To get the most out of reverse dieting we have to know when to stop.
So, when should you stop reverse dieting? You should stop reverse dieting based on one of the following reasons: when you’re satisfied with the amount of food that you’re eating, you’re able to maintain your weight, your body is burning calories at a faster rate, or you’ve given yourself at least 8 weeks away from a low-calorie diet.
Knowing when to stop reverse dieting will help you not overdo it and gain more weight than is necessary.
After reading this article, you’ll learn:
- How a reverse diet typically lasts
- How to know when to stop reverse dieting
- What to do after you stop reverse dieting
How Long Is A Typical Reverse Diet?
A reverse diet typically lasts 8 to 16 weeks, however, the length of a reverse diet should not be solely based on achieving a certain timeframe. Ultimately what determines the length of a reverse diet are the results we’ve achieved from staying consistent.
That being said, someone who wants to stay as lean as possible will likely reverse diet for longer periods because they will take a very slow and steady approach.
Someone who isn’t concerned about staying as lean as possible will generally spend less time reverse dieting because they’ll be making larger increases in calories and we would return to a higher calorie intake at a faster rate.
All in all, the length of our reverse diet will be specific to us and the progress that we’re achieving, but there are some common signs that could help us determine if it’s time for us to stop reverse dieting.
5 Signs To Know When To Stop Reverse Dieting
The 5 signs to know when to stop reverse dieting are:
- A Sufficient Body Fat Percentages Have Been Achieved For Health Purposes
- The Reverse Diet Has Lasted At Least 8 Weeks
- You’ve Achieved A Food Intake That Is Sustainable Long-Term
- You Can No Longer Increase Calories Without Gaining More Weight Than Desired
- You’re Ready To Pursue The Next Goal
1. Sufficient Body Fat Percentages Have Been Achieved For Health Purposes
We can stop reverse dieting once we’ve reached a body fat percentage that supports our overall health.
If we had dieted to a lower body fat percentage that wasn’t sustainable or healthy for us long-term, then we should plan to reverse diet until we have restored our body percentage to a healthy range.
For women, a healthy range is anywhere from 18 to 28% and for men, a healthy body fat range could be 10 to 25%. Anything below these ranges is too hard to maintain long-term and therefore is not recommended for sustainability. Anything above these ranges though could increase our risk for health issues.
If we haven’t returned to a healthy range for our body fat percentage, then we should not stop reverse dieting because we are still in an unhealthy range and are at risk for hormonal imbalances.
If we are within this healthy range, then it could be a sign that we are ready to stop reverse dieting. However, just because we’re within this healthy range doesn’t necessarily mean that our body is burning calories at an appropriate rate.
For this reason, body fat percentage is only one measure by which we could determine if it’s time to end our reverse diet.
2. The Reverse Diet Has Lasted At Least 8 Weeks
Generally, we want the reverse diet to last longer than the amount of time we spent dieting. Some even recommend that we reverse diet for twice as long as we diet, which I fully support, however, I’m not sure if that’s realistic for everyone because people tend to be impatient.
For this reason, I recommend that we reverse diet for at least 8 weeks to give our body a break from being in a deficit and to give it a chance to speed up its metabolism and burn calories at a faster rate so that we can consume normal amounts of food again.
8 weeks of reverse dieting is a realistic timeline for even the most impatient reverse dieters. I would suggest that we reverse diet longer than this if possible, but a minimum of 8 weeks should be sufficient for us to benefit from reverse dieting.
- Want to know when you should start a reverse diet? Check out my other article: When To Start Reverse Dieting? (5 Signs To Know).
3. Achieved A Food Intake That Is Sustainable Long-Term
Another sign that we could stop reverse dieting is if we have achieved an intake that is sustainable for us long-term.
If we’re still eating low-calorie, then our intake is not sustainable long-term because we cannot and should not adhere to a low-calorie diet for long periods of time.
This would cause us to be constantly undernourished and we may not be able to participate in social events, or celebrations that revolve around food in the way that we would like to.
Instead, we should ensure that we’ve reverse dieted to the point where we’ve increased our calories enough to be able to return to living our lives fully without having to worry about going over our calories every day.
Once we’ve achieved an intake that is realistic for us to live our lives, then we can consider putting an end to the reverse diet.
4. Can No Longer Increase Calories Without Gaining More Weight Than Desired
When we reach a point in our reverse diet that we can no longer increase our calories, even minimally, without gaining more weight than the recommended amounts then we have likely maxed out on how much we can increase our metabolism.
If our body is no longer adapting to the increase in calories by burning more calories, then we’ve probably reached our reverse dieting limit.
At this point, we should consider ending the reverse diet because there is no more progress to be made without losing the results that we worked for while we were dieting.
5. Ready To Pursue The Next Goal
Lastly, we could consider ending the reverse diet once we’ve reached the point where we’re mentally and physically ready to pursue our next goal.
If we’re mentally ready to commit to a different goal such as bulking or perhaps dieting once again then it could be time to stop the reverse diet. However, we would also need to ensure that we’re physically ready to pursue the next goal.
Physically we’d be ready to end the reverse diet if we’re no longer eating a low-calorie diet, our energy has been restored, and our body is burning calories at a faster rate.
What To Do After Stopping Your Reverse Diet?
After reverse dieting our body is primed to do whatever we want – we could pursue weight loss, we could start bulking, or we could stay at maintenance.
I would recommend staying at maintenance calories for at least 2 weeks following a reverse diet so that our body gets adapted to a baseline intake from which we can make adjustments going forward.
After 2 weeks at maintenance where the goal is solely to maintain our weight, we can choose to start dieting if we want to try and lean out further than we did previously or we could decide to try and add muscle mass to our frame by starting a bulk.
Other Reverse Dieting Resources
Reverse dieting plays an important role in setting us up for success for our future endeavors after having dieted, but reverse dieting won’t last forever so we have to know when it’s time to call it quits to pursue the next goal.
Dulloo AG, Jacquet J. Adaptive reduction in basal metabolic rate in response to food deprivation in humans: a role for feedback signals from fat stores. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Sep;68(3):599-606. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/68.3.599. PMID: 9734736.
Trexler, E.T., Smith-Ryan, A.E. & Norton, L.E. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 7 (2014). 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.
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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