Reverse Diet Results: Before & After

Eating More While Staying Lean After Cutting

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: June 6, 2024

If you’re at the end of a cutting phase, you’re probably feeling hungry and burned out. I know it’s tempting to throw in the towel and eat whatever you want.

The problem is that increasing your calorie intake too fast makes you gain excess fat.

That’s where reverse dieting comes in. It can help you ramp up your calories and metabolism while staying lean.

In this article, I’m going to share my real reverse diet results and show you exactly what I did. Then, I’ll give you a blueprint for eating more without getting fat.

Reverse Dieting Results

Reverse Dieting Defined

First, let’s start with some basic definitions just so we’re on the same page.

If you’re new to this process, reverse dieting is a planned transition from a calorie deficit to a calorie balance. So, it’s kind of like the diet after the diet.

The idea is to gradually increase your calorie intake each week so your metabolism has time to adjust. That way, you avoid a big calorie surplus and prevent extra weight gain.

It seems counterintuitive, but when done right, reverse dieting can help you stay lean while getting back to a balanced eating plan.

With that out of the way, let’s look at a reverse diet case study.

Reverse Diet Chart

My Reverse Diet Process

I recently completed a five-month cut and lost 30 pounds. With a body transformation like this, I didn’t want all that hard work to go to waste.

So, I followed a structured reverse diet to maintain my physique while getting out of the calorie deficit.

Reverse Diet After Cutting

Within a few weeks, I was in a slight calorie surplus and barely gained any body fat.

Next, I’m going to share exactly what I did each week while reverse dieting. Including my actual calorie intake, workout routine, and body composition.

If you’d rather watch and listen, you can learn everything you need to know about reverse dieting in this 7-minute video. Click HERE to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more educational videos!

Tracking Calories In & Out

Throughout this process, I monitored my energy balance by logging my food in a calorie-counting app and tracking my daily calories burned with my Apple Watch and Oura ring.

At the end of the cutting phase, I was burning 3,000 calories per day and eating about 2,500 calories on average. That means I was in a 500-calorie or 17% deficit, which is pretty moderate.

But since I had been dieting for 5 months, I didn’t want to jump right back to eating 3,000 calories.

Measuring Body Composition

I also weighed myself every morning and took the 7-day average to minimize daily variation. Then, I used an InBody scanner and skin fold calipers to check my body fat percentage a few times per week. Again, I took the average of those measurements to track my body composition.

I even logged all this data in a huge spreadsheet I’ve been keeping for over 10 years. But don’t worry—you won’t have to do all this. I went to these lengths to show you how reverse dieting works.

My Reverse Diet Process

My Reverse Diet Results

The starting point of the reverse diet was the end of the cut. My final weight was 165 pounds, with 6.7% body fat. I’m guessing my body fat was slightly higher than that, but I just reported the measurements and checked if it went up or down.

For the first week of the reverse diet, I increased my calorie intake by 200, equivalent to adding 50 grams of carbs. I continued lifting weights six days a week but cut back on my cardio workouts, so I burned about 200 fewer calories per day.

Reverse Diet Calorie Balance

My actual calorie balance throughout the reverse diet.

That’s a 400-calorie swing right out of the gate. But my 7-day average weight only went up by 1/10th of a pound. And that was probably from extra food in my stomach and glycogen in my muscles.

My body fat may have actually decreased, which is entirely possible since I was still in a small deficit.

Based on these results, I kept the same energy balance for the second week of the reverse diet. Again, my weight went up .1 pounds and my body fat only changed by a fraction of a percent.

In the third week, I increased my calories by another 100, so my energy balance was at the breakeven point. This time, my average weight went up 2/10ths of a pound, and I saw a possible uptick in body fat.

After three weeks, I was at my maintenance calories, which is the end goal of a reverse diet. However, I decided to maintain this energy balance for several more weeks to let my metabolism stabilize.

Table 1. My Reverse Diet Body Composition Change

Week Avg Weight Body Fat
0 165.4 lbs 6.66%
1 165.5 lbs 6.50%
2 165.6 lbs 6.87%
3 165.8 lbs 7.00%
4 167.3 lbs 6.87%
5 167.3 lbs 6.55%
Total Change +1.9 lbs -0.11%

Reverse Diet Before and After

Here are the before and after pictures. I just grabbed some stills from my progress update videos and lined them up as best I could.

It’s not perfect because the lighting is slightly different, but it’s close enough to compare.

Reverse Diet Before and After Results

With this reverse diet I was able to eat more while maintaining my conditioning. It looks like I even gained a little muscle! I mean, I’d say the results speak for themselves.

The thing that stands out most to me is that my muscles look noticeably fuller after the reverse diet. That’s because I was eating about 100 grams more carbs per day, some of which get stored as glycogen in the muscles.

I will say I might be a little smoother here due to some extra body water and maybe a little fat starting to come back in the lower abdomen.

After 5 weeks of reverse dieting, I gained a total of 1.9 pounds, with minimal (if any) fat gain.

After the reverse diet, I continued with about a 5% calorie surplus, which I would consider a body recomposition phase. You might also call this main gaining, where you can slowly build muscle with minimal fat gain.

A few months later, I transitioned to a lean bulk phase, targeting a 10% calorie surplus.

Reverse Diet Expectations & Misconceptions

I’ve done several reverse diets over the years, and I’ll be the first to tell you that they’re not always this fast or straightforward.

It’s important to understand that the longer or more aggressive your diet, the more gradual and challenging your reverse diet will be.

Reverse Diet Difficulty Chart

For example, I’ve had bodybuilding coaches put me in a 1,200-calorie deficit for weeks at a time. It then took me months to reverse the metabolic and hormonal damage.

The first few weeks of that reverse diet were actually harder than the contest prep. I had extreme hunger and food cravings, so it took a lot of discipline to stick to my plan.

At the same time, I stressed over every ounce of body fat and water weight I gained. And that can really mess with your head.

Just remember, the goal of a reverse diet is not to burn fat. It’s about mitigating fat gain and setting yourself up for a better physique in the offseason.

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Not to mention, it’s much better than the alternative of putting on 20 pounds in a week if you went on a binge eating spree (which I’ve done).

So, even a modest reverse diet will pay you back in the long run if you’re willing to put in the effort.

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