Category Archives: Althletics

What is a Reverse Diet?

There is a great deal of confusion when it comes to Reverse Dieting.  What is it and why do people do it?

Reverse Dieting can be done for a few different reasons:

  1.  To increase the amount of calories someone is able to maintain weight on so they can diet down at a later date
  2. To increase the amount of calories someone is able to eat while keeping their current body weight and composition
  3. To increase the amount of calories someone eats in order to gain muscle

Let’s go into detail about number 1 above:

Oftentimes clients come to me wanting to lose weight and once they turn in their introductory questionnaire and food logs to me (this happens prior to my creating their nutrition program) I see that they have been maintaining their weight on very few calories. If they are consuming on the low end (1200 or below in my opinion) and not able to lose weight, I do not want to reduce their calories any further because it will damage their metabolism (and let’s face it…eating that little is too hard to maintain and usually results in a cycle of restriction followed by overeating).  At this point I am forced to discuss Reverse Dieting with my client.  There are times when a client does not want to go through the process of Reverse Dieting and I let them know that their health and well being are more important to me than the income I would get from coaching them through a metabolically damaging diet.  If they decide to pursue nutrition coaching with someone else, I understand.

Once a client grasps the importance of Reverse Dieting we begin.  From their food logs I am able to establish a starting point and from there we slowly work their calories up week by week which generally allows them to maintain their current weight.  No two bodies are the same, so it is important to understand that there are times when a client will actually LOSE weight during this process (these clients are referred to as hyper-responders and this is not the body’s usual response), and also times when a client will gain some weight throughout the process.  It is important to always keep in mind the fact that the Reverse Diet is being done with one main goal in mind; to increase metabolic capacity so that once you are done you can lose weight while eating more calories.  For example, a client might come to me eating 1100 calories and then take 5 to 6 months increasing their calories to 2200 at which point they are able to diet on 1800 calories and lose weight.

In this situation and in most situations it’s worthwhile to take the time to try and repair your metabolism and increase the amount of calories you’re able to eat on a daily basis. How long someone has to Reverse Diet depends upon how long they have been dieting.  It is generally thought that the time spent Reverse Dieting should equal the amount of time the client has spent living life in a caloric deficit.  Someone who has spent YEARS yoyo dieting may have to invest more time Reverse Dieting.

I also have clients who come to me wanting to lose weight and we diet them down until their calories get down to the 1200 mark at which point we Reverse Diet their calories back up for 20 weeks and then begin the process all over again.  Some clients have a lot of weight to lose and prefer to lose as much weight as they can prior to beginning their Reverse Diet.  For example, a client may come to me with 50 pounds to lose and eating 1600 calories a day.  We may begin their weight loss on a diet / macros totaling 1400 calories, they will lose 15 pounds and then hit a plateau, so we reduce their calories / macros to 1200 calories where they will lose another 10 pounds.  Once they hit another plateau we will begin the Reverse Diet and bring their calories back up before beginning another weight loss phase.

Let’s go into detail about number 2 above:  

Then there are the people who have achieved the look that they want and have the body percent fat percentage that they are happy with, so they choose to Reverse Diet slowly in order to maintain their current look on more calories.  Who doesn’t want to be able to eat more on a daily basis?

I have personally gone through the Reverse Dieting process twice.  The first time was when I dieted down for a High School Reunion (the ultimate motivator, right?).  In the picture below you will see my starting point at the top and where I was 13 weeks into the Reverse Diet on the bottom.

Gretchen Tseng fitquestmom Reverse Diet wk 1 vs. 13

At the time I shared my progress on my Instagram account:

“I am 13 weeks in now and am so glad I am investing in my metabolism this way.  

In the top two pictures my weight was 130.6 and my macros were 1543 calories 155P / 125C / 47F and now my weight is 133 and my macros are 1844 calories 155P / 180C / 56F.

Have I been perfect along the way?  Nope.  I’ve had a cheat meal every week, went on vacation for almost two weeks (where I tried my best to track, but stopped and indulged at the end), and have had a couple of candy gone wild incidents which left me feeling disgusting, but I jumped right back in and NEVER restricted myself…I stuck to my current macros.

I plan on continuing this reverse at least through April / May (which will be a full 20 weeks).  This is seriously one of the best things I have ever done for myself.” 

That being said, Reverse Dieting is fun, but it is also a process where if you are looking to maintain your current physique you need to be very precise and follow as closely as possible (no unplanned binges) or your body will put on weight. It is a ton of fun to eat more week to week, but like I said, it required vigilance.  As you read in my Instagram caption above, I wasn’t perfect and I did put on some weight.  Had I been on track the entire time I am almost positive I would have stayed the same weight.  I actually ended-up liking the fuller look in the bottom pictures since looking back I felt a little too lean in the pictures at the top.

Let’s go into detail about number 3 above:

In order to gain muscle you need to eat in a caloric surplus and put a lot of work in at the gym lifting heavy.  When I say that I don’t mean eat gluttonously or you will likely gain a lot of fat with the muscle you are working so hard in the gym to build.  This is where a sensible and controlled Reverse Diet works best.

I follow Hana DeVore’s Instagram Account.  She is a 3 time NPC Nationally Qualified Bikini Competitor for Team FitBody Fusion and she has definitely put the work in Reverse Dieting in order to keep her metabolism healthy and to help increase her muscle mass between competitions.  It is so inspirational to watch her compete while taking care of herself.  So often bikini competitors are put on strict meal plans and extreme levels of cardio to diet down for the stage after which they go nuts with  cheat meals and put a TON of weight on post show (20 pounds in 2 weeks is not unheard of).  Hana does NOT do this because she works hard to Reverse Diet and has a coach (Jami Bernard) who has her best interests at heart.

Hana DeVore Reverse Diet

Above you see Hana’s 7 month transformation.  On the left she was 6.5 weeks out from one of her bikini competitions eating 1350 calories and on the right was 7 months later and 7.5 weeks out from another bikini competition eating over 2000 calories daily.  By eating more calories and continuing to work hard in the gym she was able to build muscle while staying relatively lean.

Below you can see her July to October glute gains thanks to Reverse Dieting (remember you have to be in a caloric surplus to add muscle) and continued training in the gym.

Hana DeVore Glute Progress

I asked Hana about her experience with Reverse Dieting and she said:

“Before I met my coach, I was only eating about 80 grams of carbs per day and doing a ton of cardio, simply because I thought that was what I needed to do to get a lean, ‘toned’ physique. Jami slowly rebuilt my metabolism to the point where in my offseason I could eat up to 300 grams of carbs a day while barely gaining any body fat. I also meticulously reverse dieted in between each competition to avoid rebounding, in order to build my strength back up, and to make the next prep that much easier. Reverse dieting can actually be a tougher process for some than prepping for a competition, since boosting your metabolism can definitely boost your hunger as well. But if you can stay in control and closely monitor your progress, you can get some really amazing results. And of course being able to eat more each week is always fun!”

Another great example of Reverse Dieting can be found on JoSandiFIT’s blog.  She documented 15 weeks of her Reverse Diet with weekly blog posts.  Click HERE to read those posts.

I hope this post has helped clear-up any confusion as to what a Reverse Diet is and why someone would want to go through the process.  As you can see, there are many reasons to Reverse Diet.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

If you are interested in working with me, click HERE for information about the nutrition coaching programs I offer.


Filed under Althletics, Education, Exercise, IIFYM and Macros, Nutrition, Weight Issues, Weight Lifting

JON HINDS – Plant Strong Gym Owner


“Train like a Gorilla, Eat like a Gorilla, Chill like a Gorilla”

I first learned of Jon Hinds through the T. Colin Campbell newsletter which I subscribe to.  Jon founded the Monkey Bar Gymnasium and has had a very successful career (Don’t you love the quote above from his website!).  He is a former NBA strength and conditioning coach and is currently a consultant for both the NFL and NBA.  Jon trained Darryl Strawberry (New York Yankees), Glen Braggs (Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals), Charles Smith (New York Knicks), Anfernee Hardaway (Phoenix Suns), Eric Davis (St. Louis Cardinals), Lucious Harris (New Jersey Nets) and members of the L.A. Clippers.

Personally Jon has achieved some amazing feats:

  • Gold Medallist in the 2000 Pan American Games – Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
  • Gold Medallist in the 2001 Rickson Gracie World Championships – Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

In an interview with (click HERE for the interview in it’s entirety), Jon explained his nutrition philosophy:

For nutrition, I use a simple plan called the “Hand Plan”. The “Hand Plan” follows simple portion control with a plant based diet. Most people love to eat meat, or believe that you need to eat meat to keep or gain muscle, but I am trying to do and teach what is most healthy for the body and the environment and eating animal products is not the way.

We suggest people eat 90% or more plant based foods. This has proven extremely effective for burning fat as we average 17 pounds of fat loss and 5 pounds of muscle gain in the first 60 days of Monkey Bar Gymnasium training and nutrition.

The “Hand Plan” is simple: eat portion sizes that are as big as your open hand, keeping the majority of the plate or bowl green foods. Keep plenty of nuts, seeds and legumes in your intake as well.

Click on the link and enjoy the video where Jon explains what led him to eat a plant-based diet and what he has learned.

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Filed under Althletics, Education, Exercise, Fat, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian, Video, Weight Issues

ROBERT CHEEKE on Working Hard

I recently purchased a copy of Robert Cheeke’s book, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness.  The essay below comes from the book.

I have to say that this is one of the most inspiring essays I have read in a long time.  It really made me think.  We are so fortunate to live where we do and have the opportunities we have, yet so many people complain about how hard we work…but do we?

Increase Your Work Ethic to Create Your Own Results
By Robert Cheeke
June 23, 2009

I believe the term “hard work” gets thrown around way too loosely and way too carelessly in our society. Every day people walk around describing “hard work” as if they actually think they have some sort of comprehension of what that means. Every day people think that working 40 hours a week is “hard” and that creating time in their schedule to peel themselves away from the television or their TV dinner to exercise is “hard work.” The truth is, most people in our culture have no idea what it means to work hard or to believe in something so much that they’ll dedicate their life to it and do what it takes to accomplish it. Most people don’t truly commit to something that is exceptional or outstanding and work excruciatingly hard at it every day. Most people simply don’t have it in them. You can blame it on society; you can blame it on culture; you can blame it on lifestyle and conveniences or traditions; but I choose to blame it on the individual. Average people don’t work hard unless they are forced to by necessity. It takes effort, work, and time, and most people are not interested in investing any of those things as long as they have their 40-hour per week jobs, television programs, fast food, and partner or family to share this time with. Average people don’t want to change anymore than they have to because they’ve put in their eight hours for the day and they’re ready to kick back, rest their feet, and relax. Sure, people still complain that they don’t have enough money to pay bills, improve healthcare, support their children better, enhance their lifestyles, and bring more fulfillment to their lives; but they’re not willing to work hard to change. It’s just too much to ask. Average people would rather become obese or get sick before they’d ever think about starting an exercise program, following a sound nutrition program, or applying themselves more in areas such as work or relationships.

What makes me any different? The only thing that makes me any different than anyone else in this society when it comes to hard work is the fact that I am aware of how lazy we are and I’ve chosen to do something about it. That’s it. That’s the only thing that separates me and other hard-working people from those who don’t work hard in our society. We simply took the time to acknowledge it and conclude that being lazy isn’t the right thing to do, that there is so much more to life than just getting by. We realized that the world is a wonderful place with endless opportunities to succeed and to contribute in monumental ways, and we realized that the road to success is paved in hard work day in and day out in all aspects of life. We also came to the realization that hard work doesn’t mean boring or unfulfilling work. Some of the greatest times of my life resulted from working harder than anyone else and putting in 15-hour days doing truly meaningful things in my life. We’re also fully aware that there are plenty of people in all parts of the world who work way harder than we do and don’t have the privileges we have, the opportunities we have, the tools and resources that we have, or the support that we have. Billions work from dawn to dusk to simply survive; others seem to not even try; others work hard to thrive. Where do you fall among these groups?

The first step in embracing a new work ethic is to let go of ego and accept the fact that you really don’t work very hard. When I came to the conclusion that I was lazy, selfish, had poor time management, made bad decisions, and didn’t care very much about what I was doing, I realized I was just like everyone else and I needed to make a change immediately. I made a change and became successful immediately, found immediate meaning in the hard work I was doing, and found it to be enjoyable, fulfilling, and rewarding. Most of us just aren’t willing to work any harder than we are now. If we can change our way of thinking to understand how to work hard and understand why it is important to work hard, we can do incredible things with our lives and that is what life should be about.

Here are some tips to improve your work ethic:

-Get rid of your television. It distracts you from doing productive and meaningful things in your life and eats up an incredible amount of time.

-Determine what you love to do the most and spend more time doing it.

-Find true meaning in your life and pursue it with passion.

-Reduce the time you spend on the Internet.

-Observe the work ethic of the people who are the most successful in any given industry.

-Observe the work ethic of those who rely on their work ethic to survive.

-Learn how to manage your time effectively and efficiently.

-Set specific work ethic goals.

-Understand how investment of effort leads directly to the attainment of goals.

-Really believe in what it is you are doing. Belief will automatically improve motivation and work ethic.

For more information about Robert Cheeke and to visit the website he created click here.

Top Image courtesy of
Bottom image courtesy of

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Filed under Althletics, Education, General Vegan, Vegan, Vegetarian

GUEST BLOG – Vegan Protein by Giacomo Marchese


Today’s Guest Blog is by Giacomo Marchese of  Giacomo has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 17 years.  He competed and placed in both 2002 and 2008 with the INBF (International Natural Bodybuilding Federation).  Other activities he enjoys include cycling, running, snowboarding, tennis, racquetball and most other racquet sports. 

Shortly after his first competition, Giacomo transitioned to a vegan diet for health and wellness reasons.  Through this period of time he was able to increase his strength and size while training on a plant based diet.  He also tried a raw diet for three years and competed raw in 2008.

After embracing the ethical side of eating responsibly for his body, he has dedicated time and effort towards showing others what is possible on a cruelty free diet. 

Jimi Sitko, Robert Cheeke, Giacomo Marchese

Currently, Giacomo is working on a documentary, Vegan Brothers in Iron, which dispells the myths of veganism and muscle building (to be released in the coming year or sooner).  He is also currently blogging a P90x training journal (workout, nutrition, transformation pictures) where the recommended meal plans have been modified to be suitable for a vegan lifestyle:  Vegan P90x blog

You can support him by checking out the plant based supplements they carry at


by Giacomo Marchese

Really, you’re a vegan? Wow! But where do you get your protein from? And a bodybuilder on top of that… that’s really amazing – I can’t believe it…

Is the idea really that far fetched that a vegan can partake in bodybuilding just as efficiently as a typical bodybuilder who eats exorbitant amounts of protein from meat and dairy products? Hardly! We’re living proof! And an in-depth documentary which shows just how it’s done is in the works as we continue to prepare for a competition in April, 2009.

Consider that the most powerful animals on the planet: the bull, elephant, giraffe, rhino, hippo, etc., are all herbivores. Also consider that the biggest dinosaurs, the ones who outlived the others, were herbivores.

Have you ever heard of a person who is ‘protein’ deficient, other than in third world countries where they do not have access to nutrient rich foods – or food in general – on a daily basis? No. Vegans are in no way threatened by protein deficiency. If we ate nothing but wheat, oatmeal, or potatoes, we would easily take in more than enough protein.

Nutritional facts from the USDA National Nutritional Database:

(Amount of calories from protein.)

  • Watercress 84%, Mushrooms 56%, Spinach 50%, Sprouts 35+%
  • Kidney Beans 58%, Navy Beans 37%, Soybeans 35%
  • Wheat Germ 26%, Rye 18%, Oatmeal 17%, Peanuts 18%
  • Pumpkin Seeds 18%, Sunflower Seeds 16%, Cantaloupes 10%, Peaches 9%, Oranges 8%

WOW – that’s just from straight up WHOLE FOODS! Could mother nature actually have satisfied our needs for survival without having to instill suffering on our furry, feathered, and finned friends? Can’t be.

Now that that’s settled, let’s take this one step further: What if one were to feel compelled to take in a presumably much larger than required amount of protein for a healthy functioning body and did not care to consume it in a supplementary fashion? The average Joe, for example, who just wants to go to his local grocer and pick up something, perhaps processed, to enjoy and whip up right quick?

There’s soy and gluten products. You can easily purchase these as viable substitutes for any animal product out there. Faux meat, wheat meat, or grain meat is easily found at many regular grocery stores and health food stores around the country.

Wheat Gluten, Tofu, and other soy or grain products can pack a mean punch when it comes to protein content. Tempeh (fermented brown rice) isn’t even processed, it’s cultured!

(Amount of calories from protein.)

  • Hi Protein Tofu (Wildwood / Trader Joes, etc): 28%
  • Tofurky Italian ‘sausage’: 41%
  • Seitan (wheat gluten): 41%
  • Tempeh: 38.5%

From the point of view of an amateur bodybuilder, I’m trying my best to get my protein in convenient form, without carrying around full meals. I’m talking about supplementation with protein powders. With the mass appeal of ‘whey’ and ‘casein’ powders, which are derived from dairy, you’d think that they are the only true sources of high protein shakes. People are amazed to learn that so many other options exist. That’s because Vegan Protein Powders are simply overshadowed by the insurmountable figures spent on blanketing the entire market with advertising, marketing, research, and promotion of whey and casein based protein powders.

As a matter of fact, whey, casein, and egg protein powders are the only three options if you choose to stick with animal protein powders exclusively, and all three pale in comparison, on a micronutrient level, to the majority of the Vegan protein powders listed below:

(Amount of calories from protein.)

Animal Based Protein Powders:

  • Whey, Casein, Egg: 95 – 100%

Vegan Protein Powders:

  • Soy Protein: 95%
  • Pea Protein: 93%
  • Bio Fermented Brown Rice Protein: 92%
  • Brown Rice Protein: 80%
  • Chlorella: 80%
  • Buckwheat Protein: 80%
  • *Spirulina: 54%
  • Hemp Protein: 45%

And there’s more, but you get the picture.

*In additon to being vegan, these protein based powders are raw and unprocessed

Whether you are a Vegan or a Raw Foodist, you can see, you will get your fill of protein. If you’re a bodybuilder and you indulge in the theory of excessively high protein intake and caloric deficit, you can do it. It’s actually far more efficient, and healthier as vegan foods have zero cholesterol, for you to use vegan protein powdders because many of these vegan sources are micronutrient powerhouses. Spirulina and Chlorella, for example, are superfoods. One serving of either equates to 35 servings of vegetables in regards to vitamin and mineral content. Even small amounts will benefit you immensely!

Where do I get most of my protein from? Sprouts, nuts and seeds. Protein supplementation? Spirulina and Sun Warrior (bio fermented brown rice) both of which I offer to you on this site. In the future, will offer many of these other supplementary options as well, but for now why not take advantage of my two favorite sources? It’s not so bad being a raw food vegan, now is it?

As for the marketing hype out there and the 8 essential amino acid discussion — don’t fall for it. The Vegan supplement sources and Vegan food sources contain all 10 of the 20 essential amino acids that your body cannot produce itself. And for the ones that don’t, it’s not like you need to have all 10 at every meal. Do you really think that you need everything all at once every meal or your diet will be unbalanced? The human body is amazingly efficient, it takes up everything you’ve eaten daily, or even over the course of a couple of days, and knows what to do. That theory of “complete” protein or food combinations by the otherwise groundbreaking book in the 70s “Diet for a Small Planet” was a theory. Even the author herself, Francis Lappe wrote in her revised edition that current science indicates that you don’t have to combine foods, like beans and rice, to get a complete protein. The body will do the work for you.


Filed under Althletics, Education, General Vegan, Guest Blog, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE: Sports Gel Alternatives

Here is my latest column over at Chic Vegan

I am training for my first marathon in July. I depend on Gu packets and Shot Block packages to get me through my runs. From what I’ve read on your blog it seems that they are processed, syrupy no-nos, and now by eating these I feel like I am undoing the steps I’ve taken before my run!

What do you recommend as fuel during hard workouts and long runs? What can I put in my pockets for my main event? 26.2 miles is a long way and I want to support all my hard work the best way I can.

Thank you so much for all you share!

~ Rhea

Congratulations on tackling a marathon!

When it comes to exercise nutrition questions I always pull out my very well used copy of “Thrive” by Brendan Brazier. Brendan is a Professional Ironman Triathlete and the Formulator of Vega. I highly recommend this book.

You are right to question the commercial sports gel products on the market. As you stated, many of them contain artificial colors and flavors, and are not always made with the highest quality ingredients. It is super easy and way less expensive to make your own gel. Brendan suggests blending dates and agave nectar as a healthy nutrient rich substitute to the sports gels currently available in stores.

The basic recipe calls for 4 dates and 1/4 cup of agave syrup and makes about 3/4 cup which will fill two 4-ounce gel flasks. You can flavor the gel with anything you’d like.

Let me know how the marathon goes.

Happy training!


Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her at .

Image of Brendan Brazier courtesy of GLiving


Filed under Althletics, Chic Vegan Column, Education, Gluten Free, Published Work, Vegan, Vegetarian