You've spent the last several weeks (or even months) in a deficit working towards a fat loss goal, but things are coming to a close. A deficit ending can have multiple reasons -- personal timelines, biofeedback, lack of adherence, etc -- but what happens AFTER the deficit phase is JUST as important as the deficit phase itself.
If you need a refresher, be sure to read about the other 3 dietary intake phases -- maintenance, surplus, and deficit -- so that you can fully understand the importance of this final phase in our series.
The time spent between a deficit phase and getting back to your maintenance level of calories is called the "reverse" phase; simply put, you are working to reverse out of the caloric deficit you created over the series of weeks and months to slowly re-introduce maintenance calories to the body. The main goal of this phase is to improve systemic feedback in regards to energy availability, sleep, training performance, and overall quality of life outside of a strict caloric deprivation.
When it comes to HOW a reverse dietary intake phase happens, the general rule of thumb is that you should spend a similar amount of time "reversing" as you did in the deficit phase to allow enough time to slowly make macro, training and cardio modifications. When it comes to nutrition, the main increases in calories will happen with fat and carbohydrate amounts in order to improve muscle glycogen level and intramuscular triglycerides. Training focus may also change during this dietary intake phase by shifting from muscle preservation back to muscle tissue growth and cardio volume (and type) will be controlled in order to best mitigate any fat regain while calories are slowly increased.
The images below show real-life client data at just how important following a structured reverse intake phase can be.
The mental shift that takes place as you are transitioning out of a deficit is just as important as the physical and physiological changes that are happening. Going into this transition with the understanding that some body fat regain HAS to occur, but improved body composition can continued to be pursued. With more caloric availability, you can focus on increasing NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) and increasing the intensity of training.
You've made it! We've walked through each dietary intake phase and the details that go along with each of them. We hope you are able to walk away now with more understanding as to why each of these phases are important how they play a role in achieving individual goals and improving overall body composition, health, and quality of life.