The Metabolic confusion diet has been making rounds in the fitness community for a few years now. With many people claiming that it’s the key to unlocking the secret to weight loss, breaking through plateus and boosting their metabolism.
The diet is based on a simple principle of switching up your daily and weekly caloric intake, which in turn causes you to burn fat more effectively.
But does metabolic confusion actually work and is it a safe and effective diet plan?
Or is it just another trendy fad?
In this article, we’ll dive into the science behind metabolic confusion and explore whether or not it is a viable option for weight loss.
Additionally, at the bottom of the article I will also provide you with a sample metabolic confusion meal plan and a free downloadable pdf, if you wish to test it out for yourself.
Let’s dive right in!
What is the Metabolic Confusion Diet?
So, how do you confuse your metabolism?
At its core, the metabolic confusion diet is an eating pattern that involves alternating between periods of high-calorie intake and low-calorie intake.
This is why, metabolic confusion is commonly referred to as calorie cycling or calorie shifting.
Yay more calorie counting! Just what we wanted, right?
Don’t let the phrase “high-calorie”confuse you (haha, get it?) . You still need to be in a caloric deficit in order to successfully lose weight. Your high calorie days is where you’ll be eating the recommended amount of calories to maintain your weight.
For example: Let’s assume you need 2,200 calories to maintain your weight (TDEE). Normally, with a regular calorie deficit, you would want to aim for about 300-500 calories below your TDEE.
So you would want to be consuming 1,700 to 1,900 calories.
With the metabolic confusion diet, on your low calorie days you’d be aiming for 1,600 calories, and 2,200 calories for your high-calorie days.
Metabolic confusion has a pretty similar concept to carb cycling, where you alternate between high-carb and low-carb days. The inconsistency of your meal plan is meant to keep your body from adapting to your diet and stagnating your weight loss progress.
Basically keeping your metabolism on its “toes”.
And as a result, metabolic confusion should artificially speed up your metabolism and cause you to burn more calories more consistently.
On paper, this makes sense. Our bodies are really good at adapting to changes in order to promote efficiency and preserve energy.
Imagine the scenario:
You’re in a jungle with limited food supplies. Low food supplies means one thing – fewer calories and energy. But you still have to go hunt and gather, so what does your body do? It slows down your metabolism and it breaks down some muscle tissue to use as fuel.
While a caloric deficit is nothing more than a diet to us, our bodies tend to perceive it as you being exposed to a dangerous situation. It needs to act FAST in order to ensure you’ll stay alive.
Just because something “makes sense” though, doesn’t necessarily mean that it works.
Let’s see what science has to say about the metabolic confusion diet.
Does Metabolic Confusion Work For Weight Loss?
The fact that you’re going to be in a caloric deficit throughout the diet will promote weight loss alone.
You can’t really “trick” your metabolism to work better, but you can prevent it from slowing down.
Like I mentioned previously, our bodies are really good at adapting.
Being in a restrictive caloric deficit for long periods of time has been shown to slow down your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This process is referred to as adaptive thermogenesis – your body becomes less effective at burning calories (source, source).
“Adaptive thermogenesis creates the ideal situation for weight regain and is operant in both lean and obese individuals attempting to sustain reduced body weights” (source)
Yes, you read that right. Not only does it slow down the effectiveness weight loss, but it also promotes weight re-gain.
According to the same paper, your body does so not only affect your physiology, but also your psychology.
The longer you stick to a caloric deficit, the harder it gets to stay on the diet mentally. And it even goes as far to manipulate you into wanting more food.
As evil as this sounds, I find it incredibly fascinating how good our bodies are at getting what they want. Don’t you?
This is where metabolic confusion shines.
A 2014 study compared the effectiveness of a traditional calorie resitrction against calorie shifting over a 42 day period. The restricted group consumed 1,200 calories per day, every day. While the shifting group were on a restricted diet for 11 days and then had a 3 day unrestricted break.
The calorie restricted group, as expected, experienced a significant decrease in their RMR. While the shifting group still saw a drop in RMR, but not nearly as severe as the calorie restricted group.
The group on the metabolic confusion diet were able to lose 6.28kg (~14lbs). While the calorie restricted group lost 5.39kg (~12lbs).
And here’s the kicker, during their 4 week follow up period, the restricted group regained a lot of the weight that they had lost. The shifting group still regained some of the weight, but about 5lbs less than the restricted group.
The metabolic confusion group also reported less hunger and were more likely to stick to their diet.
Well, that’s that then, right?
Point proven. Metabolic confusion works for weight loss!
Not so fast!
There is another study that did the exact same thing, however the duration of the diet was 1 year, not 10 weeks. The study showed that there was no significant difference in the weight loss in both groups.
Perhaps, this shows us that the metabolic confusion diet’s effectiveness decreases with time. More research is necessary for us to have a solid conclusion.
Is It Right for You?
While we definitely need more research in the field, I believe that this shows us something.
Taking small breaks from your caloric deficits can be beneficial. Not for results alone, but for your adherence to weight loss.
At the end of the day, it’s far more important for someone trying to lose weight to stick to their plan for longer. The longer you last, the more weight you’ll lose.
Plus, the added benefit of NOT regaining all of the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose, is a win in my book.
I also think that the metabolic confusion diet is perfect for people who have hit a plateau. You’ve just stopped seeing results.
Then maybe it’s worth confusing your metabolism a little bit? Do something different, other than just eating fewer calories.
I’m a big proponent of “testing things out”. What works for one person may not work for another. There’s only one way to find out – experimenting.
But most importantly…
There is also the added flexibility of having high-calorie days making it easier for you to enjoy food-related occasions like birthdays, holidays and parties, without feeling guilty.
If I’ve learned anything over the past 10+ years is that the more flexible a diet is, the more likely you are to follow it.
Research seems to support my experience (study).
How To Do The Metabolic Confusion Diet
The first step is to find out what your caloric requirements are.
I would recommend checking out TheBodybuildingBlog’s calorie calculator. You click on the “Send results to my email” button which will send the results to you email. Or, you can download a pdf with your calorie calculations by clicking on the “Download PDF” button.
Knowing how many calories you need is a crucial step.
There doesn’t seem to be direct guidelines by which to abide in order to follow a metabolic confusion diet.
All you have to remember is to follow the principle of low-calorie and high-calorie.
You can do alternating days, alternating weeks, or like in the research paper – you can follow a custom model of being on low calories for a 5-10 days followed by a few high-calorie days.
Whatever fits your day-to-day best, and is the least stressful, is the one you should follow.
Metabolic Confusion Meal Plan + PDF
For the purpose of this sample meal plan, we’re going to use two examples.
I think this is going to do a pretty good job of outlining how the metabolic confusion diet plan should look like.
Both examples will cover a 6 week time span.
Remember: If you weigh less, the calorie deficit during your low calorie cycles will be lower. The lowest you should aim for is 300-500 calories.
Make sure to keep track of your weight. If you’ve lower weight, you will need to re-calculate your caloric intake.
First Example Meal Plan
Man, aged 25, is 5’11, weighs 185lbs and works out 4-5 times a week.
This gives us a Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) of 2,700 calories. These are the amount of calories necessary to maintain their current weight.
Week 1 to 3:
Monday: Low-calorie day (1,800 calories)
Tuesday: High-calorie day (2,700 calories)
Wednesday: Low-calorie day (1,800 calories)
Thursday: High-calorie day (2,700 calories)
Friday: Low-calorie day (1,800 calories)
Saturday: High-calorie day (2,700 calories)
Sunday: Low-calorie day (1,800 calories)
Week 4 to 6
11 Days: Low-calorie days of 1,900 calories
3 Days: High-calorie days of 2,700 calories.
Second Example Meal Plan
Woman, aged 35, is 5’7, weighs 175lbs and works out 4-5 times a week.
This gives us a Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) of 2,500 calories. These are the amount of calories necessary to maintain their current weight.
Week 1 to 3:
Monday: Low-calorie day (1,600 calories)
Tuesday: High-calorie day (2,500 calories)
Wednesday: Low-calorie day (1,600 calories)
Thursday: High-calorie day (2,500 calories)
Friday: Low-calorie day (1,600 calories)
Saturday: High-calorie day (2,500 calories)
Sunday: Low-calorie day (1,600 calories)
Week 4 to 6
11 Days: Low-calorie days of 1,700 calories
3 Days: High-calorie days of 2,500 calories.