Natural Bodybuilding with JC: Reverse Dieting

Simply put, reverse dieting is the transition from a cutting diet to a bulking diet. Where fat loss was initially the goal, the pursuit of new muscle now takes its place. Contrary to popular belief, a growth or bulking phase is not an all you can eat buffet. The same dieting principles still apply, only at different macronutrient and caloric ratios.

Reverse dieting is a method commonly used by bodybuilders and other fitness competitors after the completion of a competition in which several months of strict dieting was implemented. The idea is to slowly increase your caloric load so as to not put your body in a state that will promote fat gain. If you were to resume normal eating after a long dieting stretch, your body will most likely respond in a way that will cause more fat to be stored than the creation of new muscle.

As eager as you may be to start enjoying the forbidden foods of your dieting period, you have to pick and choose your treats wisely. A good start to reverse dieting is to increase by calories by about 250 to 300 calories per day, per week. For me, and probably many other competitive athletes, this is roughly the caloric load of one small contest prep meal. This means that you are essentially adding another meal to your contest prep diet, but it can of course come in the form larger portions and/or different macro rations (more carbs!).

I know it doesn’t sound like much. It isn’t. This could literally be the addition of some oatmeal and fruit to your diet, or a little splurge on a piece of pizza. If you really want to maintain your physique, you will err on the side of caution and keep it clean. Some, but definitely not all, do not have the type of strength required to say no the pop tarts, bagels, donuts, pizza and burgers. I know I don’t, and I don’t pretend to either.

You want to keep at an increase of about 300 calories per week until you start to notice an increase in weight. Once you stall, you start the process again, adding anywhere from an additional 100 to 300 calories per day per week until you notice an increase.

I will admit, reverse dieting is not my favorite. I am one of many that just cannot wait to resume normal eating. The process is too slow for me to work my way up to meals that will actually keep me satisfied for more than two hours. I pay for it though, and I pay very quickly. Whilst I still ensure that I am taking in ample protein and adequate fats and carbs, I also allow for, and gladly welcome, the addition of extra macronutrients – often in the form of pizza and donuts. I have a weakness and I can admit it. My name is JC Astorina, and I have a problem with reverse dieting.

What tends to happen to me is that my body returns to its starting weight very quickly. This might seem contradictory to the true Ectomorph, but you must keep in mind that it is only the taking back of what was lost. Once I hit my starting weight, roughly 165 pounds, the ecto in me kicks in and I am again hard pressed to gain any weight – regardless of what I eat. This is when my version of reverse dieting really kicks in. I mirror my contest prep diet, but increase my portion sizes to whatever is visually appealing. That’s right – no measuring, no weighing. If I want steak, I eat steak – as much as I want. I restrict carbs to breakfast and post workout only, but again, portion size is no issue. I will also welcome the odd donut (or two or three) or candy (measured in handfuls) here and there at any time of the day.

This is a particularly hard time to diet in any manner. With the last three months of the year bringing us Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, most people will find themselves surrounded by an abundance of food and illicit treats . Office parties and other social gatherings are also more frequent this time of year, so it is not uncommon for many to experience far more than the three above mentioned days.

As I write this I am recovering from a work party that was hosted at a very elegant resort and catered with only the finest foods. I spent the first part of the evening tailing the waiters with the hors d’oeuvres as though they were a suspect under surveillance. Dinner was then some fancy potato soup followed by filet mignon, bacon wrapped asparagus, mashed potatoes and a delicious chicken breast. Dessert was decadent chocolate cake. The usual basket of breads accompanied dinner to which I happily, gladly, and shamelessly consumed by myself. To make matters worse, a coworker next me did not eat his meal due to some sort of diet he was on. I’m not one to see good food go to waste, so yes, I ate his food too. All of it. And the cake.

Glutton, you say? Perhaps. I can only be hardcore for several months at a time. I’m only human and I need a break every now and then to join the common folk. It feels good to have a conversation with somebody that doesn’t involve the words diet, macros, insulin, and spill over. Am I fat right now? No. Do I have a six-pack? No. Does it matter? No. As we inch our way closer to Christmas and the glorious feast that accompanies it, I can only remove my belt and loosen my pants in anticipation.

If adding a few unwanted pounds is what it takes to keep me sane and easy to live with for a month, then I need to retract my earlier statement of having to pay dearly. The inconvenience of no longer being able to hand wash my laundry on my abs is a small price to pay to enjoy a few of the sweeter things.

My name is JC Astorina, and I am loving life!

Happy Lifting!

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5 comments for “Natural Bodybuilding with JC: Reverse Dieting

  1. December 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Nice article JC. As an ectomorph myself I’ve been stuck at the same weight for a long time. I tried the steady raising of calories and it wasn’t doing much. I recently started eating much more, and am finally seeing results in weight gain, but the good gain. I still eat the same healthy foods as before, just more of it. No counting and measuring, just downright finally eating enough!

    • JC
      December 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      That’s just about all we can do as little guys. To be honest, I don’t even want to know the specifics of what I am eating right now. I have a saying…*The most unsettling of truths are revealed with a properly tracked diet* This applies to every single person dieting, whether it be for loss OR gain. Not everybody can let go though.

      As for your situation, if your diet is in check and and you still aren’t gaining, you might need to tweak your workouts. Focus on heavy compound lifts and be sure to vary your workout and change it up every 4 weeks or so. Lay off the cardio, especially if you are a true ecto.

      • December 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

        Thanks, yeah I do focus on heavy compound and don’t do much cardio already. I’m pretty sure it was totally my diet. I just flat out have not been eating enough until recently. Partly because I think I was afraid of eating too much for whatever reason and part because I’m just flat out not hungry enough most of the time. I’m learning to deal with that!

        • JC
          December 4, 2012 at 8:15 am

          Not hungry? I don’t understand what that means. 🙂

  2. December 3, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Great article JC. Not only from the perspective of reverse dieting, but how an effective bulk is not a see food eat food diet. Although as human beings, self control is not necessarily our strength at all times!

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