My Reverse Dieting (Lean Bulking) Experience & Logistics
Wouldn't it be a dream to be able to eat more and gain minimal fat?! Well, folks, to varying degrees, this can be a reality through "Reverse Dieting" and I'm going to tell you about my personal experience with it.
Reverse Dieting can be described as: instead of cutting calories and ramping up time spent on the treadmill, you increase metabolism by gradually adding calories back into your diet while reducing cardio, as per Bodybuilding.com. Go read that article if you want to know more about reverse dieting, as I won't dive too deep into anything other than my personal experience with it.
Why Reverse Diet?
At the end of summer '18, I had been training for my upcoming half marathon while continuing to practice powerlifting-style weight training. Earlier that year, I had done a small, gradual "cut" to get a bit leaner and then maintained that body composition/weight through the summer and this training. So, I was eating ~1,800 calories per day and exercising intensely 6-7 days/week at the time I ran my half. And guess what...I was HUNGRY. All the time. In addition, I was starting to feel somewhat fragile and I wanted a change - I wanted to feel strong. So, I decided to (for the first time) truly devote myself to a reverse diet.
With the goal being to be able to eat more while gaining minimal fat and gaining the max amount of muscle mass, I started my reverse diet journey! At the time, I had been tracking my macros for a couple of years, so I was aware of what macros I could eat to lose or maintain my weight at the time. From there, I took those starting macros and every week or every other week I increased my daily calories/macros by a small amount - namely, 10g carbs and 1-2g fats which equals 49-58 calories per day. Note: I also do higher/lower carb days where I eat more carbs/fats on higher intensity training days.
In regards to training, every week I slowly decreased my cardio from about 3-4 hours per week (varying between running & HIIT) to ultimately about 30 minutes per week. As well, I lifted heavy and often. I ended up lifting about 5 days per week, replacing cardio sessions with lifting. If I was eating big, I wanted to lift big and put that food to good use towards growing that muscle mass!
The Results (the fun part!)
To give it you in numbers, I started my reverse diet around mid August 2017 at: lower carb day - 1,850cals | 200C 50F 150P & higher carb day - 2,010cals | 240C 50F 150P. I ended my reverse diet at the end of January 2018 at: lower carb day - 2,460cals | 330C 60F 150P & higher carb day - 2,647cals | 370C 63F 150P. See below for part of my little journal entry of the latter half of my tentative reverse diet plan!
That's an increase of over 600 calories per day! So what effect did that have on my weight
You bet that scale went up but I ended my reverse diet loving my physique! I felt stronger, lean (oddly enough!), and fueled by a lot of good food. Oh and along the way, I lifter heavy and hit PRs like crazy along the way. In total, my weight went from 122-123lbs in August to 128-129lbs at the end of January. And guess what? I am so proud of those 6ish pounds. See below for a screenshot from my Fitbit app, where I logged my daily weight in the AM (note: this only shows Nov 1 - Jan 31 2018, not the whole reverse diet).
Reverse dieting taught me a lot of things...
- I value being strong and empowered over feeling frail and hungry any day. I'd gladly take a higher number on the scale for a higher quality of life.
- When increasing your daily caloric intake in a reverse diet, there's no need to rush if you don't have a timeline. I wasn't working under a timeline here and value the slow approach I was able to take - I feel that gave my body just enough fuel to build muscle, while gaining minimal fat.
- Eating is fun. Lifting is fun. Enjoying life without feeling confined by your food is fun. If you reverse diet, enjoy it and savor (literally) the moments!