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Reverse Diet - Basing Maintenance Calories on Previous Weight Loss?

When reverse dieting, the idea it to return to your new maintenance calories. Obviously, maintenance calories when you began the cut are different than maintenance calories currently. Sometimes it takes awhilel to figure out your new maintenance. However, going off the 3500 calories per pound frame of mind, could I somewhat accurately guess my maintenance calories based on the weight loss over the last month, given I’ve been logging all macronutrients?

For simple math, if I’m averaging 2000 calories a day, that’s 14,000 calories per week. If I’ve been losing 1.5 lbs per week, take 1.5 x 3500 = 5250. Let’s say all things equal in training, would around 19,000 calories be maintenance?


Conceptually, yes, that makes sense. It doesn’t seem to work exactly that way in the real world, though.

  • First, we’re apparently not actually sure that 3500kcal = 1 lbs of fat.
  • Next, your calories expended will adjust up and down with your bodyweight as well as your activity. As you add calories, neither will remain perfectly static.
  • Your metabolic processes adjust as well. I’m unconvinced “metabolic adaptation” is divorced from simple bodyweight and NEAT, accounted for above, but there are variable endocrine (and, apparently, intracrine) processes that impact your equation.
  • Don’t discount homeostasis - although I’m more than likely just writing the topic sentence to the two points above, there is a margin of calories within which you won’t gain or lose weight; on either side of that margin the changes could be more or less drastic than you’d think.

In any case, if you’re already logging calories, why not add a couple hundred calories per day a week at a time and monitor your weight? Whatever week you gain weight, that week prior was your maintenance.

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Yes, I am aware of variables that come with calorie adjustments, such as increased/decreased NEAT, workout intensity/volume, etc… This is to more get an idea where maintenance currently stands, and play around that predicted number, and see how my body responds.

Perhaps this speaks to the homeostasis, and I don’t believe there is a specific term for this or much data out there for this, but I’ve experienced many times, and am sure many others have as well… There always seem to be a lag with weight shift, one way or the other. For me, when starting a cut, it may be 4 weeks before my body turns a corner and begins dropping real weight. Adversely, but to a lesser degree, if I go from a very dialed in cut to a week vacation of eating like crap, the weight gain does happen by the end of the week, but not nearly as much as one would think, then usually quickly returns shortly after returning from vacation. Similarly, this seems to be why people sometimes lose weight in the initial part of their reverse diet, even if they raise calories to maintenance or above. I’ve always referred to this as the delayed weight effect, but perhaps fighting for homeostasis is another way to describe it.

To me that speaks even more to not just throwing in 5000 additional kcal a week, though. When you do gain weight, it may be so far down the road from the damage, that who knows where you should be?

I dunno. I’ve never actually done well with it. I lose weight pretty well, then I get tired of it and eat a ton of crap, then I get fat and have to lose weight again.

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I’m in the same boat as far as not being good about the transition from cutting to “F it, let’s EAT.” However, I believe from my experience that during that initial transition, you have a bit a leeway in the early going. The steps of diet hard for ~12 weeks, pig out of vacation, come back to solid diet seems to have minimal damage. Same can be said if one is eating poorly for months, then only diets for a couple weeks. In my experience, it takes a 4 weeks from a maintenance diet to dialed in cutting to really begin to start seeing progress. From dialed in cutting to a very bad diet, I can get away with a decent surplus for about a week and still get back down upon returning to the diet. Longer than a week of surplus, there will be some weight that sticks around until I get that pendulum swinging the other way. A pendulum would be a good way to describe these shifts in momentum.

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