Rolling back age with the elixir of youth is the stuff of both sci-fi and myth. Reverse dieting is the oxymoron, which means eating calories to manage weight. Dr Shikha Mahajan, Holistic Nutritionist and Founder of Diet Podium, says, "As this diet allows you to eat more, you have more energy levels and also feel less hungry. It completely changes the mindset of ‘dieting means starving’."
Experts believe that even during a successful diet run, there comes a time when the progress plateaus, in layman’s terms, this far and no further. But if you are dieting with the help of a gradual increase in your calorie intake over a long period of time, chances are that long-term results are going to be more fruitful. They recommend that to gain maximum benefit, one should build up calorie intake gradually—50-100 calories per week. "It gives the body time to adjust to a particular metabolism rate before you tax it with more,' says Delhi-based nutritionist Kavya Sinha.
Earlier popular only with body-builders and athletes, as well as actors, reverse dieting is now gaining ground as the go-to long-term solution to weight management. One study describes reverse dieting as
"...providing a small caloric surplus (to) help restore circulating hormone levels and energy expenditure toward pre-diet values, while closely matching energy intake to the recovering metabolic rate in an effort to reduce fat accretion."
Generally those who diet frequently, tend to cut out calories. Experts argue that the moment one cuts down on calories, the brain realises that the body is not getting enough food to process into fat needed to function. So it signals the metabolism to slow down and start storing food.
When that happens, naturally fewer calories are burnt. So despite eating less, there is more fat gain. Exponents of the reverse dieting trend stress that with more calorie intake, you end up fooling the body to get used to more food and letting the metabolism break that down, thus cutting down on fat.
But not all foods work. Kavya suggests avoiding foods rich in fat, but to include foods with omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts in the diet. "Like Keto, make sure you get your daily protein fix. Go for eggs, poultry and plant-based legumes. In fact, you can also opt for complex carbs," she says.
Whole grains and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes are what she recommends, in addition to a good dose of fruits and vegetables.The stress in this diet is not to change your body.
It aims to work on your metabolism and then let your metabolism do the rest of the job. "It is a method of diet to maintain body weight and energy level. It may seem to be easy but it is very difficult to practice," says Shikha, adding that the diet being so strict becomes difficult to execute as one has to constantly monitor calorie intake. And since the diet is still evolving and there is not much research done on it yet, one cannot really say how effective or ineffective it is.
You will not be hungry all the time as you eat more
No drastic measures. You complete your diet journey at your own pace.
It may not work for non-athletes as not everyone is into a targeted weight gain followed by loss, or vice versa
It requires very strict calorie monitoring and so could be hard to follow
There is hardly any research on this and, hence, it gets difficult to follow, especially for amateurs
The Reverse Dictionary
It stands for total daily energy expenditure. It roughly translates into the total energy that a person uses in a day. TDEE is hard to measure accurately and varies day to day and from person to person. Generally, it is estimated using factors such as a person’s basal metabolic rate, activity level, and the thermic effect of food. Calculating the correct TDEE helps one arrive at the right amount of calorie needed to function in a day.
While TDEE is about energy expenditure, basal metabolic rate is the total number of calories that your body needs to perform basic, life-sustaining functions. These basic functions include circulation, breathing, cell production, nutrient processing, protein synthesis, and ion transport; things for which you do not have to expend extra energy. You can easily calculate the basal metabolic rate using a mathematical formula.
One step at a time
Calculate calories From carbs, protein to fat, calculate the exact amount you need everyday to maintain your ideal weight.
Identify your target
The faster you increase calories, the higher the chances of gaining fat. So strategise intake of calories in such a way that muscle gain is more than fat gain.
Once you are done identifying your target, start adding calories, once every five to seven days. The ideal is the ‘five percent rule’.
Track your progress
It is the most important thing. Unless you rigorously track your weight gain process, chances are that you will end up gaining a mass of fat, when all you wanted probably was some muscle.
Know when to stop
Of course, this depends entirely on your goal. But then again, your goal post may shift too. Experts suggest it is best to go one step at a time, gain some, then push for more.