Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. Last updated January 6, 2023. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Whether you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle, you’ll find countless methods online that promise results for your fitness goals. One of these more recent ones is metabolic confusion.
At its core, the metabolic confusion diet involves alternating your caloric intake to “trick” your metabolism into working faster. Proponents of this metabolic diet swear by its benefits in helping stave off metabolic disorders. But is this strategy backed by scientific evidence? Does the metabolic confusion diet work? What differentiates it from other conventional diets, or is this another trendy fad diet?
Here, we’ll take a closer look at how the metabolic confusion meal plan works to see if it can help you meet your health and wellness goals.
Metabolic confusion—also called calorie shifting diet or calorie cycling—is a restrictive diet that alternates between "low" and "high-calorie" days in an attempt to artificially speed up metabolism and burn more calories.
Supposedly, the cycling between high calorie intake and low calorie days will induce metabolic confusion. However, there is no consensus on how often one should switch between the two. While some plans recommend switching every few days, others advise switching between high and low intakes every other week.
Regardless of how often you switch, advocates for metabolic confusion diet plan recommend sticking to a regular schedule in order to achieve the diet’s desired effects.
The logic of metabolic confusion is that by jumping between high- and low-calorie days, adherents will “keep their metabolism on its toes.”
Theoretically, when your body is unsure of what energy and nutrients any given day will bring, it will maintain a higher resting metabolic rate (RMR). Because a higher RMR tends to burn more calories throughout the day, keeping it elevated is seen as a way to promote weight loss and fat loss.
If you’ve researched other ways to alter your metabolism, you may be familiar with the idea of intermittent fasting (IF).
IF is similar to metabolic confusion in that it tries to reprogram your metabolism. However, most IF diets include periods of fasting (abstaining from food entirely), while metabolic confusion only encourages you to eat less on certain days .
As with all diets and weight loss methods, metabolic fasting comes with its share of pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of trying this type of diet.
There are two primary advantages to metabolic confusion:
The downfalls of metabolic confusion include:
Like many other diets like sirtfood diet, metabolic reset diet, paleo, and the likes, metabolic confusion has its share of fans and detractors. But does the metabolic confusion diet work as intended?
Experts in the field of nutrition and metabolic studies are conflicted:
In the end, all this metabolic confusion, calorie confusion, and metabolic flexibility may not pay off since you're unlikely to sustain the plan in the long term.
Today’s scientific literature suggests metabolic confusion may not accomplish what it says it does: keeping weight off by “confusing” your metabolism. Metabolism is a highly complex internal process; whatever your fitness goals are, it’s usually better to learn how to work with it rather than against it.
Ultimately, healthful living takes some work—there’s no magic wand to wave. Whether you have a naturally high or low resting metabolic rate, you’ll likely need to combine diet changes with exercise, quality sleep, and a knowledge of your unique traits to reach your goals.
To develop a diet plan you love—and that lasts—learn where your metabolic health stands with an at-home Metabolism Test from Everlywell. With this easy-to-use test kit, you can measure the levels of three hormones that are integral to your metabolic processes: free testosterone, cortisol, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Within days, Everlywell delivers a clearer picture of your metabolism—no confusion necessary.