The Diet After the Diet

So your diet is over, you’ve reached your goal weight (Congrats by the way), you feel proud after X amount of time and restricting your calories, resisting temptation of your ever-growing appetite. 

The suffering is finally over and you’re ready to live life again.

A month later you jump on the scale’s and slap yourself trying to awaken you from this nightmare. You suddenly realise that this is no dream. How can months of dieting and hard work be undone in a matter of weeks.

What do you do now, Why has this happened, Do you do another round of restrictive eating and hope it sticks this time?

Well getting the Body you want is only half the Battle, There’s the Battle of keeping the weight off as well which is just as Hard if not Harder.

It’s no secret that when we restrict our Calories our bodies react via Hormones such as Leptin Decreasing and Ghrelin Increasing along with other key hormones that play a role in weight management. Also as an effect of Diet-induced Weight loss our appetites get bigger but those hormones do not return back to normal after the diet has ended (1.) Resulting in constantly feeling more hungry and unconsciously consuming way more Calories than you think you’ve eaten. I’ve discussed this in greater detail & other concepts of the Metabolism in these articles here (2,3.)

So your Metabolism had a massive wrench thrown into its tracks, The wrench being Adaptive Thermogenesis (Metabolic Adaptation) Seriously read this (3.) When Adaptive Thermogenesis Kicks In Your BMR drops and you burn less Calories Throughout the day along with the increase in certain Hunger Hormones and Appetite it’s Going to be hard to burn more Calories than you Consume.

There’s only so much you can exercise and reduce Calories before your lifestyle becomes miserable and pretty impossible to maintain.

Let’s Use a female competitor weighing 140 pounds (64 kg) at 20 percent body fat who needs to get down to below 12 percent as an example (4.) Her maintenance diet looks something like this:

Calories: 2350 calories a day
Protein: 30 percent, 176 g/day
Fat: 30 percent, 78 g/day
Carbs: 40 percent. 235 g/day

Over the course of 3 to 5 months she diets down to the following values:** 

Calories: 1700 

Protein: 40 percent, 170 g/day 

Fat: 30 percent, 56 g/day

Carbs: 30 percent, 127 g/day

After her competition like everybody after a diet she want’s to start eating more again, But unlike the average Tom, Dick & Sally she doesn’t quit the diet and start eating 2350 Calories a day.


Because we know reducing calories causes Metabolic Adaptation which in turn causes Your BMR to drop(3.) So after a diet when people start eating like they used to or less than what they used to but still more than what they are currently eating they gain weight and excessive fat.

I’m sure you’ve heard the Fact that 95% of dieters gain all the weight they lost back & then some, I know I’ve referenced in a past article well it’s due to the fact that their BMR is a lot lower than it was. 

Back to our Competitor she want’s to get back to her maintenance calories as fast as possible without gaining excessive fat, she does this by adding roughly 75 calories a week (Depending on your metabolism you can start with 50 – 150 Calories a week.)

Week 1 after her diet looks like this

Calories: 1776

Protein: 170 g/day 

Fat: 60g/day

Carbs: 137 g/day

Week 2 Would then be 

Protein: 170 g/day 

Fat: 64g/day

Carbs: 147 g/day

She would continue to increase her calories until she hit her maintenance weight again.

** Notice that the calorie reduction came from lowering carbs and fat, while keeping the protein intake pretty steady. Keeping Protein intake pretty steady helps maintain your Resting Metabolic Rate & preserving Lean Body Mass (meaning when you lose weight it’s fat you’re losing and keeping your muscle mass) Which is essential if you want to look ‘Toned’ and not a smaller mushier version of yourself (3.) 

Also worth noting is many people diet well below 1700 calories, trying to lose weight as fast as possible this is generally not recommended because it leads to a greater degree of metabolic adaptation that is so severe, it is much harder to recover from plus other physiological effects such as depression and low mood states, lack of energy & increased hunger. 

Higher Protein Whilst Reverse Dieting

A study from Jan 2017 took a group of Finnish female fitness competitors who lost an average of 54 percent body fat, going from 23 percent body fat to 12.7 percent for their competition. They achieved this by progressively lowering calories from 2,366 pre-diet to 1,885 Then over 4 months post-competition, they increased calories to 2,216, ending with less body fat than when they started (20 percent). 

The women prevented any significant loss in lean mass. Additionally, although they experienced significant reductions in metabolic hormones (leptin, thyroid, testosterone, and estrogen), hormone values mostly returned to normal by the end of the “reverse diet.” They did this through maintaining their protein during the calorie restriction (5.) This study shows for the first time that most of the hormonal changes after a 35–50% decrease in body fat in previously normal-weight females can recover within 3–4 months of increased energy intake.

A 2014 study had trained subjects increase their daily calories by 800 (from 2,042 to 2,835 calories a day) by doubling their protein intake so that they were consuming an average of 307 grams of protein daily. There was no organized training program but subjects continued training as they had prior to the start of the study. By the end of the study, subjects had reduced body fat percentage from 16.9 to 16.3 percent, gained muscle, and lost a small amount of body fat (0.3 kg)(6.) 

A second study from the same research group that included an organized strength training program had similarly impressive results: Trained subjects who increased calories by 400 from 2240 to 2614 per day by raising protein from 154 grams to 255 daily resulted in a reduced body fat percentage from 18.3 to 15.9 percent, a 1.5 kg increase in muscle, and a 1.5 kg decrease of body fat (7.) 

These two studies are interesting because they show that despite increasing calories you can still get leaner and lose body fat.

Reverse Dieting Guidelines

Whilst reverse dieting engage in Resistance training 3+ x A week, I assume if you train with Tiarnan you are already doing this.

Resistance Training has two major benefits for the Metabolism and since we’ve slowed ours down through dieting and now want to consume more calories again we need any benefit possible in order to not gain excessive fat.

Benefit one it speeds up your metabolism short term, 

A study took Forty inactive men (65-82 years) were randomly assigned to one of four groups: control, low-intensity resistance exercise, moderate-intensity resistance exercise, and high-intensity resistance exercise. Results show REE (Resting Energy Expenditure) increased in all groups at 12 h in an intensity-dependent manner, REE reached baseline after 48 h in the low- and moderate-intensity groups and after 72 h in the high-intensity group (8.)

Benefit Two, Resistance Training builds muscle which in the long term increases metabolism. You might have read somewhere that every extra pound of muscle you gain you will burn an extra 50- 100 calories per day, This is sadly untrue. The resting metabolic rate of skeletal muscle clocks in at just 6 calories per pound, with fat burning just 2 calories per pound (9,10)

So whilst it doesn’t burn a significant amount of calories it’s still burning more calories than Fat will.

Guideline 2 – Eat Plenty of Protein

As discussed before Protein has many benefits especially when Adaptive Thermogenesis (AT) has kicked in, Protein helps offset the effects of AT preserving muscle mass whilst losing fat mass. Aim for a minimum of 1g of Protein per pound of body weight.

Reverse dieting has another use worth mentioning, though, and that’s for continuing to increase your energy expenditure well beyond what would be your normal TDEE.

The procedure is simple: continue raising your daily calorie intake every 7 to 10 days for as long as you’d like. In terms of macronutrients, you can continue to raise your carb intake but eventually you just can’t possibly eat more carbs, at which point you start increasing your fat intake instead.

It’s an effective way to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat storage (11.)

To Conclude 

Reverse Dieting is an effective method to keep the body fat off after the original diet has finished. You slowly increase Calorie intake back up to maintenance to prevent excessive fat gain. You can take this beyond maintenance if you want to gain  extra muscle without excessive fat (Note, You will gain some fat by taking calories beyond baseline.) Whilst cutting calories keep protein high whilst cutting carbs and fat & continue to keep protein high whilst reverse dieting to help preserve Lean body mass.


  1. Priya Sumithran, M.B., B.S., Luke A. Prendergast, Ph.D., Elizabeth Delbridge, Ph.D., Katrina Purcell, B.Sc., Arthur Shulkes, Sc.D., Adamandia Kriketos, Ph.D., and Joseph Proietto, M.B., B.S., Ph.D.N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1597-1604 October 27, 2011
  2. Eastham R, Why You’re Not Losing & Might Actually be Gaining Weight Whilst Dieting & Exercising. 2017
  3. Eastham R The Benefits and Drawbacks of Calories Counting a Nutritional Approach. 2017
  4. Poliquin Editorial Staff How to use Reverse Dieting for Better Body Composition (07/2017)
  5. Hulmi, J., et al. The effects of intensive weight reduction on body composition and serum hormones in female fitness competitors. Frontiers in Physiology. 2016.
  6. Antonio, J., et al. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2014. 11(19). 
  7.  Antonio, J., et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015. 12(39).
  8. Fatouros IG Intensity of resistance exercise determines adipokine and resting energy expenditure responses in overweight elderly individuals. Diabetes Care. 2009 Dec;32(12):2161-7. doi: 10.2337/dc08-1994. Epub 2009 Sep 3.
  9.  Wang, Z., Heshka, S., Zhang, K., Boozer, C.N., & Heymsfield, S.B. (2001). Resting energy expenditure: systematic organization and critique of prediction methods. Obesity Research, 9, 331-336
  10. Wolfe RR. (2006). The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84, 475-482
  11. M Matthew’s The Definitive Guide To Reverse Dieting. Muscle For Life 

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