Executing a Reverse Diet immediately after Contest Prep can go a long way to set your next Contest Prep under more favorable conditions. Doing so you can increase your rate of muscle gain while keeping body fat accumulation down. This can have a very positive effect on increasing your Metabolic Rate while decreasing the amount of time it will take to regain muscle loss due to prep. In addition, it can help restore hormone function much quicker, and decrease the time of your next Contest Prep.
However, doing it wrong (or not Reverse Dieting at all) can have a dramatically negative affect on just about everything. The rate of muscle gain/re-gain can be diminished while increasing your metabolism at a much slower rate. In addition, body fat accumulation increases at a rapid rate making your next Contest Prep more difficult. Not to mention, binging can become a serious problem that can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.
REVERSE DIETING MISINFORMATION
There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to starting your Reverse Diet coming off Contest Prep. Some common mistakes as a blanket statement are:
- Increase calories by 50-100 every week.
- Increase calories by 10 every day until you are at maintenance or desired weight.
- Increase calories by 250/500 initally then 250 every week after that until you are at maintenance or desired weight.
- Use Cheat Meals to help with hunger.
The list goes on and on. But what makes these and so many other methods incorrect? They are all set to a fixed number and on autopilot. The problem is that our metabolism is not on autopilot. Our metabolism needs to be pushed by increasing calories appropriately based on individual response. What works for one may not work for another.
Think of our metabolisms like a snowflake…each one works differently, and each response is different. In fact, you will probably respond differently each time you go through a Reverse Diet.
REVERSE DIETING POST CONTEST PREP
First off, let’s be clear. When we are talking about a Reverse Diet as it relates to competitors, we are talking about following a methodology that will maximize the increase of our Metabolic Rate while keeping body fat gain at an acceptable level. The goal is to get our Metabolic Rate at a high enough level to maintain an effective and efficient Contest Prep. Preferably in a better position each time. (Pictured Left: Team USA Physique NQ Bikini Competitor Diana Lagunas)
We do not just want results. We should be striving for OPTIMAL results.
Executing a Reverse Diet, especially after a show, is not something that can be pre-programmed or a specific 4, 6, 12, 16-week plan etc. It is an individual process that is based on week to week (in some cases, day to day) progress. Intitially, it takes into account your weekly Rate of Loss (ROL) the last few weeks of Contest Prep PRIOR to peak week. That data will be used to determine your initial increase of calories, and potentially, a redistribution of your macro ratios. Then, you must consider the amount of cardio you are doing and reduce that appropriately in order to keep your weekly goals in check.
When you are in Contest Prep and losing weight, you are in a calorie deficit. In other words, you are consuming less calories than your body is using on a daily basis. When you add calories in, you reduce the deficit. Similarly, when you reduce cardio, you reduce the deficit. Both must be accounted for appropriately.
- Do it correctly and you can get into a great position of increasing your Metabolic Rate while still leaning out a bit. This is essentially the same position as getting stage lean and transitioning to a Reverse Diet into the show by way of the Fourth and Fifth Phase of the Five Phases of Contest Prep.
- A little more calories, or a further reduction in cardio, or both and you end up at maintenance. In this position you increase your Metabolic Rate while staying at or around the same weight.
- Add in even more calories, or a further reduction in cardio, or both. Now you end up in a small surplus which is fine because we do want to add weight back on at an appropriate ROG. In addition, doing it this way you will maximize muscle gain (well you are just regaining your “lost” muscle initially) which will get you in a true building position quicker, thus maximizing gains during the time you are in offseason.
- Add in too many calories (or too fast), or a further reduction in cardio (or too much), and you risk getting into a situation where weight gain becomes out of control, which can lead to uncontrollable hunger and binging as Ghrelin (the hormone that increases our appetite) increases. This is a typical response when our bodies get a big dose of food, especially with consecutive high calorie feedings. The result, hunger skyrockets and this is how you see people putting on 5,10, 20 and more lbs. within a month or so. A large majority of the weight gain is going to be body fat, and in many cases…the person ends up with more body fat than they started with.
PREPARING YOUR REVERSE DIET
The first thing you need to establish is your weekly Rate of Gain (ROG) which is how much weight you should put on initially. 1lb a week the first couple of weeks or so is fine in most cases. And if you adhere to your macros and do it right, most of the weight will just be your muscles filling up with glycogen and little to no body fat accumulated. (Pictured Right: Team USA Physique IFBB Pro Bailey Guiterrez))
Once you have established your weekly ROG goal try adding about 10-15% to the calories you were consuming BEFORE you started peak week. Give it about 7-10 days, observe, evaluate, then adjust if necessary to meet your established weekly ROG goal. If you are within that goal, a consecutive increase of about 40 to 60 calories spread between carbs and fats will usually do the trick. If weight gain increases, do not adjust until weight levels off. Keep repeating that process until you are at your desired offseason weight.
If you end up going over your ROG goal, then hold steady for a while. Sometimes you may adjust once a week, sometimes more. Don’t be alarmed if you go 2, 3 or even more weeks without an increase. Adjustments are based on your individual progress, not a fixed linear path.
USING REFEED DAYS OR CHEAT MEALS
Coming off Contest Prep you are very vulnerable to rapidly putting on excessive weight as your body fights to get back to homeostasis. Because body fat accumulation is easy (where muscle takes much more time) most of the rapid gain will be body fat. This is a common problem that so many competitors fall victim to after stepping off the stage. You have probably heard stories of competitors gaining all their weight back very quickly. In many cases, more body fat than before starting their previous Contest Prep. When calories go unchecked and additional calories are not based on the competitors response, this happens.
The reason is simple; every calorie matters. If you need a couple of days where you need more food as sort of a “Diet Break”, that is fine. It is best to use a “Refeed Day” rather than a “Cheat Day/Meal.”
A Refeed Day is a single day (or two) in which overall calories are higher than other days during the week. Usually calories are raised by increasing your carbohydrates. The data tells us that out of carbs, proteins and fats, raising your carbohydrates has a greater positive effect on thyroid and leptin hormones. When you schedule your refeed day in the week, you will need to reduce the other days to keep your total calories for the week the same.
I encourage you to avoid Cheat Days or Cheat Meals at all costs, especially during this vulnerable stage.
A Cheat Day (or cheat meal) is typically a time when a competitor thinks it is okay to eat whatever they want without restriction. The problem with this method is that ALL CALORIES COUNT and your weight decreases or increases based on the number or calories you consume. Since Cheat Days/Meals have no restrictions, you can easily go overboard resulting in an instant increase in your rate of gain with this philosophy…and it is mostly likely going to be body fat.
Our metabolism does not go up in a linear path, it goes up and levels off in phases and everyone’s trend is different. Reverse Diet plans that are based on individual responses are far superior to cookie-cutter plans based on generic scheduled increases with set amounts of calories evidenced by the large numbers of competitors who lose control of their weight coming off of Contest Prep. This is precisely why each person should be monitored and guided differently. Just like workout programs and nutrition plans, your Reverse Diet plan should be individually based, monitored, and adjusted based on your individual progress.