Metabolic Confusion | How to Trick Your Metabolism Into Burning Fat

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This content has been Fact-Checked by a Certified Nutritionist in our Publishing Team. Learn more here. Always consult a medical professional before commencing any diet.

Metabolic confusion as the name suggests is a diet that aims at tricking your metabolism into working harder and never reaching plateau.

Our bodies are different and that means they work differently too. Some diets will work for some people but not for others.

Why?

Every “body” reacts to diets in a different way, and our metabolism has a big say in that.

Let’s dive in and find out why we have different metabolism rates and how we can lose weight by confusing our metabolism.

How Is Metabolism Linked to Weight Loss?

Have ever wondered why some people never put on weight no matter how much they eat? Yes, I know, that’s super annoying and lucky for them too!

I also have friends that were eating healthy salads every night and still couldn’t lose any weight at all. Now that’s frustating!

Have you lost weight but put all back on?

Why????

Blame the metabolism!

What is metabolism anyway?

Metabolism is your body’s ability to transform food into energy. The question is, how fast does it go?

Our metabolism speed vary according to our age, gender, weight, muscle and of course genes! Some people will naturally have slow metabolism and some, very fast metabolism (the skinny ones).

In order to lose weight, specially if you have struggled to lose weight, it is important to understand your metabolism type. That is super important because it is going to determine your body ability to maintain and lose weight.

Factors that will affect your metabolism speed:

  • Aging: As we get older we start to lose muscle which is one of the key ingredients to a fast metabolic rate. That is why exercising is so important. Check out this quick workout for all ages to get your metabolism going anytime.
  • Medication: some types of medicines could change your metabolic rate to either slow or fast. Like thyroid medication.
  • Late breakfast: Delaying your first meal of the day could be affecting your weigh loss journey. Eating early in the morning will get your metabolism working asap.
  • Fast Weight loss: Our bodies need less energy to function with a lower body weight. That means it could drop its metabolic rate. There are things you can do to get fast metabolism, like changing your diet, building more muscle and exercising everyday.

What is the Metabolic Confusion Diet?

Calories in versus calories out are key to losing (and gaining) weight.

Ordinarily, people who are trying to shed a few pounds, are told to calculate the number of calories they need to eat per day to reach their goals.

You can visit a dietitian or nutritionist if you’re not sure about your daily calorie intake, or you can use an online calculator to get an estimate and take it from there.

But instead of consuming say, 2300 calories each day, the metabolic confusion diet (also called calorie confusion, calorie cycling, and calorie shifting) suggests alternating your calorie intake from one day to the next – or even on a weekly basis.


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Not a Conventional ‘Diet’

It is possible to be on the metabolic confusion diet without restricting yourself too much. As long as you stick to the premise of a higher-calorie period followed by a lower-calorie period, you are likely to see results.

One metabolic confusion study found that participants who ate whatever they wanted for three days per week in a two-week period, lost more weight than the calorie-restricted group.

That’s great news but please don’t go eating junk food for three days hoping to lose weight. It is very important to eat healthy meals consisting of a balance of essential macro-nutrients to make sure your body gets all the nutrients it needs.

Metabolic cycling of calories
Cycle Calories to Lose Weight Faster

How Does the Metabolic Confusion Diet Work?

The metabolic confusion diet is based on the belief that changing the intake of calories from one day to the next will turbocharge your metabolism by increasing your resting metabolic rate (RMR).

This means you will essentially burn more calories (and lose those love handles)… While doing nothing hard – nothing like sticking to eating boring salads for lunch day after day.

According to weight-loss expert and author of The 17 Day Diet, Dr. Mike Moreno, if the body is fueled by the same amount of calories every day, it becomes efficient in using the incoming calories.

This means the body knows exactly how much energy it needs to perform its daily functions and will burn just enough calories to keep it going – storing the rest as fat for possible emergency situations.

It’s easy . . .

The metabolic confusion concept is simple:

Instead of routinely eating 2300 calories a day, you rearrange your intake as follows:

  1. Low-Calorie Day: shift your consumption to anywhere from 1,200 calories (see our super-delicious Smoothie Diet guide for some recipes for these low-calorie days)
  2. High-Calorie Day: shift your consumption into 2000.

To simplify things, you may want to calculate your weekly calorie allocation and work from there.

By eating in this unknown order, your body will adjust your metabolism based on the erratic caloric values, meaning a faster metabolism and more fat-burning to compensate for the metabolic disruption.


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Metabolic Confusion Diet Benefits

young woman exercising

1-The metabolic confusion study mentioned earlier suggests that this type of eating pattern will not only lead to weight loss but can improve your ability to stick to the diet because it is easy to follow. Check out this other easy to follow diet created by Dr Rhonda Patrick who promotes healthy living.

2-Research shows that those who do successfully lose weight will more than likely end up weighing even more in the future than before. That is why finding something that can work for you in the long-term is essential.

3- Another benefit of the metabolic confusion diet over other traditional weight-loss programs is a reduction in negative effects on hormonal balances in the body.

4- A study showed that calorie restriction diet led to an improvement in the symptoms of asthma in addition to decreasing the inflammation and oxidative stress.

5- The calorie restriction diet can decrease the aging of the aortic wall according to this research.

As soon as your body feels that it is under attack, numerous biological changes are implemented to survive – the brain, in essence, tells the body to preserve energy when the threat of starvation or illness is perceived.

Consequences of Dieting . . .

Dieting can have many adverse effects on your body, including:

  • A decrease in testosterone in a low-fat diet.
  • A decrease in resting energy expenditure (you might know this as ‘starvation mode’)
  • A reduction in thyroid hormone
  • A decrease in physical activity
  • An increase of cortisol (stress hormone)
  • A decrease in leptin (a hormone that tells your brain when you are full)
  • An increase of ghrelin (the opposite of leptin – tells your brain that you are hungry)

These metabolic adaptations are likely to also happen during metabolic confusion, but to a lesser degree than with typical low-calorie diets.

Let’s discuss leptin and ghrelin . . .

The body will do everything in its power to slow your weight loss down. And it usually does it through altering weight-regulating hormones like insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and others.

So, as Murphy would have it when dieting, your hunger hormone will increase, and your fullness hormone will decrease.

Isn’t that just grand?

But don’t fret, a potential benefit of the metabolic confusion diet is a reduction of ghrelin and an increase of leptin during high-calorie periods.

In one study, participants consumed 29-45% more calories over a two-week period, and an 18% decrease in ghrelin was noted.


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Metabolic Confusion and Carbs

Refined carbs – a well-known weight-loss fiend.

What can you eat on the metabolic confusion diet plan?

Well, “anything” could be an answer, as long as you stay within your daily calorie limit. But that won’t be wise in the long term as your body requires nutrients to run smoothly – nutrients you won’t find in that candy bar in your drawer at work.

Generally speaking, avoiding refined carbohydrates is a good call, see our No Sugar Diet article for meal ideas and list of foods low in sugar.

What are refined carbs? you may ask. Basically, ALL sugars and starches that are not found in nature.

This means that you will have to replace the spaghetti in your grandma’s spaghetti Bolognese with zucchini noodles and opt for a bunless burger on hamburger night.

Carbs and comfort . . .

cookies

A lot of people see white bread, cookies, pastries, ice cream, cakes, and other refined carbs as comfort foods, but these simple or refined carbs cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and can lead to weight gain, especially around your waistline.

You might think that banning these foods from your plate will leave you feeling unsatisfied, which is not the case.

Choosing complex carbs such as vegetables, whole grains, and naturally sweet fruits will make you feel healthier and more energetic, and it will help you get rid of that stubborn belly fat.

It is important when you plan your metabolic confusion diet, to not restrict calories below recommended levels.

The general rule is that women should not consume less than 1200 calories a day, and men should not go below 1500. If you are not sure, check with your health practitioner.

Always try to eat meals that consist of a balance of protein, carbohydrates (put down the bread – double up on the veggies) and healthy fat. 

Metabolic Confusion

To get the most out of this structure of eating, plan in advance, track your calories and be watchful to stay within your calorie limits. A great tool to help you count your calories and make sure you meet your nutritional requirements is MyFitnessPal.


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Metabolic Confusion Meal Plan

To take the guesswork out of metabolic confusion and turn your body into a fat-burning machine, here is an example of a high-calorie day, followed by a low-calorie day to get you started.
It is up to you to decide if you want to start on a high- or low-calorie day.

Day 1: High-calorie day (2000 calories)

Breakfast (610 calories)

Tuna Melt Omelet

142 grams of tuna
1 tbsp onion (chopped)
½ medium stalk celery
1 tsp parsley
2 large eggs
One tablespoon olive oil
Parmesan cheese (shredded) (28g)
One small thin slice of wholemeal/multigrain toast (22g)

Lunch (678 calories)

Avocado Chicken Salad

1 avocado (201g)
100 grams of mixed leaf salad. Click here to see the ingredients and amounts.
Parmesan cheese shaved on top (28g)
1 lemon (juiced) (48g)
¼ medium onion
56 grams of chicken breast
1 tablespoon of olive oil
One medium sweet potato (baked in skin, flesh, without salt) (114g)

Salt and pepper

Dinner (470 calories)

Sliced steak with spinach and potatoes

½ garlic clove (minced)
1 ¼ cup spinach
One tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ tbsp onion (chopped)
1 tbsp olive oil
113 grams sirloin steak
One potato (136g) (boiled, cooked in skin, flesh, without salt)
Salt and pepper

Snack: ( 170 calories)

3 tbsp almonds

Total calories: 2000

Day 2: Low-calorie day (1200 calories)

Breakfast (279 calories)

Crème Fraiche and Chive Scrambled Eggs

2 large eggs
1 tbsp butter
28 grams Crème Fraiche fresh cheese
1 tbsp chives (chopped)

Snack (57 calories)

10 grams of almonds

Lunch (370 calories)

Healthy salad

Tuna Salad

½ can of tuna (drained in water) (164.5g)
Medium egg
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Lemon juice (48g)
One small stalk celery (17g)
¼ medium onion
1 medium tomato cut in quarters (123g)

Snack (103 calories)

1 Small apple (149 g)
1 medium raw carrot cut in sticks (61g)

Dinner (430 calories)

Low Carb Chili Cheese Chips

18g baked Corn Chips
100g cooked ground turkey
1 ¼ Jalapeno peppers
1 ½ slice swiss cheese

Total calories: 1239

Metabolic Confusion Cycles . . .

If you don’t want to cycle your calories on a day-to-day basis, here are a few other systems that might work for you:

  • Five days on low calories, then a two-day high-calorie ‘refeed’. This is perfect for people who want more freedom over weekends.
  • Eleven days on a low-calorie diet, followed by three days of high calories.
  • Three-week long low-calorie intake followed by a five to a seven-day high-calorie diet.
  • Four to five weeks consuming low-calories, then eating high-calorie for 10-14 days.

As you can see, metabolic confusion is a convenient and highly-adaptable diet that will make sticking to it a breeze.


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Metabolic Confusion Diet Results

Measuring tape held by mouth

How Much Weight Can I Lose?

Well, that depends on a few things, for example, which cycle you’re following and according to your physical activity too.

The good news, however, is that weight loss results are quick.

As long as you are not eating bad foods, not going over your calorie allocation for the day, you will lose weight.

Let’s recap

The Metabolic Confusion Diet has been around for a long time now, and throughout the years it has faded into the background making way for other diet trends.

In recent times, however, it has come back into the spotlight and it has been proven to be a technique that improves dieting success.

It protects your metabolism and hormones, which usually take a nosedive when doing traditional low-calorie diets. And it is an easy diet to be followed which can be sustainable.

If you are looking to lose weight without been super hungry all the time and have some flexibility on what you eat, the metabolic confusion diet might work for you.

In general, you will need to make an effort to eat healthy foods and don’t forget to also apply a calorie deficit on low-calorie days. Check out some low-calorie recipes here to get you inspired.

If you stick to the basics, your long-term success is guaranteed 🙂

This content has been Fact-Checked by a Certified Nutritionist in our Publishing Team. Learn more here.

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