Metabolic confusion

Metabolic Confusion: Lose Weight Without Giving Up On Your Favorite Food 

Well, when you decide to lose weight, you take on a hard battle. It is difficult to decide upon a meal plan and follow that. This is a major part of the battle, and the rest is battling your way through cravings and hunger, which in return present you with mood swings. This is actually what metabolic confusion is claiming. There is no such magical pill that is going to deal with the hunger and the cravings and let you lose weight. It is the diet that promises you that. It is an alternate-day diet for fasting that makes a shift between different periods of low-calorie and high-calorie intake. 

This is basically a trick to make the metabolism rate faster. The diet alters your calorie intake and tricks your metabolism to work faster. People who propose this metabolic confusion diet swear that this actually helps.  

What is metabolic confusion? 

Metabolic confusion is also popularly known as calorie cycling or calorie shifting diet. This form of the diet is restrictive, and it alters between high and low-calorie days to artificially speed up the metabolism and burn more calories. 

On your low-calorie days, you will intake lower calories than on other usual days. The plan for these days mostly suggests that you can intake about 1,200 calories per day. This is almost half the amount that you usually consume in a day. This creates a calorie deficit by taking less and burning more. 


And on days when you have to take high-calorie foods, you generally take the regular amount or more. Here, they will mostly suggest you intake at least 2,000 calories per day. 

According to Imashi Fernando, MS, R.D., who told Honehealth in an interview, “Weight loss is about energy balance. A lower resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the number of calories your body burns at rest—would make it more challenging to promote continued weight loss.” 

He adds, “Instead, the thought with metabolic confusion is that shifting between high-calorie and low-calorie periods of eating will confuse your metabolism into maintaining your RMR. Effectively avoiding the typical drop in RMR seen in other low-calorie diets.” 

Metabolic confusion is a lot like the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet, where your food intake stays normal for 5 days, and then you restrict the intake of calories for the next two days. But both of these diets differ from actual intermittent fasting.  

Does metabolic confusion actually help with weight loss? 

The logic behind metabolic confusion is to keep the metabolism on its toes as it jumps between calorie intakes. Theoretically, the body cannot be sure what nutrients and energy it is going to get that day, and thus, it maintains a higher RMR or resting metabolic rate. 

With a high RMR, the body burns more calories throughout the day. And an elevated rate of RMR is also a way of losing fat and weight. When the diet confuses the body about the diet, it works harder to keep up with the dietary changes. 

People who support the metabolic confusion diet believe that it also helps in avoiding the negative effects as it does not allow the body to go on periodic calorie deprivation. This thus allows weight loss as the body cannot adapt to the change so fast.  


Back in 2014, a study was conducted that supported this idea. The study compared the traditional calorie restriction with the calorie shift, and it was done over a period of 42 days.  

In the study, a group consumed 1,200 calories every day, while another group restricted their calorie intake and continued this for 11 days, and then for three days, they went on an unrestricted diet.  

The group that participated in the calorie restriction saw a significant decrease in the RMR by the time the study ended. And people who took part in the calorie-shifting diet had their RMR maintained. 

People who participated in the calorie shift program lost more weight and also reported less hunger, along with a greater adherence to diet. The authors derived that with this kind of eating, style comes with great flexibility, and it makes the process long-term.  

Other studies 

Another study was conducted over a period of 1 year with 100 participants, and it did not find any significant difference in weight loss among people who did the traditional calorie restriction and who continued with a calorie shift diet. 

This could actually mean that the effectiveness of the diet decreased with time. And more research needs to be done on the topic. If we consider that a calorie shift diet gives greater flexibility and gives a break from strict dieting, then people who try this style of eating might report greater satisfaction. Which makes it a better option for weight loss. 

Dr. Fernando says, “If you struggle with sticking to caloric restriction, metabolic confusion may offer an alternative that allows you to take breaks from low-calorie eating while maintaining an overall slight caloric deficit long term. However, it is important to emphasize that the long-term effects on health are currently unknown.” 

Is the plan for metabolic confusion safe? 

According to Dr. Fernando, “As long as it’s not practiced in an extreme manner—for example, eating fewer calories (i.e. 800 calories) for five days, followed by higher calories (i.e. 3,500 calories) for two days—it should be fine.” 

Almost all researchers say that the most sustainable way to achieve healthy weight loss depends on regular exercise and a nutritious diet for creating a small calorie deficit of approximately 500 calories every day. Dr. Fernando says, “If calorie shifting helps you get there, go for it.” 


Even though there are certain problems, Dr. Fernando says, “The biggest safety concern is not getting at least the minimum required daily amount of macro and micronutrients for age and biological sex, which is necessary for optimal functioning body processes.” 

Also, the metabolic confusion diet plan might not be ideal for people who have diabetes. Dr. Fernando warns, “Calorie shifting could dramatically affect blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous for people with diabetes. It’s important to review with your doctor, especially if you are taking any medications for blood sugar management.” 

How can you pursue a metabolic confusion diet? 


To be precise, you have to do it in two different steps. First, you have to determine the calories, and then you have to find an appropriate format for yourself. 

Determine the calories 

With the form of metabolic confusion, the main focus is on how many calories you are consuming in a day and not what you are eating in a day. Even though the calorie amounts can vary, most of the plans suggest taking a 1,200-calorie on their low-calorie days. 

According to Dr. Fernando, “Setting an arbitrary daily calorie intake goal ignores all the factors that go into determining individualized energy needs. This could severely under- or over-fuel your body, directly impeding weight loss results.”  

Dr. Ferando suggests a more personalized and calculated approach. Calorie needs depend on various dieter differences. It depends on factors like sex, age, body size, and the level of activity that a person goes through every day. Most adults need a minimum of 2,000 calories per day.  

She also warns, “Plus, prolonged severe calorie restriction will make it more challenging to obtain all your macro and micronutrients in recommended amounts. Get it wrong, and it could lead to malnutrition.” 

She suggests consulting a dietitian to get everything calculated and make an informed decision accordingly. Dr. Fernando says, “Indirect calorimetry is the gold standard for determining individual RMR and is what a registered dietitian (RD) will use to accurately determine your calorie needs.” 

Choose a format 

After that, you have to choose a pattern. I mean, how often do you want to switch between the low and high-calorie days, you have to decide that.  

She says, “The metabolic confusion diet does not provide any guidelines on the most effective format, and there’s very little research to suggest one schedule is more effective than another.” 

But the good part is you get the flexibility to choose which plan works best for you. Some of the plans need to be switched every few weeks or months.  

Some choose a format that needs to be switched every few days, close to the 5:2 fasting. Here, you eat 5 days normally, and then for the next two days, your intake is significantly low. 

Benefits of metabolic confusion 


Here are some of the benefits of a metabolic confusion diet plan, which is why you can give it a shot. 

More mindful eating 

Dr. Fernando says, “Tracking calories can help you become more familiar with how many calories are in one serving of your favorite foods—prepare to be surprised. After a while, you’ll become a pro in estimating how many calories are on your plate without the need for measuring cups or a food scale.” 

She points out that calorie intake is not the only factor that you should focus on. The micro and macronutrients matter as well. 

Less hunger 

The diet plan for metabolic confusion is deliberately designed in a way that the calorie intake is going to increase. So, you might not feel that you are getting deprived of anything or the need to have consequent cheat days as it comes hand-in-hand with the other low-calorie diets. 

Dr. Fernando says, “Whether you are calorie cycling or not, eating high volumes of ultra-processed foods high in added sugar, salt, and saturated fats will leave you craving more. The easiest way to fight hunger cravings is to aim for balanced meals and snacks with an adequate amount of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.” 


According to Dr. Fernando, “We are social creatures, and food plays a role in many social settings. The flexibility of the metabolic confusion diet allows you to still enjoy a meal at a family gathering, Sunday brunch, or birthday party—while avoiding the feelings of failure that often come with trying to stick to other restrictive diets.” 

One of the most important benefits of metabolic confusion is that it never removes specific nutrients or food that you save for some special occasions. According to studies, if the diet is more flexible, people are going to follow it in the long run. 

Drawbacks of metabolic confusion 


There are benefits of a metabolic confusion diet plan, but there are some drawbacks as well. 

It is restrictive 

Even though the plan is flexible and does not lead to cravings, it is still a calorie-restricting plan.  

Dr. Fernando says, “Prolonged caloric restriction can lead to a poorer quality of life. You may find you have lower energy levels or micronutrient deficiencies without overt symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to work with a trained healthcare professional who can help you monitor your nutrition.” 

It focuses on quantity over quality 

Dr. Fernando explains, “A major downside to metabolic confusion is that it focuses on calories, regardless of where they come from. An ultra-processed frozen dinner might be 300 calories whereas whole grain toast, two eggs, and half of an avocado is 350 calories. Less calories isn’t always the better choice.” 

She says, “Opt for lean protein like chicken, lean steak, and protein powder, healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds, whole grains, leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables.” 

It is unsustainable 

According to Dr. Fernando, “The best diet is an eating pattern that you are able to maintain through the rigors of daily life. If you can’t make it sustainable for you, it won’t be effective in the long run.” 

Wrapping up! 

It might be easier for you to stick to a metabolic confusion diet than any other restrictive diet. But do not expect any drastic change in the metabolism. Even though you may lose weight with this, it would not be because of the confused metabolism.  

It is caused mostly because of the calorie deficit. And because of the controlled hunger and not feeling deprived, it is easy to stick to the diet. If you are looking for ways to lose weight but do not want to completely restrict your calorie intake, then you can try this plan. 


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Subhasree Nag


Subhasree is a content writer who is passionate about traveling, writing, and reading books. In her leisure time, she is seen listening to music and watching web series. Writing along with music and dance are ways in which she expresses herself.

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