What is a 'reverse diet' and can it help you to maintain your goal weight?

  • Have you lost weight successfully but quickly gained it back?
  • While a calorie deficit results in weight loss, it might be hard to maintain 
  • Reverse dieting isn't scientifically backed, but could be a way to safely introduce more calories into your diet

With so many diets out there, it can be confusing what to do to lose weight. But for many dieters, an even bigger challenge is to avoid regaining the kilos.   

Reverse dieting can be described as a “diet after a diet” and is something that has become popular among bodybuilders and professional athletes, allowing them to increase the amount they eat while maintaining their weight and body composition.

Many people believe that reverse dieting could be a strategy to ease back into eating more calories after a restrictive period. But does this work?

A calorie deficit and adding back calories

The fundamentals of losing weight revolve around burning more calories than you consume. Over time, your metabolism adapts to the decreased amount of energy you consume by slowing down. This is why we often reach plateaus and struggle to lose more weight after an initial quick loss.

Many people struggle to maintain their new weight when they quickly increase their caloric intake. But reverse dieting allows you to slowly increase your calorie intake by about 50 to 100 calories for four to ten weeks.

This may help boost your metabolism and help your body burn more calories without additional exercise, but there is currently no concrete scientific evidence that this is what happens.

How could reverse dieting work?

While the evidence is lacking, there are other reasons why reverse dieting could be effective in helping you maintain a post-diet weight.

When someone becomes used to controlling their calories to lose weight, they may feel "out of control" as soon as they reach their target weight and start eating “normally” again. By slowly adding back calories, it would allow you to feel in control.

Reverse dieting can also slowly help to ease someone back into eating more without being too restrictive, and reduce the fear of quickly regaining weight.

Slowly increasing your calories after being in a caloric deficit may also help balance your hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin, although there are as yet no studies to back up this theory.

The bottom line

Even though reverse dieting may be a sound practical tactic to increase calories and going back to “normal” without overdoing it, experts state that weight loss is so much more than only calories – other lifestyle factors and the quality of your overall nutrition should also be taken into account.  

If you want to lose weight in a healthy way, adapted to your lifestyle and needs, we suggest you contact our team of registered dietitians at Nutritional Solutions.

Not only will they help you reach your goal, but will also assist you in maintaining your weight and creating a sustainable, healthy lifestyle without too many restrictions.

READ | I need to lose weight. Where do I start? 

READ | Why maintaining weight loss requires more than willpower 

READ | The 7 simplest weight loss strategies you'll ever find 

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 1653 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
52% - 8600 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 5624 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 537 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.