Reverse dieting is a process of gradually increasing calories with the goal of reducing significant weight gain following a diet. However, some individuals find that reverse dieting actually makes them more hungry rather than less hungry.
Will reverse dieting make you more hungry? Reverse dieting may make you more hungry initially as your body works to regulate your hunger hormones that may have been suppressed due to prolonged or intense dieting, but the increased hunger should diminish over time.
To understand why you may be more hungry when reverse dieting and to help reduce this hunger, you need to know how reverse dieting impacts your hunger hormones.
After reading this article, you’ll learn:
- What hunger changes others have observed with reverse dieting
- What the link is between hunger and reverse dieting
- Why you might feel more hungry when reverse dieting
- Why you might NOT feel hungry while reverse dieting
Reports of Reverse Dieting Hunger
Reverse dieting hunger seems to be a common theme among those who are reverse dieting. Many people have sought out answers on online forums for whether their increased hunger while reverse dieting is normal.
Here’s what reverse dieters on Reddit are saying:
- “has anyone done a reverse diet and felt hungry as they kept increasing their calories? I basically shot my metabolism in the foot by yoyo dieting and eating at about 1000 calories for the last 1.5-2 years. So I’m trying to increase my caloric intake.”
- “dropping by to say I’m new to reverse dieting and, yes, I’m hungrier than I was before. Beforehand, I could eat between 1300-1700 calories a day and feel satisfied. Now, eating below 1700 makes me ravenous.”
Based on these comments you can see that many people experience more hunger once they start reverse dieting.
What these people have in common is that they were all previously eating very low calories compared to their normal intake.
Reverse Diet & Hunger: Is There A Link?
Reverse dieting and hunger are linked because the gradual increase in food and the corresponding increase in metabolism over time will impact how hungry you feel based on changes in hunger hormones and the rate at which you’re burning calories.
When you are consuming lower calories, over time your ghrelin hormone (which is your hunger hormone) will increase because your body wants you to consume more food to provide it with the energy it needs. Therefore, when ghrelin increases, you feel more hungry.
Then there is leptin, a satiety hormone that signals to your body that enough food is coming in so it can stop sending hunger signals with ghrelin. When leptin is higher, you will feel more satisfied.
Some people find that they are hungrier when reverse dieting and some people find that they aren’t hungry at all when they reverse diet. Those who are more hungry are likely experiencing an increase in ghrelin, whereas those who are not hungry are likely experiencing an increase in their leptin levels.
Reverse dieting seems to have a different effect on leptin and ghrelin for different people. This could be related to the length of time someone spends in a calorie deficit and how aggressively they were dieting.
I’m Feeling More Hungry In My Reverse Diet: Is This Normal?
It’s normal for some people to feel more hungry when they reverse diet. If you’ve been in a calorie deficit for an extended period, your hunger signals were most likely skewed.
When you’re ignoring your hunger signals for so long, they can become less regulated than they should be.
Therefore, once you reverse diet and start increasing your calories, your body recognizes that more food is coming in. In an effort to get you to eat more, it may increase its ghrelin hormone and cause you to be hungrier.
The good news about an increase in appetite as you go through a reverse diet is that it could mean that your body is already burning calories more readily and your metabolism is speeding up.
That being said, it’s hard to judge whether your metabolism is speeding up solely based on your hunger cues because they probably aren’t very accurate after having been ignored for so long.
Over time, you’ll be able to tell if the reverse diet is working based on the changes you see in your body composition and weight.
Are you reverse dieting properly?
Other Reasons You Feel Hungry
You may feel more hungry reverse dieting if you’re:
- Not eating enough protein
- Not balancing out your meals
- Experiencing extreme hunger because of low body fat percentages
You’re Not Eating Enough Protein
Protein is the most satiating nutrient. Therefore, if you’re not consuming enough protein throughout the day when you’re reverse dieting, you may notice that you’re more hungry.
By increasing your protein intake with larger servings or simply including it more regularly throughout the day, you will probably notice that you aren’t as hungry as you were previously.
Protein increases satiety because it suppresses your ghrelin hormone (that makes you feel hungry) and therefore increases your satiety for longer periods.
For ideas on how to increase your protein intake, check out 50g Protein Meal: 15 Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner.
You’re Not Balancing Out Your Meals
If your meals aren’t balanced with sufficient amounts of proteins, carbs, fats, and fruit or veggies, they won’t be as satisfying and could cause you to have more intense cravings.
This is often demonstrated by those who aren’t eating enough carbs to provide their body with energy. When carbs aren’t consumed in sufficient quantities, it is observed that cravings for sugary or salty snacks increase.
If you need help increasing your carbs, check out these 4:1 carb to protein ratio meals.
You’re Experiencing Extreme Hunger
If you’re experiencing ravenous hunger while reverse dieting, it could be related to the fact that your body fat percentage is dangerously low and your body is sending extreme hunger signals as a protective mechanism.
If you’re experiencing extreme hunger and your body fat percentage is very low, then reverse dieting may not actually be the best option for you.
It may be better to take an “all in” approach so that you’re not white-knuckling it to stick to the reverse diet and you’re restoring your body fat percentage to a healthier range as soon as possible.
To learn more about how reverse dieting and the all in approach are different, check out my other article Reverse Dieting vs All In: Differences & Which Is Best For You.
What To Do If You’re Reverse Dieting & NOT Hungry?
If you’re reverse dieting and you’re not hungry, then there’s not necessarily anything you need to do differently.
If you’re able to increase your calories over time without large fluctuations in your body weight, the reverse diet is working and the fact that you’re not hungrier is a blessing.
If you’re not able to increase your calories without large fluctuations in your body weight and you’re not hungry, you may need to evaluate whether you’re increasing your calories too quickly and not giving your body time to adjust to the increase or if you even need to reverse diet.
I cover more signs that you may need to end your reverse diet in When Should I Stop Reverse Dieting? (5 Signs).
Other Reasons You Are NOT Feeling Hungry
You may not feel hungry while reverse dieting if your:
- Protein intake is sufficient
- Meals are balanced
- Leptin levels have increased
Your Protein Intake Is Sufficient
If your protein intake is sufficient and spread evenly throughout the day, you may not feel hungry because protein is extremely satiating.
A general rule of thumb for protein intake is to consume around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, if I weigh 165 lbs, my ideal protein intake would be 165 grams.
Additionally, consuming protein throughout the day at regular intervals is more satisfying than consuming it all at once. If you’re consuming all of your protein at the end of the day, it won’t help with the hunger you’ve been experiencing all day up to that point.
Your Meals Are Balanced
If your meals are balanced out with sufficient quantities of proteins, carbs, fats, and fruits or veggies then you may not be as satisfied.
Observations have been made in the past about increased cravings being associated with nutritional deficiencies. It is suggested that when your body isn’t getting all of the nutrients it needs to function optimally, cravings for those specific foods increase.
While there is no evidence to support these claims, we do know that mental satisfaction is important to reduce cravings, so including all foods is still recommended so you aren’t feeling restricted.
Not every meal you consume has to be balanced. If you’re balancing out 80% of your weekly meals, you will likely be getting enough of each nutrient to fulfill your body’s requirements and feel mentally satisfied as well.
Your Leptin Levels Have Increased
If you’re noticing that you aren’t as hungry as you were before starting your reverse diet, it could be related to an increase in your satiety hormone, leptin.
Leptin is most responsive to increases in carbohydrates. If your consumption of carbohydrates has increased while reverse dieting, it’s likely that your leptin levels have also increased, leading to increased satiety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will Reverse Dieting Make Me Less Hungry?
Over time, reverse dieting will make you less hungry. But when you first start reverse dieting, you may notice that you’re more hungry than you were previously. This is normal and will regulate itself as you continue on with the reverse dieting process.
How Can I Stop Feeling Hungry While Reverse Dieting?
The best thing you can do to stop feeling hungry while reverse dieting is to increase your protein intake, spread it evenly throughout the day, and balance out your meals. The hunger may be more intense initially but will go away as your body regulates its hunger hormones.
Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone
It’s not unusual to feel hungry while reverse dieting, but there are some great strategies you can implement to improve said hunger. If you’re not hungry while reverse dieting, there’s not necessarily an issue — you might just be one of the lucky ones!
Other Reverse Diet Resources
- Reverse Dieting vs Calorie Deficit: 3 Differences
- Can You Build Muscle On A Reverse Diet? Yes, Here’s Why & How
- Reverse Dieting Without Exercise: Is It Okay?
- Reverse Diet Weight Gain: What Can You Expect?
- Reverse Dieting & Cardio: 4 Rules To Follow
- How To Reverse Diet Without Counting Calories (6 Steps)
- Is Reverse Dieting The Same As Bulking? No, Here’s Why
- When To Start Reverse Dieting (5 Signs To Know)
- Who Should (And Should NOT) Do Reverse Dieting?
About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.