Reverse Dieting vs All In: Differences & Which Is Best For You?

Reverse dieting and going all-in are both widely used approaches to increase food intake following a period of time when calories were restricted, but the way they accomplish this is very different and therefore yields different overall results.

What is the difference between reverse dieting vs all in? While reverse dieting and the all-in diet both involve increasing calories, the main difference is that reverse dieting is a controlled increase in food intake, whereas going all-in is an unrestricted increase. Reverse dieting aims to reduce fat gain while increasing calories, while the all-in diet expects fat gain. 

To understand which method of increasing your caloric intake is best for you, you need to know the pros and cons of each approach and understand the differences between them.

After reading this article you’ll learn:

  • What reverse dieting is and how to do it
  • What going “all in” is and how to do it
  • The differences between reverse dieting and going all-in

Overview: Reverse Diet vs All In

Reverse dieting and going all are the same in that they both aim to increase the amount of food that a person is eating to put an end to low-calorie dieting. 

When you eat fewer calories than your body needs for an extended amount of time, your body will naturally prompt you to eat more food by increasing your hunger signals, increasing your preoccupation with food in an attempt to restore your body fat levels to a normal range.

Both reverse dieting and all in can be used as a method to restore body fat to healthier levels by increasing the amount of food that you are eating, which will also result in less preoccupation with food and decreased hunger levels.

What Is Reverse Dieting?

Reverse dieting is a gradual increase in calories over time with the goal of eating more food while minimizing fat gain. The theory of reverse dieting is that by increasing your calories over time, your metabolism will speed up by burning more calories

When calories are increased gradually, the body starts burning calories at a similar rate to which we are increasing calories, meaning that weight gain will be negligible (depending on our approach) or at least controlled.

What Is All In?

All in is committing to eat until full satiety without restrictions in an attempt to fix extreme hunger, repair one’s relationship with food, and restore body fat percentages to a healthy range.

All in was popularized as an eating disorder recovery protocol by Stephanie Buttermore who documented her “all in” journey to repair her extreme hunger and preoccupation with food on YouTube.

Stephanie stated that she decided to go all in because she wanted the issues she was having to be resolved quickly and the reverse dieting approach wasn’t working for her because she was unable to stick to a more gradual increase due to her extreme hunger.

Differences Between Reverse Dieting vs All In 

differences between reverse dieting vs all in

The 3 differences between reverse dieting and all in are:

  • Reverse dieting has a framework for calorie increases, whereas all-in does not
  • Reverse dieting adjusts calories by your ‘fat gain preference’, whereas you can’t control your fat gain while going all-in
  • Reverse dieting is a longer process, whereas all-in is a shorter process

Let’s dig into each of these concepts further. 

Framework

The framework for reverse dieting is to slowly increase calories over time by strategically monitoring changes in calorie consumption and how that impacts changes in your body weight. Reverse dieting is therefore more of a step-by-step process. 

Whereas going all-in has no framework other than eating to satiety, which is based on listening to your body. It also does not use changes in body weight for feedback on how to proceed, as it is not a step-by-step process.

Fat Gain Potential

With reverse dieting, you have control over how much fat you’re comfortable gaining by adjusting calories week-to-week. This helps you to increase the amount of food you’re eating without putting on more weight than you’re comfortable with.

With the all-in approach, there is no control over how much fat is gained because it is not a systematic increase in calories. You will absolutely gain weight and that may be uncomfortable at first, but if you’re choosing to go all-in then you likely need to gain some body fat to remedy the issues that are going on.

Length Of Process

Reverse dieting is generally a lengthy process, even if you’re choosing to speed things up by making larger increases in calories week-to-week. This is because you’re increasing calories gradually to give your body time to increase its metabolism before you increase your intake again.

The all-in approach is a much faster process because it is not gradual, instead, you go right into eating until satiety. The all-in approach is not restricted in any way, therefore you’re immediately eating more food, and you will restore hormone levels and body fat levels much faster.

Reverse Dieting: What You Need To Know

The gradual increase in calories over time with reverse dieting makes this method a more controlled increase. The benefit of this approach is that fat gain can be moderated if this is something that you are uncomfortable with. 

By taking a slow and steady approach you could increase the amount of food that you’re able to eat with little to no weight gain. 

With reverse dieting, there is also a focus on balancing out your plate with sufficient amounts of carbs, fats, and protein so that the calories you’re adding in are put to good use.

The downsides to reverse dieting are that it is a lengthy process and may not be the best approach for those looking to repair their relationship with food and extreme hunger levels as fast as possible. 

Want to learn whether you should do a reverse diet? Check out my article Who Should & Should NOT Do Reverse Dieting.

How To Reverse Diet

how to reverse diet

The steps to reverse diet are:

Step 1: Determine Current Intake

Step 2: Determine Average Bodyweight

Step 3: Determine Fat Gain Tolerance

Step 4: Increase Intake Accordingly

Step 5: Monitor Progress & Adjust If Necessary

Step 1: Determine Current Intake

The first thing you’ll need to do to reverse diet is to determine how much you’re currently consuming. Without knowing your baseline it’s difficult to determine whether you’re making an appropriate increase in calories.

If you’re not already tracking your macros or calories then I would suggest you start. Ideally, you would track your intake for a week and find out what your average intake looks like. A week is ideal because it gives a more accurate estimate of your current intake.

You can do this using an app like MacroFactor that tracks your macronutrient intake (carbs, fats, protein) and your caloric intake and will show you your weekly average for each of these.

Step 2: Determine Average Bodyweight

Next, you’ll need to determine your current average body weight so that we can determine how much you weigh. Finding an average of your weekly bodyweight is more accurate because it accounts for the fluctuations in bodyweight that occur day-to-day.

In an ideal situation, you would weigh yourself daily for a week to gather 7 different measurements and find the average of them to find your average body weight. 

If a weigh-in every day is intimating for you, then you can weigh in less often but I would suggest getting at least 3 measurements per week to get a more accurate reflection of your current body weight.

Once you have your measurements you can add them all up and then divide the sum by the number of measurements you included. 

For example:
Weigh-in #1: 185
Weigh-in #2: 184.7
Weigh-in #3: 185.5

Average bodyweight: 185 + 184.7 + 185.5 = 555.2 / 3 = 185

Step 3: Determine Fat Gain Tolerance

You will also have to determine your fat gain tolerance, which is reflective of the amount of fat you’re comfortable gaining. Your fat gain tolerance will determine how much you increase your intake week-to-week, which impacts how much potential there is to gain fat as you reverse diet.

If you prefer to limit your fat gain to less than 0.5 lbs per week, then you’ll want to take the slow and steady approach with a Low-Fat Gain Tolerance, which would involve only increasing your intake by 50 calories at a time.

If you’re comfortable with the potential to gain 0.5 – 1 lbs per week because you want to speed up the process while still retaining most of your muscle definition, then you can take a moderate approach with a Moderate Fat Gain Tolerance, which would involve increasing your intake by 100 calories at a time.

If you want to speed up the process as much as possible because you need to gain 1 – 1.5 lbs per week in order to be healthy, then you can take a more aggressive approach with a High-Fat Gain Tolerance, which would involve increasing your intake by 150 calories at a time.

Step 4: Increase Intake Accordingly

Using your current intake and what you’ve selected to be your fat gain tolerance you can increase the amount of food that you’re consuming.

When you increase your calories, it helps to be strategic about where these calories are coming from. If you’re not currently eating 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight then this is where I would recommend using the additional calories.

Protein is a priority because it helps you to retain muscle mass and muscle mass leads to increases in metabolism because it costs your body more energy to build and maintain.

If your protein intake is already at this recommendation then you can alternate the increases in calories to carbs and fats.

To get a more comprehensive overview of how to adjust your macronutrients while reversing dieting, check out my other article Is Reverse Dieting The Same As Bulking? (No, Here’s Why).

The goal then would be to increase your calories and adhere to this increase for a week and monitor the results. Throughout the week you should get at least 3 measures of your body weight so that you can calculate the average change.

Step 5: Monitor Progress & Adjust If Necessary

After increasing your intake for a week, you can monitor how that increase impacted your body weight. You can use the measurements that you collected during the week to calculate your average bodyweight and compare it to the average bodyweight you had calculated the previous week.

If you were within the bodyweight range that you would expect based on your fat gain tolerance, then you can go ahead and make another increase in calories for the upcoming week based on your fat gain tolerance.

If you were under the expected weekly weight gain based on your fat gain tolerance, then you could choose to increase this week by the same amount as last week or increase in a larger increment to speed things up.

If you were over your expected increase based on your fat gain tolerance, you should go another week with this calorie target before increasing again.

pros vs cons of reverse dieting

Pros of Reverse Dieting

The pros of reverse dieting are:

  • Reduces unnecessary weight gain
  • Increases metabolism
  • Prioritizes each nutrient

Cons of Reverse Dieting

The cons of reverse dieting are:

  • Longer process
  • More rigid

Who Should Reverse Diet?

Those who have dieted down to a point where they are no longer able to see progress or are comfortable with where they’re at with their physique should reverse diet. 

These individuals will benefit more from the gradual approach that reverse dieting takes because they will be able to maintain their current physique while eating more calories.

For these individuals, there is likely a desire to stay relatively lean after working so hard to get to their current physique. As long as they can practice patience and adhere to the gradual increases in intake, reverse dieting will give them great body composition results.

Other reverse dieting resources: 

The All In Diet: What You Need To Know

All In is making a consistent effort to eat until satisfied regardless of what it is that is being consumed. The thought is that having the freedom to eat whatever you want without when you want it, will help to regulate hunger and restore your body weight to a set point weight.

The setpoint weight theory suggests that everyone has a bodyweight where their body is most comfortable, and when we try to sway from this bodyweight our body will naturally try to intervene to bring us back to its preferred weight. This is often compared to a thermostat that is trying to keep the room temperature at its set temperature.

When going all in and eating until full satiety without restrictions, there will be significant weight gain because you will be eating more than your body requires (calorie surplus), so this is an expected part of the process. However, after the initial weight gain, it is theorized that the body will eventually regulate itself to return to its set point weight.

How To Go All In

How To Go All In

The only step for going all-in is to start eating to full satiety. 

There is no direction other than eating to the point that you’re satisfied without restriction. There is no guidance for what the food should be, the goal is really to incorporate ALL foods so that you’re able to repair your relationship with food.

This is different from binge eating because with binge eating you are going past the point of being comfortable, but with going all in the goal is to be comfortable.

Pros of The All-In Approach

Pros vs Cons of the All In approach

The pros of going all-in are:

  • Fixes extreme hunger quickly
  • Less rigid
  • Restores body fat to healthy levels efficiently

Cons of The All-In Approach

The cons of going all-in are:

  • Uncomfortable fat patterning initially
  • No guidance for nutrient intake

Who Should Go All In?

Those who are dealing with extreme hunger, food obsession, an eating disorder, or low body fat percentages should go all in. When struggling with any of these issues it is best to increase food immediately so that they can be resolved as fast as possible.

When food restriction has led to any of the issues above there is no point in taking a gradual approach that will be hard to adhere to, therefore going all-in is more realistic.

Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone

Final Thoughts

Reverse dieting and going all-in are both ways to increase food intake to increase your metabolism, improve hormones, and reduce cravings but the timelines and approaches of both of these methods are very different. Choosing the right method depends on whether it makes more sense for you to progress gradually or if you need an immediate change.


About The Author

Amanda Parker
Amanda Parker

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.