Why Metabolic Confusion Is Not A Sustainable Diet Approach


Here it is, the next fad diet circling the internet.

And this one is even more outrageous than low carb, which is saying something.

Today I am going to teach you about “metabolic confusion” and why it is not the diet choice for you.

The fact that this diet has even coined a title is disturbing, and is just another reason you are confused about food, exercise and weight loss.

Let’s get started.

What is Metabolic Confusion

There is no scientific term of “metabolic confusion”. It is an arbitrary term coined by whoever came up with this ridiculous diet approach.

The idea behind it is that you eat a different number of calories a day, or week, and that is then supposed to “confuse” your metabolism into burning more calories.

They claim it does so by increasing your basil metabolic rate, but we know that occurs through strength training, increased NEAT and changes in age/weight.

What people don’t understand when it comes to diet claims in the media is that most people aren’t just changing their diet.

These people decided to also start exercising, moving more, sleeping more and drinking water when they started the diet.

So – what is causing the real weight loss?

I am going to assume the sustainable lifestyle changes because….the basics never stop working. The basics being move, eat well, and sleep.

A quote taken directly from the website “Good To Know” states: “For example, on a low day you might consume 1200 calories and on a normal day it might be 2000 calories. Although it is restrictive, so you can’t just eat whatever you like and you need to pair this diet with exercise, it’s less restrictive than other fasting-based diets.”

Do you see what I am saying.

They claim it is similar to intermittent fasting (in terms of results) but instead of eating at certain times of the day, you instead eat different amounts during the day.

Honestly – this might be the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

Your body cannot be “confused” into doing something. If this works at all, it is because of the adaptation principal.

Meaning doing the same thing over and over again is going to cause a plateau. So to break that cycle, we have to put a new stimulus on the body to push the threshold to a new level of adaptation.

Whether it works or not, can you maintain it long term? Does this way of eating teach you anything about nutrition and how the body works, or does it just give you arbitrary rules to follow to make you feel like you’re doing something?

How the Metabolism Works

The basic gist of the metabolism is this – it takes what you eat and converts it into energy to be used. Simple, right?

Well – this is more than just creating energy to exercise or move.

This is energy to breath, sleep, digest food, repair cells etc.

So this internal process of expending energy to burn calories to function, is just how our body works.

And this is mostly defined by genetics. However, there are ways you can “boost” it or improve it.

Boosting your metabolism is not an overnight thing. We know this can happen with strength training and building muscle.

But changes can also be made with food and diet.

Let’s bring it back to “metabolism confusion” and adaptation.

Your body is able to adapt to changes.

It will sense a reduction in available energy (food) and will in turn, decrease the rate of heat production to conserve energy. This means we will uses less energy, because we have less available.

But this is by no means confusion…this is just how the metabolism works.

The idea of high calorie days and low calorie days is not going to do anything in terms of metabolism changes.

The only pro I see here is maybe adherence to the diet. By giving yourself options of high calorie days and low calorie days, you might be able to stick to the diet longer.

But again – is this just a means to an end? What will happen when you reach you goal? How do you continue on after you get “there”?

Why Metabolic Confusion is not sustainable

The real meat of the blog, why the heck is this metabolic confusion not sustainable?

Let me preface this by saying, this is my opinion as a coach.

There are a few reasons this is not a sustainable approach to weight loss, or nutrition.

1. How long are you going to be doing this for? I coach from a lifestyle perspective, meaning it is important to me that you can maintain something long term. When it comes to dieting and tracking calories, are you doing this just until you hit a “goal” or will you be trying to this…forever?

2. Tracking food/calories can sometimes lead to disordered eating. Trying to “fit” foods into your numbers on a daily basis doesn’t always mean it is a healthy choice. Now, I do agree with all things in moderation. But when you start thinking of all food as just numbers and calories, it starts to become a cycle you can’t stop.

3. There isn’t really anything you can long term track in this eating approach to see results. Because you are always changing intake and adjusting, how will you know if is working, or what variable needs to be adjusted in order to see results? You can’t “see” your metabolism being “confused” so how do you measure the progress?

These are some of the issues I have with metabolic confusion, aside from the scientific reasons we talked about above.

The best long term nutrition approach

The best approach for nutrition, in the long term, is finding something that is sustainable for you. The only way you will see results is by being consistent.

So the people who say “I am doing keto again because it worked before” are really saying…I lost weight but couldn’t maintain it so I am going to lose the same weight again.

Newsflash, that means it didn’t work.

The approach I teach my clients is making sure you have well rounded meals. This means a carb, fat, protein and vegetable source should be on your plate for every meal.

You also want to make sure you are focusing on the quality of your food and meals rather than the quantity when starting out.

If right out of the gate you are focusing on eating less and less, you are never going to understand the purpose of health long term.

The purpose of a balance meal is to make sure blood sugar stays stable, and so you start to learn how to put meals together no matter where you are.

You shouldn’t be worried about tracking numbers when out to eat or at a friends party.

Long term success and consistency comes from education and understanding around the topic of nutrition as a whole. Being told what to eat is not helpful, because when that person no longer tells you, you are still left confused.

Long story short, metabolic confusion is not a sustainable nutrition choice. And it is indeed not “confusing” your metabolism, it is just adjusting the adaptation of it.

You can download my free planning guide here!



Haley Rowe January 15, 2021