Metabolic Confusion Diet: Speed Up Your Weight Loss

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'How to lose weight' has to be up there as one of the internet's most searched for questions - and yet there has never been one simple straightforward answer that the “experts” can agree on.

Unfortunately, the answer doesn't lie here either. But we can tell you all about how metabolic confusion can help speed up your weight loss.

Looks like we've caught your attention! Keep reading to find out more.

What Does Metabolic Confusion Mean?

Also known as calorie shifting, metabolic confusion is the act of literally confusing your metabolism by eating a mixture of high and low calorie meals to essentially 'trick' your body into burning calories.

We each have a resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is the rate at which we burn calories when simply resting. So the higher your RMR, the more calories you burn. Metabolic confusion aims to increase this figure resulting in weight loss

Alternating between a high and low calorie intake is thought to boost metabolism and promote fat loss.

Does It Work?

Studies show that the metabolic confusion diet is an effective way to lose weight. One study analyzed two groups of subjects. One group followed a calorie restriction diet, and the other followed a calorie cycling diet (a metabolic confusion diet).

Both groups restricted their calorie intake for 11 days and were then free to eat whatever they desired for 3 days. The results found that the subjects taking part in the calorie shifting diet (metabolic confusion diet) experienced the most change in weight loss compared to those in the calorie restriction group.

The Science Behind Metabolic Confusion

The phrase 'metabolic confusion' isn't a scientific term at all. However, there is some evidence to show that this made-up theory is not as silly as it sounds when put into practice.

So what is the science behind calorie cycling? Let's find out.


Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells in your body. Its job is to send signals to your brain when you're full to let you know it is time to stop eating.

Individuals with a higher metabolism often have increased leptin levels. However, these levels adapt accordingly to food intake. Therefore, less food means lower leptin and more food means (you see where we're going with this) higher leptin.

So surely, extra calories means an increase in leptin levels? Research suggests there is some truth to this theory, if only temporarily.

Calorie Intake

Other hormones are affected by calorie intake including:
1. Thyroid hormone
2. Insulin
3. Ghrelin
4. Luteinizing hormones and sex hormones such as testosterone.

Calorie shifting, or cycling, can enhance results by balancing the hormones. Restricting calories reduces hormone levels and tricks the brain into thinking the body is falling into 'starvation mode' which we will move onto now.

Starvation Mode a.k.a. “Intermittent Fasting”

Studies show that drastically cutting calories slows the metabolism and reduces hormone levels. This is not just based on decreased leptin levels, but on changes that happen throughout the entire body, such as the central nervous system and the cells.

The scientific term for starvation mode is known as adaptive thermogenesis. It is thought that this can be prevented with calorie shifting as the body is aware that food is often available.

Dating back to the early history of our ancestors, we evolved as humans to become fat adapted, meaning our bodies can switch between carbohydrates and dietary or stored fat as a primary source for fuel. 

Intermittent fasting is one technique used to improve metabolic efficiency, but how effective this technique is can vary person to person. There’s also many different ways to approach intermittent fasting. You could do a 24-hour fast once a week, a long-fast for 3 days at a time, or follow a daily feeding schedule limited to a fixed number of hours like the 18/6 method.

Calorie Surplus & Calorie Deficit

If we look back at human evolution, it is unlikely that we would eat the exact same amount of calories every day. Just like animals hunt for food, there will have been times when food was scarce. So historically, it seems that our ancestors would have unknowingly followed a calorie cycling diet.

One study shows that flipping between a calorie surplus and a calorie deficit could be beneficial to our health, specifically the positive effects it has on cellular health and biological aging.

Insulin And Fat Storage

Insulin is a hormone that is often misunderstood. Too much insulin can lead to weight gain and too little can cause serious health complications. So how does insulin relate to this article?

When we eat carbohydrates, sugars and starches, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream which is then absorbed into the muscles. However, when too much insulin is released, it is stored if it cannot be absorbed. This leads to weight gain.

On the other hand, insulin helps to prevent the breakdown of muscle. So raising your insulin levels through calorie cycling, could preserve muscle mass when shedding weight.

How To Confuse Your Metabolism

Before we get into how to confuse your metabolism, it’s useful to know exactly what metabolism is and how it works.

Metabolic Rate: What Is It?

The speed of your metabolism depends on the rate at which your body burns calories. When resting, this is known as your BMR (basal metabolic rate). 

Your BMR is typically lower when resting due to inactivity. During this time, your body only needs energy for vital organs such as the heart, brain and lungs. 

Metabolic rate is measured by:
1. Oxygen consumed
2. Carbon dioxide produced
3. Heat production produced

The more you weigh, the higher your metabolic rate is. Therefore, a person who weighs 200 pounds will burn more calories doing the same exercise as someone who weighs 120 pounds. This is due to the fact that they require more oxygen to be delivered to the cells.

Naturally, we all have different metabolic rates. This can however be influenced by diet, exercise and lifestyle

But it’s not just how much you weigh that matters but the type of weight you’re carrying that makes the difference. Your body composition plays an important role in metabolism, which is why it’s important to pay attention to your percentage of lean body mass and body fat.

BMI (body mass index) is a terrible marker for health and metabolic status because it doesn’t factor in a person’s unique body composition, but rather uses height and weight to determine health status.  

Assuming the BMI of two people is equal, the person with a more muscular body will have a higher basal metabolic rate than the person with a higher percentage of body fat. This means that the work you put in at the gym allows you to reap the benefits of your hard work because your body naturally burns more calories in a rested state than it would if you had a higher percentage of fat tissue.

Fast Metabolism
If you have a fast metabolism, your body is capable of burning more energy (glucose) from foods as opposed to storing it (glycogen).

Slow Metabolism
If you have a slow metabolism, your body tends to store energy in the form of glycogen as opposed to burning it.

Factors That Affect Metabolism

Over time, our metabolism changes based on the following factors:


Unfortunately, as we age our metabolism slows down because our body composition changes over time. This can also be related to changes in our organs. As we get older, we begin to lose fat-free mass. Fat burns less calories than muscle, and this is why it slows down.


Generally, males have a higher metabolism than females. This could be due to the difference in hormones, but it is also thought that women have a lower metabolism as they need to store fat and conserve energy in the event of pregnancy.

Tall people usually have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR) simply because they are taller in height. However, according to some studies, taller people tend to burn less calories when exercising (based on their body weight) when compared to shorter people.

Lean Muscle Mass
This burns more calories than fat even when you are resting. So the more lean muscle mass an individual has, the more calories they burn per day. 

Body Temperature
Keeping your temperature stable uses a lot of energy, almost 40% in fact! Therefore, the colder the external temperature, the more energy your body will require to stabilize your internal temperature by heating the body. 

Calorie Intake 
Even eating burns calories. The thermic effect of food means that your body burns calories as it works to digest the food you eat. It’s estimated that different macronutrient sources require different amounts of energy by the body to digest, with protein requiring the most energy expenditure and carbohydrates the least.

It’s important to note that whole foods closest to their natural state will typically require more energy to digest than a food that has been processed in some way.

That’s not to say you should eat everything in sight or switch to a raw food diet though! Eating a healthy diet containing plenty of protein, vegetables, and complex carbs is the correct way to increase metabolism.

On the other hand, cutting calories won’t do anything for your metabolism and if anything, will have the opposite effect.

Ways To Increase Metabolism

The internet will tell you many weird and wonderful ways to boost your metabolism. While we love the passion put into some metabolism boosting ideas, we prefer the more traditional methods listed below. 

#1: Move Around More
Many of us work in 9-5 jobs that require us to sit down at a desk on a computer for the majority of the working day. This gives us less time to exercise as, let’s face it, nobody wants to end the day with a 45 minute HIIT workout.

You can boost your metabolism by slowly incorporating little changes into your day such as getting off the bus a couple of stops early, or going for a walk during your lunch break. Any movement that increases your heart rate is classed as a form of exercise.

#2: Switch Up Your Diet
We would love to tell you that working out alone is enough to lose weight. However, a huge part of weight loss is all about what you put inside your body. 

Nowadays, there are healthy alternatives for just about everything. The great thing about a metabolic confusion diet is that you don’t necessarily need to cut anything out of your diet. You just need to cut portion sizes and maybe make a few small changes. For example, swapping potato chips for kale chips or popcorn (unsalted) is a small change that makes a huge difference over time. You can even check out some healthy recipes right here to help you get started. 

#3: Take Up Exercise
The word ‘exercise’ can be very daunting, especially if you rarely do it. Exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting though. Walking 10k steps a day is more than enough to lose some serious pounds, or you could try looking for some local community exercise classes.

Pilates, yoga, zumba and dance classes are all great forms of exercise that won’t leave you gasping for breath after a workout. Working out 3 to 4 times a week for around half an hour along with a diet plan is recommended if you want to lose at least 2 pounds a week.

#4: Get Some Sleep
Rest is absolutely essential for weight loss. Getting around eight hours of high quality sleep a night will provide you with enough energy to get through a busy day of eating healthily and working out. 

Think about it, when we don’t get enough sleep we feel miserable, often reaching for sugary or starchy foods to give us that energy boost we need. This is one of the reasons why many of us fail to lose weight when dieting as we simply don’t have the energy to eat well and work out.

Benefits of Metabolic Confusion

#1: Easy To Stick To
If you’re a hopeless diet fanatic, you will know yourself how miserable it can be, particularly during the first few days. With a metabolic confusion diet plan, you don’t have to live off chicken and rice or bland tasting salads everyday.

Sure, you may have to cut back on certain processed foods and alcohol, and you may have to alter your portion sizes, but this kind of diet is generally easy to stick to than other restrictive plans

#2: Lifestyle Change
Most of us diet to achieve an unrealistic end goal, and when we don’t see the results straight away, we quit! Looking at a metabolic confusion plan as a lifestyle change instead of a diet is the key to gradually losing weight. Sooner or later, your ‘big calorie days’ won’t even seem a huge deal because you will more than likely start to enjoy healthier food options. 

#3: Easier On The Body
Restrictive diets can be damaging to the body, sending our hormones crazy which can affect the central nervous system as well as different cells throughout. This diet may make you feel slightly uncomfortable during low calorie days, but overall, the body is still receiving everything it needs to function properly.

#4: Slows The Aging Process
One study showed that just the right amount of calorie restriction can slow down the rate at which we age. How fascinating! It also has the ability to reduce inflammation in cells and alleviate respiratory problems such as asthma. 

Metabolic Confusion Diet Plan 

Diets that embrace the idea of metabolic confusion are popular as they are not as restrictive as others. Being able to chop and change your calorie intake throughout the week allows more freedom when it comes to what you can eat - and it doesn’t have to be boring! This makes dieting more realistic making it easier to achieve your weight loss goals.

So what does a metabolic confusion diet plan entail? Check out the steps below to give you a basic overview of how to get started. 

Calculating Your Calories

First of all, you need to find out how many calories you should be eating in order to lose body weight. The steps below will give you a rough estimate.

1. Make a record of current body weight and add an extra ‘0’ on the end.
2.Next, multiply this figure by 7 (this will show your weekly calorie intake)

For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, your total weekly calories will be 12,600. This divided by 7 gives you 1800 calories a day. 

Of course, there are going to be days when you might eat more than 1800 calories, particularly over the weekend when people tend to go out to eat or order takeout food. However, as long as you stick within 12,600 calories per week, you will ultimately lose weight. Your week may look like this:

Monday: 1800
Tuesday: 1800
Wednesday: 1600
Thursday: 1600
Friday: 1800
Saturday: 3000
Sunday: 1000

This means you can enjoy your food without feeling guilty, and as long as you get back on track the next day, there’s no reason why this diet won’t work for you.

Pairing a metabolic confusion diet with exercise is a surefire way to reduce the numbers you see on the scales, but as we pointed out earlier, that shouldn’t be the only indication of whether you’re making progress. More important biomarkers to pay attention to are your body composition, energy levels, and general feelings of happiness and your overall well being. 

This realistic diet plan is more about changing the relationship you have with food instead of restricting your intake or counting calories. 

What To Eat

In order to lose weight, you must eat a well-balanced diet that has a good mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. If you currently eat a poor diet filled with sugar, processed foods and carbonated drinks, you will need to replace these with much healthier options. 

If you struggle to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet, take a look at our plant-based diet article to give you some ideas on how to switch up your meal plan.


Each meal should have a good portion of protein. This can be found in a variety of products such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, chicken, etc. Eating protein is a great way to keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is why it is so important when it comes to dieting. 

While you technically could live on just fat and protein, most people choose to include some form of carbohydrates in their diet, even if in small amounts. Complex carbohydrates including wholegrain rice, beans, peas and oats are all good choices to make when developing a diet plan. 

Processed carbohydrates such as white bread, donuts, and pastries should be avoided because they contain a lot of sugar and barely any nutrients. So swapping them for healthier options as listed above is recommended for any weight loss goals.

Healthy Fats
Healthy fats such as avocado, butter, olive oil and certain nuts, are essential for protecting organs. Fat is high in energy, so it is important to be careful about how much of it you eat.

Using metabolic confusion to speed up weight loss is a tried and tested practice with many success stories. The great thing about using this method to shed those stubborn pounds is that you can still eat everything you enjoy, you just need to stick to a calorie deficit. 

For more tips on how to effectively lose weight, check out our trusty weight loss guide

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Before You Go

You can have a protein shake at any time of the day as there is no evidence to prove otherwise. Consuming a shake before bed is also recommended as your muscles need time to repair.

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Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.