What is CICO? Benefits and Downsides

One Redditor gave CICO a shot and enthusiastically posted, “2 months ago I actually started counting calories and using CICO, and lost weight…I’m still eating what I like, including fast food!”

Before you switch diet gears, let’s find out what CICO is all about.

What is the CICO Diet?

CICO is the catchy acronym for “Calories In, Calories Out” and is centered around a simple idea: If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight.

You can practice CICO while eating a vegetarian diet, a low-carb diet, or intermittent fasting.

Advocates of CICO like its minimal focus on calories. Unlike low-carb diets like the keto diet, you don’t need to give up pasta or avoid any foods.

However, you need to track your food, count those calories, and make sure the total is below your calorie needs.

How does CICO work?

To lose weight with CICO, you must cut calories to keep your body in negative energy balance.

Calories are simply a measure of energy. Think of the body as a bank account and calories as currency.

Calories coming in must be expended, or they will be stored in the rainy day fund, also known as your fat and muscle tissue.

Unless you’re a bodybuilder or don’t exercise enough to shift your hormones toward muscle growth, most of these extra calories will be stored as fat.

By eating less and giving your body fewer calories, you force it to burn stored calories.

This, in turn, helps you lose body weight, about 60 to 80% of which comes from stored fat.

What are the potential benefits of CICO?

As a weight loss tool, calorie counting can help keep you accountable. You may even feel full every time you hit your daily calorie goal.

Keeping a consistent log of your current eating habits can help you understand your body.

One Redditor expressed that about CICO, “…relearning to eat like I would if I were in my ideal shape.” Other benefits include:

1. It is (mostly) based on sound science.

Despite its recent popularity, CICO is not a new concept. Experts know, and generally speaking, that reducing calorie intake is effective for weight loss.

Major health organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend calorie reduction for healthy weight loss and maintenance.

Registered Dietitian Andrea N. “We underestimate how much we eat,” adds Giancoli, MPH, RD. A strategy like CICO can help you take a hard look at the calories that go into your body.”

2. It can promote a good relationship with food.

If you’ve struggled to avoid certain foods while following a diet, you know that avoiding certain foods can actually increase your cravings for them.

CICO can be free because there are no “forbidden” foods. Enjoy any food, no need to crave chocolate or pizza.

3. It’s not about short-term dieting.

Diets come and go. You may start out super motivated to shed those extra pounds, but that won’t keep you from feeling down.

Because most diets don’t work.

As this Clinical Journal of Nutrition The article points out that only 20% of overweight individuals succeed in maintaining weight loss for at least a year.

Among successful people, 43% count calories and 44% limit how much food they eat.

These strategies are consistent with CICO, which is most effective when it can be sustained over the long term.

What are the potential risks of CICO?

So, is CICO worth the hype? It might seem like CICO is worth a shot, but this simple trick might not be your cup of tea.

Individual genetics, schedules and preferences vary.

Read the potential risks below and consult an experienced dietitian if you’re still not sure if CICO is for you.

1. It’s not for everyone.

Counting calories is important for CICO, but it’s hard to stick to. People notoriously ditch calorie counting apps because food logging is tedious.

This 2014 study found that, despite reporting high levels of satisfaction with a popular calorie-counting app, usage dropped from 97% in the first month to 55% in the second month.

From a mental health perspective, CICO may not be suitable for individuals with an unhealthy obsession with body weight.

The National Eating Disorders Association lists preoccupation with calories as a possible symptom of an eating disorder.

Of course, people who count calories do not have eating disorders and are not at risk for CICO.

But, Giancoli says that line isn’t always clear.

“CICO, or any diet strategy for that matter, shouldn’t take over your life. If you find yourself obsessing over calories, take a step back. You’re doing it for your health, so it’s important to remember that,” she advises.

2. It assumes that all calories are created equal.

CICO focuses on calories but ignores different calorie types. All foods carry calories from various macronutrients (eg, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol).

Your body responds differently to each macronutrient and CICO does not account for these differences.

For example, foods high in protein and fat can help to achieve fullness. Protein-rich foods also burn more calories during digestion.

One of the CICO benefits, being able to eat whatever you want, is also a downside.

CICO ignores the valuable vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals found in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Sure, this professor lost 27 pounds on The Twinkie Diet because he cut calories, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll maintain good health in the long run.

Eating too much fast food or highly processed food can also make you feel bad during weight loss.

3. It’s oversimplified.

Most people who practice CICO will calculate their calorie needs with an online calculator.

These calculations are not always accurate and you may overestimate or underestimate the number of calories you need to lose weight.

After all, a lean 180-pound man is more active and will need more calories at rest than a 180-pound overweight man.

This is often not reflected in the calorie count.

Will CICO help me lose weight?

Yes, you can safely use CICO to lose weight and keep it off. Just understand that this is a lifestyle change and not a quick fix.

If you’re still interested in CICO, follow these quick tips to get started:

1. Calculate your daily calorie goal, then adjust.

The easiest choice is to download a calorie counting app such as MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, Lifesum or Fitbit.

They help determine your energy needs and allow you to digitally log calories. These apps calculate calorie goals based on your:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Energy needed to fuel only basic functions. BMR varies based on your height, weight, gender and age.
  • Activity Level: Energy demands are high for active individuals.
  • Weight goal: Calories are subtracted for weight loss and added for weight gain.

The con with these apps is that your energy needs aren’t 100% personalized, and if you’re constantly feeling hungry or if you’re not seeing results, you’ll need to adjust yourself by lowering your calorie goal and increasing your calorie goal.

2. Set reminders to log.

The best time to log a meal is before you eat it. The next best time is as soon as possible.

Set a reminder on your phone to log meals, so you don’t forget what you ate. Food logging is a struggle of exhaustion.

If reminders don’t work, try taking a photo of your food and logging when convenient

3. Watch your portion sizes.

If you’re new to CICO, food portions can seem daunting.

A food scale gives you the weight of food in grams, which will convert to accurate calorie counts.

Don’t want to invest in a food scale? Use measuring cups and spoons, don’t just rely on your eyes.

4. Don’t just rely on CICO.

Just because CICO focuses on calories doesn’t mean you have free rein to sacrifice food quality.

According to Giancoli, “Choosing low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables is true to CICO principles. Because they have fiber and bulk, whole fruits and vegetables can help you feel fuller, making it easier to stick to your calorie goals. makes.”

Other beneficial food groups include whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats in your diet.

Finally, be patient.

Getting to your goal weight takes time. If you’re impatient with the waiting game, focus on other areas that also affect your body weight.

Do a workout of your choice, try de-stressing with meditation, or allow yourself to sleep.

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