It’s been incredibly well documented that a fat loss phases involve a calorie restriction – This is fat loss 101, simply consume fewer calories than you expend.

Albeit sometimes isn’t so simple. Actually, most of the time…

However, once your fat loss phase has finished and you’re at the desired bodyweight or body composition that complements and supports your performance, you’ll need to stop being in a calorie deficit and return to calorie maintenance.

The question is: what’s the most effective way of returning to calorie maintenance without gaining unwanted body fat?

The way I see it, we have two options:

Option 1) Reverse Diet.
Option 2) Not a reverse diet.

A reverse diet would typically involve you incrementally adding calories on a weekly basis to take you from a deficit to maintenance.

Say for example you finish the dieting phase consuming 2,000kcal but expend 2,800kcal per day – you’ll have 800kcal to add in so IN Vs OUT is the same.

If you add 100kcal per week, you’re still in a calorie deficit and still dropping body fat for another 8 weeks! Plus, it’s another 8 weeks of performance and recovery compromises…

Towards the end of a dieting phase, food focus is going to be pretty high, so spending another 8 weeks dieting is going to be very difficult from a mental perspective – the motivation to get lean is gone, food focus is still high and you’ll end up having many ‘ah fuck it’ moments and binge.

This is why I choose option B with my clients…

Option B involves taking you straight up to calorie maintenance (ish). I would typically calculate your new calorie requirements based on your new/lower bodyweight, then account for a small margin for error (~10%).

I.e. new calorie maintenance -10%.

From this new baseline, I would titrate calories on a weekly basis until we have found your true calorie maintenance – Please be mindful that ‘the numbers’ are not set in stone and can be very fluid in nature based on your level of expenditure.

Long story short, we’ll be in exactly the same position in 24 hours as where you’d be in 7-8 weeks’ time if using the above reverse dieting example.

Calorie maintenance is meeting the body’s demands. If you eat 2800kcal and burn 2800kcal per day, your body fat levels will maintain and remain the same. You only gain fat in a surplus, not maintenance – so don’t worry about horsing in a few hundred calories extra.

There’s no real right or wrong here – it is very much personal preference and based on your experiences and dieting skill levels.

To play on the safe side, you could use a bit of both methods if you’re not comfortable going straight to calorie maintenance (ish).

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