I’ve mentioned before that after the show, I had plans to reverse diet. Well, it’s after the show now, in case you missed that. Nine days after the show, to be exact. I posted a short video about reverse dieting, but I never really addressed what it was, or what it meant for me.
Reverse dieting is exactly what it sounds like. When you diet, you cut down your calories in order to lose weight- typically, on a contest prep diet, that means you cut from your fat and carb macros, mostly, or entirely, leaving your protein pretty high. But what about after the show? You surely don’t want to continue eating at those reduced macros! Your’e hungry! You’re maybe a little grumpy! Your lifts are going down! Everything is harder than it should be! You just plain want to eat more food because, I mean really, food is AWESOME, and when you’re on reduced macros, you can only fit like two bites of doughnut or maybe one Oreo. Fuck that. I want TWO Oreos. Because they come in Reese’s flavor now. And also birthday cake, which I have not yet tried, but Husband has expressed interest in them coming to live in our cupboard.
So let’s say you jump right in after the show and you’re like ohmigod pizza I missed you so much and also froyo and beer and probably these carne asada fries too, and please can I eat that cupcake.
First of all, if you “missed” so many foods, perhaps you should have been nicer to yourself on your diet and fit in a couple bites of these things to satisfy that so you didn’t feel so nuts (though I’ll admit to missing pizza- eggplant pizzas served to quell the pizza cravings pretty well, but there’s something to be said for a thick slice of Chicago-style… but the combination of fats AND carbs is hard to fit into either my high-carb/low-fat training days or my high-fat/low-carb rest days.) Second, you’re going to get fat. FAST. After you’ve dieted down, and your body has started to grow accustomed to your new “set point,” and your new, reduced macros, you can’t just jump back to your maintenance calories from two months ago or whatever. You have a new maintenance to go with your new weight and body composition.
Don’t worry, don’t worry, reverse dieting is here to make sure you get at least a couple of carne asada fries back in your life! Here’s what that entails: slowly, slowly, painfully slowly, you increase your macros. By slowly adding macros, you allow your body a minute to adjust accordingly, almost sneakily, and not totally freak out at the additional calories, in turn gaining a bunch of fat- which is just what it wants to do after a prolonged diet.
Why so painful? Because think about it: leading up to the show, I had an end goal- something to hold me accountable. Do you want to go over my macros for the day in order to eat another piece of cheesecake? No. You want to have cheesecake and also look amazing on stage, so I bet you’ll just have what fits your numbers for the day and call it good. But after the show, what’s to hold you accountable? Unless you already registered for another show, probably nothing. And this is where things can go a bit haywire. Why shouldn’t you go over your macros, I mean, what’s the difference, if you aren’t prepping?
Like I said, your body is so, so ready to just gain fat after a period of dieting. It’s so easy to overdo it, too, particularly if you’e been on a limited or restrictive diet- “clean eating,” or a meal plan. One of my friends who came to watch the evening show last weekend later text me, “What was happening in there? It looked like some of those girls gained 10 pounds before they even left the venue!” What happened was those girls lost their shit when confronted with brownies and no show to hold them accountable for what they put in their mouths. What happened was the beginning of, in some cases, a day, two day, week-long binge because they felt so deprived that they literally could not control themselves. It’s not unheard of for a competitor to gain 5 pounds, 10 pounds… even more… in the span of just a few weeks after a show. Deprivation makes a person do crazy things.
Multiple other competitors have mentioned to me that they do only a week, or two weeks of reversing. I have no idea what this means. A proper reverse diet is supposed to take time. What does that even look like? Today I eat 1300 calories, tomorrow, 1400, by the end of the week I’m at 2000? That’s not a reverse diet. Your body has had no time to adapt to the increase in calories, which is really the whole point.
As part of my peak week, I planned out my first week of reverse diet macros, that way I had no excuse- they were already ready for the day after the show, much like I set my friend up with her post-show macros to begin her reverse. Following the advice of, who else, Layne Norton, I decided to increase my carbs and fats by about 10% immediately following the show. JUST 10%. That added just a few grams of each to my daily total macros. From there, each week hopefully I will be able to increase macros by about 5% each week.No joke, painfully slowly. I say hopefully because, as with anything nutrition-related, it’s all so individual- I have to listen to my body. Am I gaining body fat? How do I feel? Did I add too many last week? The ultimate goal is to end up eating as many, or more, calories than you started dieting on, but with less body fat. This gives you a better starting point for beginning your next cutting phase- you hopefully have less body fat to get rid of, and a higher calorie starting point, so you can diet on more calories, meaning you’re less hungry. It’s win-win-win all around! An added bonus is you look super sexy while stuffing your face with a California burrito.
So after the show, I mentioned I went out for pizza and beer, neither of which I finished. I was so, so full of cookies and doughnuts and chocolates and whatever else my butt needed to perk up… sure, my butt looked great, but my belly felt terrible. The sheer volume of these foods I consumed was disgusting to me. I probably consumed over 2000 calories in junk food before hitting the stage for the night show, in an attempt to offset the droopy booty that my protein lunch had awarded me. Anyhow, it stands to reason that I expected to feel a little rough for a day or two following. And also I wanted to eat cucumbers and turkey- ONLY cucumbers and turkey, it turns out- for the next two days. Bodies are crazy.
Sure enough, I woke up pretty puffy, and up a full 4 pounds from my stage weight, which in itself was a pound and a half heavier than I had been just the day prior (shoutout to two really high carb days leading up to the show, and all the glycogen those carbs allowed me to store in my muscles, which led to me being heavier BUT looking more shredded on show day than I had when the scale said I was smaller!) and disturbingly orange from the tan that unexpectedly refused to budge from my lily-white skin. It’s ok, no big deal. I was happy to spend the day drinking lots of water and eating veggies and lounging with the kitty and the husband having a Harry Potter marathon- it was the best possible relaxing post-show day, is what I’m saying.
And the next three days were, well, rough, as expected, but I managed pretty well. I wasn’t feeling guilty about licking the spoon, is all I’m saying. It was nice to relax a bit, knowing I had just a tiny bit more wiggle room in my macros. My bloat went down, and my body tightened back up, and I started to get excited about my impending gains in the gym again as my macros increased on the horizon.
If you want to learn more about reverse dieting, I really love this podcast. You can skip to about 7 minutes in.