has undergone some major changes.
With most clients, I prefer to increase calories through added carbohydrates due to their physiological benefits and contributions to training and recovery.
In addition, I typically recommend 30 to 35% of intake as fat throughout the calorie deficit (the ideal range for maintaining hormonal health and promoting fatty acid deficiencies), so there’s no need to increase any further.
Step 2: Pay Close Attention to Weight & Measurements
One of the fastest ways to put the weight back on is to suddenly stop stepping on the scale, taking body measurements, and tracking your metrics.
The EXACT data we’ve used to change your body composition is no longer being tracked, and we NEED this to evaluate HOW this is impacting your body composition.
Without it, it’s easier to regain fat seeing as you have NO IDEA how your body is changing.
Now, it’s not uncommon to see a 1-to-3-pound weight gain in the reverse diet, but never fear, this is all due to the added glycogen storage to your muscles and the additional content in your gut.
It should also be noted that you’re likely to see a slight increase in the body measurement around your navel due to the added gut contents, but beyond this, you should not see any major changes in your metrics.
Step 3: Adjust Nutrition Based on Metrics
Similar to how there are continuous evaluations and adjustments during the calorie deficit, there must be one during the reverse.
Remember, some increase in weight and measurements is normal, but an evaluation is normal to assure the increase isn’t TOO MUCH.
After the first 1 to 3 weeks of the reverse diet, we’d like to increase calories to start pushing you towards maintenance calories.
If you remember from Part 3, adaptive thermogenesis is very prevalent during fat loss; therefore, the more you eat, the more calories you’re burning, and the higher maintenance calories.
It depends on the client and is highly dependent on the adaptability of their metabolism and the body’s ability to increase NEAT in response to additional calories.
MOST of my clients find an increase in maintenance of about 50 to 150 calories.
Step 4: Stopping the Reverse Diet
Don’t worry, the reverse doesn’t go on forever, and determining when to stop is set by 2 things.
#1 Stable Weight & Trunk Measurements
Minor fluctuations are normal (~0.5”), and anything larger means you’ve worked your way past maintenance.
It is important to note that many clients are still able to build lean muscle at maintenance, which makes it possible to see an increase in weight across the course of weeks.
That’s why tracking body measurements is HUGE.
Most of us have a “trouble spot” or an area we want to fix, and it seems to always be the last place we lose fat from our body.
Conveniently, it’s always the first place we put fat back on…
This goes to show how important it is to keep up with your measurements, particularly in the area of your “trouble spot.”
In these measurements, if we notice consecutive weeks of measurement increases at this “trouble spot,” it’s easy to recognize it at body fat gain.
#2 Biofeedback is Normal & Stable
All of us have a “bottom line” for body fat.
At points you may drop to or below this bottom line for things like weddings, vacations, or big events, but it’s important to know that this is not healthy or sustainable.
While at or below this bottom line, you’re likely to struggle with hunger, food-centered thoughts, low energy, unhealthy hormone levels, and building lean muscle becomes VERY difficult.
It’s okay to occasionally drop to or below that bottom line, but afterward restoring biofeedback requires you to add a bit of body fat in and live life at a healthy level.
To sum it all up, a client stays in the reverse diet until biofeedback has returned to normal.
What happens after you’ve completed the reverse?
Then, the best part – MAINTENANCE!
This is it!
The FINAL PHASE of Nutritional Periodization.
And that phase that is most overlooked by everyone, coaches and clients alike.
There are 2 ways or people with which I recommend a maintenance phase.
Person #1: Someone Who Has Completed the Reverse
If this is you, it’s important to know that your body wants to return to its old normal as quickly as possible; therefore, completing the ENTIRE maintenance phase is KEY for establishing the new normal.
The maintenance phase is a great time for you to practice and create new habits, so you don’t return to the body composition of your past that you so despised.
Learn the new habits and behaviors for food choices, training, daily movement, nutritional diet to maintain your new body composition.
Person #2: Someone with Large Weight Loss Goals Still in Progress
Think of this as a longer-term diet break.
Clients looking to lose 50+ pounds need longer than a 3-to-14-day diet break to restore one’s hormonal profile, muscle glycogen stores, and biofeedback.
But there’s more to it than the physiological effects…
If you have this much weight to lose, entering a maintenance phase is VERY important to solidifying some of your new habits and practices to prevent weight gain.
The last thing to address is the length of a maintenance phase.
Of course, you want to maintain your new body composition for the rest of your life, but there are specific intentions for the maintenance phase, things like:
- Recovering from a fat loss phase.
- Restoring your hormone profile (specifically for thyroid, leptin, and testosterone).
- Returning energy levels to normal.
- Decreasing hunger.
- Repairing your body after the stress it’s faced.
- Reassessing your goals to determine what’s next.
So how long does this take?
As always – it depends.
Rough estimate, 2 to 3 months.
During this time, we focus on providing tools and strategies for sustaining your new lifestyle, educating on building new habits suitable for your new lifestyle, and a new frame of mind around food and life.
Look, the hardest part about achieving your goal is maintaining it.
You’ve worked SO HARD to achieve it, and the last thing you want to do (yet what TOO MANY people do) is sabotage your results right before the finish line.
Put as much effort into the maintenance phase as you did every other phase, and your results can be easily sustained.
About The Author
Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit your unique lifestyle. ,Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.