Stronger 24/7 - Stronger Everyday
Stronger 24/7 Forum
BulkingCuttingDiet Advice

Reverse dieting: Yes or no?12860

Maarten private msg quote post Address this user
Fellow shreddingbulkers, (and especially EK)

What's the deal with reverse dieting and metabolic adaptation/damage?

This was posted on the IIFYM facebook page:

"ok since ive had to post about metabolic damage so many times im just gonna make a thorough post about it to refer people to from now on.

the idea behind metabolic damage is that by eating too little and sometimes doing too much cardio, you can damage your metabolism so that you can gain weight on below what should be your maintenance. the idea has been made popular by layne norton. he presents reverse dieting for extensive periods as a fix for it. now to be fair layne norton, might have a point. he claims this happens to physique competitors and they gain rapidly after raising calories. excessive cardio in a large deficit can do some weird things, so he might end up being right. but if he is, it will apply to very few people. i highly doubt itd ever apply to anyone in this group. ok theres my disclaimer, now to the science.

during wwii a famous study was done called the minnesota semi-starvation study. men were put at a 50% deficit (about 1500 calories) for 6 months. they dieted down to about 5% bf. they were forced to do some cardio, im not sure how much off the top of my head but i think it was 2hrs walking, cant remember the frequency. they were not lifting. they never stopped losing weight, although it did slow to almost a standstill at the end due to ridiculous water retention. metabolic decrease came to about 40%, but 25-30% of that was from the loss of body mass. so even after 6 months of low calories to 5%bf, the metabolic adaptation was only 10-15%. this is the most widely cited and considered one of the best studies ever done on the issue.

a more recent study was done on biggest loser participants. they lost on average 120+lbs in 6 months. after correcting for mass lost, the metabolic adaptation (adaptive thermogenesis) came to about 18%. this led to their bmr being about 250kcals less than it should be. but there are limitations to this study, and its inconsistent with other results. there is another study done on patients that underwent bariatric surgery. they started just as fat as the biggest losers, and lost about the same amount. granted, it was in a longer period of time, but the results showed no metabolic adaptation over what was expected due to weight loss.

so in a very worst case scenario, after losing 20+lbs a month for 6 months on a bad diet with way too much cardio your metabolism might adapt 250 calories. after eating 1500 calories for 6 months and getting very lean, down to 4-5%bf, you might have a decrease of 10-15%. keep in mind proper protein intakes and lifting will further minimize these, as would not doing excessive cardio.

so we know that metabolic adaptation will not be too crazy, so lets look at reasons people might feel their metabolisms are damaged, and reasons why people love reverse dieting.

the number one reason i think people think they have damaged metabolisms is that people in general are very bad at counting food intake. now the people in this group should be much better than the average person on the street at it, but its still a factor. so people get off a diet, eat too much and gain weight. "metabolic damage" is a great scapegoat for peoples own failures. the follow up to the minnesota study shows this well. the men rebounded and ate 4-5k calories a day and gained weight back rapidly.

the second most common reason imo is more relevant to this group. people drastically underestimate water and glycogen gains. it is very common for someone who has been on a low calorie diet (especially low carbs as most low calorie diets are) to gain 10, 15, sometimes even 20lbs in a day or two after changing their diet. this is especially true for competitors who are very dry after a competition. people gain water and glycogen, feel and look a bit bloated and think they are gaining fat.

another reason is that some people will go straight from a low calorie cutting diet to a high calorie bulking diet. being in a deficit will make your body more predisposed to adding fat than muscle, with the severity proportionate to length and depth of the cutting diet. pretty much every cutting diet should be followed up by a return to maintenance for about 2 weeks to get everything back to normal before going into a surplus. some people skip that part and are upset when they put on more fat and less muscle than they wanted.

the main reason people like reverse dieting is that it works. but it doesnt work the way they think it does. it works because it gives the body time to fix the anabolic hormones and such, not the metabolism. this goes back to the paragraph above. its kind of like the people that love weight watchers and hate calorie counting, not realizing all weight watchers is is an elaborate way to count calories. the problem is that its a waste of time.

someone reverse dieting might take weeks and weeks to get back to maintenance, taking away time they could of been bulking (assuming a standard cutting/bulking protocol). my recommendations are easier, and waste a hell of a lot less time. for someone who is VERY concerned about fat gain, after a cut go back to 90% of what maintenance should be. stay there for a week, then add in some calories to get to true maintenance. another week at that and they can start adding in calories slowly until they are at the muscle/fat gain ratio they desire. but even all that is unnecessary for most people. most people will be completely fine going straight to maintenance for 2 weeks, and then going to a surplus.

i will note that people generally stop being as active when dieting, especially when doing lots of cardio. so their NEAT can do down, lowering their maintenance. this is just part of homeostasis, and can be countered when people are aware of it.

like i said above, layne norton, is doing research on this and it might turn out hes right. id say the chances of that are very low though. and even if it does happen, people need to understand the phenomena hes claiming is real would not affect 95% of people. youd have to be on a very large deficit to incredible leanness for it to even be considered, even if he was to prove it. heres an interesting thread where lyle mcdonald calls layne norton, out on not having a shred of scientific data to back up his claims.

heres a video of alan talking about it.

lyle on metabolism.
lyle on metabolic damage.
more lyle.
thread on lyles forums where he responds to this exact issue.

i think that covers everything, feel free to post questions."
Post 1 IP   flag post
adam82a private msg quote post Address this user
I still dont understand the difference between metabolic downregulation and metabolic damage?
Post 2 IP   flag post
Maarten private msg quote post Address this user
I'm so fucking confused
Post 3 IP   flag post
The Dark
eknight private msg quote post Address this user
I posted a case in that Facebook thread that conclusively showed a metabolic downregulation in an obese female patient. Kinda shoots this guy's opinion in the foot. I also have a half-dozen peer reviewed journal articles that demonstrate it being a legitimate phenomenon. If it's really that valuable to you, I can dig them up. -3X
Post 4 IP   flag post
Maarten private msg quote post Address this user
@eknight That would be awesome and much appreciated.
Post 5 IP   flag post
adam82a private msg quote post Address this user
I havent followed everything properly, only followed the discussions on NBB page a bit. But I thought Layne made a distinction between metabolic damage and metabolic downregulation?
Post 6 IP   flag post
The Dark
eknight private msg quote post Address this user
@Maarten going to just put it in a new thread, if that's ok. Will be up shortly. -3X
Post 7 IP   flag post
FiremanSi private msg quote post Address this user
I did it after i cut 26lbs in 4months on my cut and i found it was VERY benificial.
I went from 2550cals to 3600 in bout 6-8weeks and with minimal fat gains and i'm really happy i did it man.
Will do it after every future cut.
Post 8 IP   flag post
340737 8 8