Yesterday, someone in a forum asked me a very interesting question.
“I have been eating 600 calories or less for a whole year now. I want to reverse my diet according to my BMR 1200. What should I do? I am facing a medical problem because of the low calories lifestyle.”
Well, maybe I can help you expand on how to never get to this point where you face more health problems than benefits.
First, here’s the answer I gave her:
It’s great you’re looking to do a reverse diet, but it shouldn’t be to your BMR.
BMR is just part of the equation… as you need to take into account your Exercise Activity (EA) – yes, even if you don’t do any type of exercise.
BMR x EA = TDEE (TDEE is what’s your maintenance calories).
That’s the number you should go look for when reverse dieting (and in general, not BMR alone).
But for you to know your EA, we can summarize it into 3 different categories:
- Multiply your BMR by 1.2 if you have a sedentary lifestyle and don’t workout
- Multiply your BMR by 1.55 if you have a sedentary lifestyle but you work out about 5 times per week with some type of resistance training.
- Multiply by 1.9 if you are constantly moving and have a physically demanding job + you work out with resistance training for at least 5 days a week.
That being said…
Reverse dieting comes to a matter of how much can you tolerate gaining weight.
Will you gain a lot? Not at all.
Plus, you’d be looking at this for the short term rather than the long term. Because if you were to add 3–5 pounds (it could be more or less), you will be in a much greater position to lose that weight without having to go very low on calories – as you’d be eating your maintenance calories.
But don’t think you’ll be gaining weight (that’s the expected).
Many people (and I include myself in this group) have actually lost more weight when doing reverse dieting.
It’s counterintuitive to what we would expect and there is no clear way to know why this happens in some people, but you don’t have to get too caught up in that.
The goal of reverse dieting is to increase your calories to your maintenance calories.
Doing it in a way you don’t gain much weight is part of the process, yet not the main outcome of this.
I’d recommend you to start adding 3–5% of your current calories every week until you get to your maintenance calories (remember, not your BMR… but your TDEE).
So as you’re currently eating 600kcal per day, a 5% increase (chose the higher end at the beginning to get you eating more sustainable calories), you will be at 630kcal per day… next week, you can try at 661kcal.
If you start gaining more weight than you’d want to, start using the lower range (which would be 3%). And even then, don’t think that if you’re gaining some weight you’re maximizing your current calories.
If anything, go slow…
but don’t stop until you reach your maintenance calories.
And when you’re done with your reverse dieting, the best part is that you’ll be in a better position to maintain your weight… and if you decide to go for a fat loss phase, you’d be in a much greater position to successfully do it and without having to go that low on calories.
If you want more help with this or have some questions, you can either check out my website (I give a Cheatsheet as a Bonus where I tell you exactly how much you should eat) or contact me directly via email.
I’m glad to help you out if I can.
If we add that doing a reverse diet is something everyone should do (when you fall in the 3 categories), then you’re going to see that you can keep off those pounds you lost while eating more.
As with any other diet, you need to treat it as such… unless you want to screw up all the progress you’ve made.
Because even when you’re adding calories (in a controlled matter), when you do things wrong you can easily add a couple of pounds of weight.
Sure, you might actually gain some pounds (in theory, you’re eating more than your current maintenance), but…
even if you were to gain them, you’d be able to lose them without much effort as your calories now would be way higher than what they are when you’re done with a diet.
Which one is more likely to not feel like dieting?
A man who is eating 1,400kcal a day while doing 4-5 hours of cardio per week… or a man who’s at 2,500kcal a day while doing 15 min of cardio per week?
The second option will be much easier to stick to it while not having to be so restrictive, yet…
he would just need to cut ~500kcal a day and would start losing weight in a matter of days.
So hopefully this helps you know when you should do a reverse diet and the reason why you’re doing it.
If you want to get more daily email tips like this as well as the 3-quick “tweaks” that can help you multiply the fat you lose when doing a caloric deficit, then you’re gonna want to sign up below to get these:
Ivan @ Fitnessthetic