Skip to content

Fuck your diet and stay defined!

Scheiß' auf Deine Diät und bleib' definiert!

How to end a diet without getting fat afterwards

You've found your abs - now what?

Dieting is a challenge, but the next phase is even harder. If you're not careful, things can get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Some refer to it as "reverse dieting". It's the phase after the diet and after the calorie restriction has ended. Reverse in this context means that you gradually start to increase your calorie intake again. It sounds simple, but your body is working against you.

The metabolic problem

After a fat loss diet, the goal is to find a new maintenance calorie intake. This calorie intake is the amount of calories you need to maintain your new body weight. How do you find this calorie amount? By slowly increasing your calories compared to your calorie intake during the diet. But there's a big problem.

Scientific research shows that your metabolic rate slows down after prolonged calorie restriction. Because of this reduced metabolic rate, your body prefers a fat-storing state on a physiological level. Not good. If you suddenly return your body to the amount of calories you were eating before you started your diet, you will build up body fat.

It's easy to decide on specific amounts of calories and macronutrients you want to target, but hunger can easily take on a life of its own and derail your good intentions. One spoonful of ice cream can easily turn into a whole carton. If this scenario becomes a habit, you'll experience rapid fat gain accompanied by a softer appearance, digestive issues, lack of energy and decreased motivation.

The hunger games

Prolonged calorie restriction will lead to increased hunger, a reduced metabolic rate and a decrease in activity.

Much of this is related to hormonal responses such as increases in ghrelin levels - also known as the hunger hormone - and decreases in levels of metabolic hormones such as T3 and T4. Scientists have observed this in men and women of all ages and body types, as well as in bodybuilders during competition preparation.

Dr. David Ludwig says, "Something has caused our fat cells to go into a calorie-storing turbo mode, causing them to soak up too many calories. As a result, there are too few calories in the bloodstream. So the brain does what it's supposed to do - it makes you hungry."

Many people claim to be hungrier after a diet than during the diet itself. When you lose weight, your hunger increases, while your energy expenditure decreases due to a reduction in non-exercise-induced thermogenesis (NEAT, a measure of calories burned through unconscious movement).

The opposite is true if your weight is above your set point and you consume more calories than you burn over a longer period of time: your appetite decreases and your thermogenic activity increases.

What can we do about this?

First of all, you should eat foods that help you minimize your hunger. After dieting, people overlook the food sources they choose and the cascade of hormonal responses these foods cause. The glycemic load of a meal has an impact on hunger (Note: glycemic load describes the quantity and quality of carbohydrates in a food or meal. A piece of watermelon and a donut have the same glycemic index but a very different glycemic load).

Think about the following. When dieting, people choose higher quality, minimally processed foods that are high in fiber and high in volume. They tend to choose carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index (e.g. sweet potatoes, green vegetables, whole grain oatmeal) and try to get full on fewer calories and by eating foods with a higher micronutrient content.

However, after eating this way during the diet, the dieter seems to forget what helped them achieve this body in the first place and may even feel entitled to eat the foods they gave up during their diet.

Even if the dieter has intentionally increased their fat and carbohydrate macronutrients to end the strict diet, this attempt to "normalize" their nutritional situation may cause them to feel more hungry than before. This is part of the reason that eating highly processed foods, which cause a rapid rise in insulin levels, will lead to increased fat storage and more post-meal hunger.

To understand this, we need to take a closer look at our hormones. A crucial aspect of your body's response to a meal is what happens to the hormones insulin and glucagon. Insulin is considered anabolic. It transports nutrients to your liver, your muscles and, unfortunately, your fat cells. Glucagon is considered catabolic. It helps the body break down stored nutrients such as glycogen and fat.

A study conducted by Dr. Ludwig looked at the effects of the glycemic index and hunger responses. The three subgroups of subjects were given different meals, all with the same calorie content, but one group ate a meal with a low glycemic load, one group ate a meal with a medium glycemic load and the third group ate a meal with a high glycemic load.

Meal with low glycemic load

Meal with medium glycemic load

Meal with a high glycemic load

55g whole egg

63.9g Wholemeal oat flakes

60.9g Instant rolled oats

45g egg white

180g milk (2% fat)

180g milk (2% fat)

40g low-fat cheese

15g cream

15g cream

200g spinach

16g fructose

19g dextrose

30g tomato

0g saccharin

0,2g saccharin

185g grapefruit

397g water

397g water

115g apple slices

Macronutrients (% carbohydrates/protein/fat)




Energy density (KJ/g)




The high GI group experienced the greatest increase in insulin levels, followed by a collapse. This group also had the weakest glucagon response. This is a recipe for fat storage.

Another interesting finding was the significant increase in adrenaline levels at the high GI meal compared to the low and medium GI meals. This insulin response strongly contributes to an increase in hunger as it mimics a response to a situation of (starvation).

The coolest thing about this study is that it tells us why people exceed their calorie and nutrient goals despite good intentions to stick with a specific plan. Members of the group that consumed the meal with the highest glycemic index consumed many more calories (600 to 700 kcal more) during the 5 hours following the meal than members of the other two groups. Maintaining good eating habits at one meal can therefore dramatically increase the likelihood that you will stay on plan for the next meal.

Another study showed very similar results. This study was a double-blind, cross-over design in which all groups consumed the same amounts of macronutrients. The meals differed only in the GI of the carbohydrates consumed. The group that consumed carbohydrates with a higher GI reported more hunger than the group that consumed carbohydrates with a low GI.

The most surprising result was that the activity of the nucleus accumbens was significantly increased in the group that consumed the high GI carbohydrates. This part of the brain is associated with dependence and addiction. In this area, your brain releases dopamine, which is why this area is also known as the feel-good center of the brain. This data gives us a clue as to why many people feel that they can no longer resist the urge to eat.

So when you're told that all carbs are the same and it doesn't matter if you eat your carbs in the form of sweet potatoes or donuts, it's important to remember that your body will react differently to those carbs regardless of the calories.

How you can combat the build-up of fat

Eat meals with a low glycemic load. Choose high fiber vegetables, low glycemic index carbohydrates and stick to a balanced diet. This will optimize the hormonal cascade after a meal and reduce your cravings so you stay full longer. Working with your body instead of against it will help you stay on track.

If you absolutely want to include highly processed foods in your daily diet, eat them before your workout. This may not be optimal for performance, but it will allow your body to use that glucose during exercise and reduce the likelihood of that glucose being stored as fat. This will prevent the negative reactions that you would otherwise see.

Another tip: Various supplements such as chromium picolinate, cinnamon extract and even turmeric have been shown to help normalize blood sugar levels. This can improve the way additional carbohydrates are processed and used in your diet, while minimizing the risk of fat storage.

How should you increase your calories?

You need to get out of the calorie deficit and try to figure out what your new maintenance calorie amount is. The best approach to this will vary depending on how lean you want to stay and how your body responds to an increase in calorie intake. For some it will be perfectly fine to increase daily calorie intake by 500 kcal, while others will need to take a more conservative approach.

What makes this phase complicated is the fact that you can gain several kilos on the scales without putting on any fat. This is often simply the result of a replenishment of glycogen stores and a rebuilding of intramuscular triglycerides. You should be aware of this fact.

You should also remember that while it is important to pay attention to macronutrients, it is at least as important to make smart food choices that minimize your hunger so that you stay on track.

What about cardio training?

The best way to do cardio will vary from person to person based on numerous different factors: how much cardio you've done before, what type of cardio, what intensity, etc. Using high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as your primary form of cardio is an excellent choice, according to one idea.

HIIT will significantly increase your EPOC (post-exercise oxygen consumption) - also known as the afterburn effect - which means it will rev up your metabolism, which has been impaired in its rate. You will burn more calories during the rest of the day and be better able to cope with the extra calories you consume after the diet.

HIIT will also affect your strength adaptations to your weight training much less, if at all, compared to low intensity cardio. If you have experienced a loss of strength during your diet, the last thing you want to do is exacerbate this strength deficit with too much incorrect cardio training.

HIIT can also help you maintain your muscle mass and has even been shown in some studies to induce a hypertrophy response, while cardio training at a consistent lower intensity can attenuate the protein synthesis (muscle growth) response to weight training.

As your metabolism recovers over time, you should reduce the number of cardio training sessions and their duration.


  1. Pardue A. Case Study: Contest Preparation Diet Effects On A Drug-Free Bodybuilder. May 2016.
  2. Rossow LM, Fukuda DH, Fahs CA, Loenneke JP, Stout JR. Natural bodybuilding competition preparation and recovery: A 12-month case study. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2013;8(5):582–592. doi:10.1123/ijspp.8.5.582.
  3. Kistler BM, Fitschen PJ, Ranadive SM, Fernhall B, Wilund KR. Case study: Natural bodybuilding contest preparation. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2014;24(6):694–700. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0016.
  4. De Pergola, G., et al. "Free triiodothyronine and thyroid stimulating hormone are directly associated with waist circumference, independently of insulin resistance, metabolic parameters and blood pressure in overweight and obese women." Clinical endocrinology 67.2 (2007): 265-269.
  5. Reinehr, T., and W. Andler. "Thyroid hormones before and after weight loss in obesity." Archives of disease in childhood 87.4 (2002): 320-323.
  6. Greenway FL. Physiological adaptations to weight loss and factors favoring weight regain. International Journal of Obesity (2005).
  7. Ludwig, David S., et al. "High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity." Pediatrics 103.3 (1999): e26-e26.
  8. Lennerz, Belinda S., et al. "Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men." The American journal of clinical nutrition 98.3 (2013): 641-647.
  9. Docherty JP, Sack DA, Roffman M, Finch M, Komorowski JR. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. J Psychiatr Pract. 2005 Sep;11(5):302-14.4.
  10. Safdar, Mahpara, et al. "Effect of various doses of cinnamon on blood glucose in diabetic individuals." Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 3.5 (2004): 268-272.
  11. Helms, E. R., et al. "Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: resistance and cardiovascular training." Journal of Sports Medicine Physical Fitness 55 (2015): 164-178.
  12. Borsheim E, Bahr R. Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Med. 2003;33(14):1037-1060
  13. Wilson JM, Marin PJ, Rhea MR, Wilson SM, Leoneeke JP, Anderson JC. Concurrent training: a meta analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercise. J. Strnegth Cond. Res. Oct 13 2011.

By Christopher Barakat


Previous article 12 healthy foods that are rich in antioxidants