After the 60-day challenge at my gym came to an end in early April, I weighed in at 165.8 pounds and my estimated body fat percentage dropped to 9%. While at the beginning of the challenge I had made a bigger goal for myself that by Memorial Day I would lower my body fat percentage below 10%, the reality is that when I look in the mirror I feel I look too skinny and lanky. I’m 6′ tall and I look more like a marathoner than a CrossFitter. Personally, that is not the aesthetic I want to achieve nor one that will support me in the gym and under the barbell.
I met with Emily Field, a registered dietitian, post-challenge to discuss my results and where I wanted to go next. We discussed getting more dialed in with my nutrition in a productive way that could be sustained beyond 21-day sugar detoxes or 60-day challenges. Understanding that I wanted to put on weight but remain lean, Emily recommended we track my macros (protein, fat, carbs) and use a Reverse Dieting strategy over a 12-week period.
According to Emily, “Reverse Dieting is a form of positive metabolic adaptation in which the body responds in a favorable manner to increased food intake. Reverse Dieting is achieved by steadily increasing macronutrient intake and is designed to prime you metabolically without gaining excess body fat. Essentially, we are coaxing the metabolic rate to retune to normal – to what it was before you dieted in the first place.”
In short, we will increase calories slowly and methodically over time so that we minimize potential body fat gain and maximize strength and lean body mass gain.
Emily reviewed my typical daily food intake and identified that I was undereating. To correct this and ease me into an increased calories/macros, she has prescribed a daily intake of 125 grams of protein, 60 grams of fat and 175 grams of carbs, which equates to 1,750 calories.
This is my second full week tracking macros. Here’s a sample day from my eating diary:
|White rice (1/2 dry cup)||6||0||70||304|
|Peppers & onions (1 cup)||1||0||7||32|
|Salami (1 oz)||8||8||0||104|
|Mason Jar Salad:|
|Balsamic (2 tbsp)||0||0||6||24|
|Banza chickpea pasta (2 oz)||14||3.5||32||216|
|Chicken (4 oz)||23||1.5||0||106|
|Mozzarella (1/4 cup)||7||6||2||90|
|Bear Naked Granola (1/4 cup)||3||5||28||169|
|Brocolli slaw (1 cup)||2||0||5||28|
|Beef sirloin roast (3 oz)||18||11||3||183|
I’m a habitual eater so tracking isn’t that hard. I use a Google Docs spreadsheet and there is a lot of copying and pasting. Meal prep helps.
Over the last 10 days, I’ve quickly learned that you can eat your fill of vegetables – the greener the better, white rice is your friend, bacon and salami are delicious, but a chicken breast has less fat, and chocolate chip cookies are loaded with carbs.
I am definitely eating more now than compared to just two weeks ago, but this is definitely not bulking. My macros don’t feel limiting and they do allow some flexibility if I want to indulge here and there. However, you really have to consider your intake carefully. It’s not a buffet approach to eating. You can eat well but it’s not a free ticket to go hog wild.
In addition to tracking macros, Emily has noted that in Reverse Dieting it is extremely important to take progress pictures so that you can see the affects of the increased calories/macros on body composition. In addition, taking waist measurement (about 2 finger widths above your belly button, around the smallest part of your midsection) at least twice per month so you can track progress in body composition changes. We are keeping this data and pictures on file using a file sharing service.
Again, the goal is to gain weight while maintaining a low body fat percentage. While it sounds like the two ideas conflict, Emily has assured met that with Reverse Dieting and gradual changes to my macros it is very doable. I’m excited to see the results!