Reverse dieting can result in weight gain. However, how much weight we gain can be controlled by how we execute our reverse diet.
So, how much weight can you gain while reverse dieting? The amount of weight you gain while reverse dieting depends on your weight gain tolerance and your timeline. Generally, you can expect to gain between 0 to 12 pounds over 8-12 weeks of reverse dieting.
If you want to limit the amount of weight you gain while reverse dieting you need to know how to adjust your protocol to reflect your weight gain tolerance.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- Whether you’ll gain weight while reverse dieting
- How much weight gain to expect while reverse dieting
- What to do if weight gain is happening too quickly
- What to do if weight gain is slower than necessary
Is There Potential To Gain Weight While Reverse Dieting?
Reverse dieting can result in some weight gain because when we’ve been dieting for an extended period our body stops burning calories as readily to preserve some energy for basic bodily functions.
Because our body isn’t burning calories as readily, the number of calories that it takes for us to maintain our current body weight will be lower. However, we likely cannot survive on lower calories long-term so if we want to maintain this body weight we will have to increase our calories.
If we were to increase our calories back up to what they were before we started dieting, we would absolutely gain much more fat than we want to because our body is burning calories at a slower rate than it used to.
To avoid drastic weight gain after dieting, we need to reverse diet instead.
Reverse dieting refers to incremental increases in calories over time with the goal of increasing our food intake while allowing our body to gradually increase the number of calories that it’s burning so that the increase in calories doesn’t lead to unnecessary fat gain.
Reverse dieting allows us to work with our body so that we’re slowly increasing our food intake over many weeks as our body slowly increases the number of calories it’s burning.
Key takeaway: This process still has the potential to result in weight gain but it does allow us more control over the process than if we didn’t reverse diet at all.
Will You Gain Weight When Reverse Dieting & Is This Okay?
It is not unusual to gain weight while reverse dieting but we do have control over how much weight is gained based on the way we choose to reverse diet.
- If we want to remain at a similar weight while increasing our food intake, then we can increase calories minimally (50 calories at a time per week) to allow the body to adjust to this increase with less potential for weight gain.
- If we are okay with some weight gain but we don’t want a ton, then we could increase our calories by 100 calories at a time (per week) as long as our body isn’t gaining too quickly week-to-week, this speeds up the reverse dieting process without too much weight gain.
- If weight gain is not a concern for us because we need to gain weight anyway (i.e. we’re looking to quickly transition into a bulking phase), then we can increase our calories more readily at 150 calories at a time (per week).
Ultimately we can customize our reverse dieting experience to reflect how much weight we are comfortable gaining. Some individuals who take the slowest approach may not gain any weight at all, but this isn’t something that we should expect because everyone’s body is unique and therefore may respond differently.
Gaining weight may be necessary for our health if we’re reverse dieting from a lower body fat percentage (below 12% for men, below 18% for women). Low body fat can negatively impact our hormonal health if our body isn’t receiving the nutrition it needs and is instead using our muscles and organs for energy.
Reverse dieting is a controlled method for increasing our food intake so that we can maintain most of the results we’ve achieved from dieting, but it is not unusual for some weight gain to occur. However, if we didn’t reverse diet, we would likely regain all the weight we lost very quickly.
So at least with reverse dieting, we are in the driver’s seat for how much weight we gain and we’re working with our body to increase the number of calories we’re burning as we increase our food intake.
To find out how many calories to add in and how to allocate these calories to carbs, fats, and proteins based on your fat gain tolerance, head over to our reverse dieting calculator!
Reverse Diet Weight Gain: How Much Should You Expect?
The amount of weight that we could expect to gain while reverse dieting depends on whether we gain a low-fat gain tolerance, a moderate-fat gain tolerance, or a high-fat gain tolerance.
- If we have a low fat gain tolerance and are only increasing calories by 50 calories at a time, then we can expect to gain between 0-4.8 lbs at most. This is based on the assumption that those with a low tolerance for fat gain will be reverse dieting for 12 weeks and are gaining less than ½ lb per week.
- If we have a moderate fat gain tolerance and are only increasing calories by 100 calories at a time, then we can expect to gain between 5-10 lbs at most. This is based on the assumption that those with a low tolerance for fat gain will be reverse dieting for 10 weeks and are gaining between ½ – 1lb per week.
- If we have a high fat gain tolerance and are increasing calories by 150 calories at a time, then we can expect to gain between 8-12 lbs at most. This is based on the assumption that those with a low tolerance for fat gain will be reverse dieting for 8 weeks and are gaining between 1-1 ½ lbs per week.
These are general estimations for time, but the process could take longer than this depending on how our bodies are responding to the increased calories.
If our weight is changing more than we want for our fat gain tolerance then it will take us longer to reverse diet because we need to ensure that our metabolism is increasing as much as we’re asking it to, which we will determine by monitoring our weight trend.
Don’t want to count calories, but still want to reverse diet? Check out my other article: How To Reverse Diet Without Counting Calories.
What To Do If You’re Gaining Weight Too Fast?
If we’re gaining weight too quickly then we can make smaller increases, wait longer before increasing calories, or decrease calories if necessary.
First, we need to know what to expect for weight gain per week based on our fat gain tolerance.
- Low fat gain tolerance: under ½ lb per week
- Moderate fat gain tolerance: ½ lb – 1 lb per week
- High fat gain tolerance: 1lb – 1 ½ lb per week
If we’re gaining more than these respective amounts then we can decide whether we want to make smaller increases when we do increase our calories, like increasing by 50 calories at a time instead of 100, or 100 instead of 150.
We could also wait longer between increases by increasing bi-weekly instead of weekly, or every three weeks instead of bi-weekly. This decision should be based on how much our body weight is changing every week.
If we increase our calories one week and the next week our bodyweight is up more than we want it to be, then we may go an extra week at these calories to see if our bodyweight continues to trend upwards or if it levels off.
If it levels off we may increase again at the same rate or slightly less. If it continues to increase beyond our comfort levels, then we could decide to decrease our intake slightly so that we’re minimizing fat gain.
What To Do If You’re Gaining Too Slow?
Weight gain likely won’t be too slow if we have a low-fat gain tolerance because the goal is to minimize changes in weight as much as possible.
However, if we have a moderate-to-high fat gain tolerance because we want to reverse diet faster then we may need to make some adjustments.
I would only consider it a concern if we were continuing to lose weight as we increased calories, and we really need to gain weight for our health.
Staying at dangerously low levels of body fat for too long can have negative repercussions, so in this situation, we would absolutely want to make changes so that we didn’t continue to lose weight while reverse dieting.
If this were the case, I would suggest larger increases on a weekly basis until we’re satisfied with the rate at which we’re progressing.
Myths About Reverse Dieting Weight Gain
Reverse Dieting Makes You Lose Weight
Reverse dieting can help us to lose weight in the future by improving the rate at which we’re burning calories but the goal of reverse dieting isn’t weight loss, the goal of reverse dieting is to build your metabolism back up so that weight loss can be effective in the future.
Reverse Dieting Makes You Fat
Although it is normal to have some fluctuation in fat mass while reverse dieting, we are in the driver seat during this process and therefore can adjust our protocol based on how much fat we’re comfortable gaining. It’s not as if following through with a reverse diet will make us obese.
Reverse Diets Aren’t Necessary
Reverse diets are necessary after a period of dieting so that we don’t regain everything that we lost.
If we were to just stop dieting and go back to regular eating right away, we will absolutely gain more weight than we want because our body is used to consuming fewer calories so a large influx of calories will cause weight gain, whereas reverse dieting to higher calories moderates weight gain.
It is normal for reverse diets to result in some weight gain but don’t let this scare you! You are in control of how much weight you are comfortable gaining and can make adjustments as you go to reflect this.
Other Reverse Dieting Resources
Redman LM, Heilbronn LK, Martin CK, de Jonge L, Williamson DA, Delany JP, Ravussin E; Pennington CALERIE Team. Metabolic and behavioral compensations in response to caloric restriction: implications for the maintenance of weight loss. PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4377. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004377. Epub 2009 Feb 9. PMID: 19198647; PMCID: PMC2634841.
Weiss EC, Galuska DA, Kettel Khan L, Gillespie C, Serdula MK. Weight regain in U.S. adults who experienced substantial weight loss, 1999-2002. Am J Prev Med. 2007 Jul;33(1):34-40. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2007.02.040. PMID: 17572309.
Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., & Norton, L. E. (2014). Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-7
Anastasiou, C. A., Karfopoulou, E., & Yannakoulia, M. (2015). Weight regaining: From statistics and behaviors to physiology and metabolism. Metabolism, 64(11), 1395-1407. ISSN 0026-0495. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2015.08.006.
M.-R. G. Silva & T. Paiva (2015) Low energy availability and low body fat of female gymnasts before an international competition, European Journal of Sport Science, 15:7, 591-599, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2014.969323
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.
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