Do Metabolic Confusion Meal Plans Work?

Find out if you can alternate low-calorie and high-calorie intake days to lose weight.

Question mark, diet food and junk food

For a long time, dieting was all about cutting out specific macronutrients: go low-fat and lose weight, or cut out the carbs and you’ll lose weight faster! Those types of diet plans still exist, along with several plans that restrict the consumption of grains, legumes, or other types of foods. Recently, there have been a few diet plans that claim to work smarter instead of harder. These plans let you eat anything you want so long as you fall inside the other guidelines. For intermittent fasting, that means you can only eat during certain time periods. Metabolic confusion meal plans, on the other hand, don’t care what time of day it is, but they do specify how many calories you can consume on any given day.

If you haven’t heard of metabolic confusion plans, you might be wondering if they work or not. We took a look at how they work to see if it could be a good plan for you!

What is Metabolic Confusion?

Diet plan and healthy food with tape measure

Metabolic confusion–also called calorie confusion, calorie shifting, or calorie cycling–is a diet that shifts between high-calorie and low-calorie days. So, instead of consuming 1400 calories every day to lose weight, you would vary your calorie intake each day to “confuse” your metabolism and promote increased fat burn.

Most metabolic confusion meal plans are based around a 1200-calorie low days and a 2000 calorie high days. Some plans go even further by specifying certain days as high-carb, protein, or fat days. The idea is that, if your body’s metabolism isn’t working properly, cycling your calories and macronutrients will reset it, forcing you through a weight-loss plateau.

How Do Metabolic Confusion Meal Plans Work?

metabolic confusion meal plan

Every body is different, and consulting a nutritionist is the best way to identify your body’s specific needs. Here are a few examples of cycling schedules:

  • The weekend cycle: 5 weekdays of low-calorie intake followed by the 2 weekend days of high-calorie intake.
  • The 2-week cycle: 11 days of low-calorie intake followed by 3 days of high-calorie intake.
  • The 1-month cycle: 3 weeks of low-calorie intake followed by 1 week of high-calorie intake.
  • The day-by-day cycle: Low-calorie intake on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and high-calorie intake on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Should You Exercise During Metabolic Confusion Meal Plans?

The bottom line, metabolic confusion does appear to work in the short term as with most diets. However, in order to keep the weight off, it’s important to continue eating a healthy diet for life. If old eating habits are resumed, the weight will inevitably return. That’s how these kinds of diets make profit, by making sure that people wanting to lose weight are trapped in a yo-yoing cycle of losing and gaining more weight back. The dieting industry and most people who promote these kinds of diets want you to fail, so the best way to lose weight is to avoid specific diets, and to instead make healthy changes to your exercise and eating habits.

Should You Exercise During Metabolic Confusion Meal Plans?

Woman running

It’s always a good idea to pair a workout plan or set of exercise routines with any weight-loss plan. After all, losing weight is all about calories in, calories out, and exercise burns calories! That being said, you cannot use exercise to increase calorie intake on low-calorie days.

For metabolic confusion meal plans, it makes sense to pair intense activities with your high-calorie days. These can be HIIT routines or Tabata style workouts that burn fat quickly. On low-calorie days, we recommend lower intensity activities, like walking, yoga, or stretching routines with low-calorie days.

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Chef Lindsay

Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer. After graduating from Cascade Culinary School, Lindsay worked as the executive chef of a farm-to-table restaurant in Bend, Oregon. She is passionate about using local, organic ingredients and loves teaching home cooks how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to create beautiful meals for her family. She lives with her husband in Colorado, where she enjoys the trials and errors of gardening.

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  1. Hello there,
    I am Holly from South Korea.
    I am very much interested in learning the idea of metabolic confusion program for weight loss.
    As I read through your post, I became curious about how to figure out which meal plan I could follow when I don’t have a nutritionist to get advised upon. Since Korean doctors don’t recommend the method and are not aware of the practice I would like to ask for your help to find out myself. So, if you could let me know how to encounter the right eating plan for me, it would be great.
    Thank you.

    1. Holly, If you plan to try the plan, look at how it’s done, then find recipes/meals that work, i.e., low cal, high cal.
      We aren’t recommending the plan, just providing the information so our readers can make an informed decision. 🙂

  2. Hi! The title of your article is misleading. No where does it say that metabolic confusion works or not, but it gives information about what it is.

  3. I am on a weight training program. If I still lift, even on my low calorie days, and made sure to add HIIT training on high calorie days would it be counterproductive to weight loss?

    1. Jazz, Hmmmm…that would be solely dependent on the individual as results vary from person to person.

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