CICO Diet: What Is It And Is It Good For Fat Loss?

CICO diet

Heard of the CICO Diet? Want to learn more about it? CICO stands for Calories In, Calories Out. It is based on the idea that in order for you to successfully lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you are capable of burning.

The idea has been around for years but the name has been coined recently and there has been a lot of interest in it in online forums and groups. Sounds like a pretty good and easy diet to follow doesn’t it? But is it? Read on to find out.

With the CICO Diet, there’s no need to think of the carbs, proteins, or fats, because your focus is mainly on your calorie consumption. But is this diet really effective for fat loss? Is it a healthy way to lose weight?

What is a CICO Diet?

CICO or Calories In, Calories Out has a somewhat similar concept with some of the other popular weight loss diets. For instance, you lose weight on a low carb diet or keto diet because, if you do it right, you eat less food overall because you feel fuller on those diets, lose cravings and they give you energy.

Related reading: How A Low Carb Diet Keeps Your Appetite Under Control

The same goes for the low-fat diets and other diets out there. The CICO Diet works under the premise that you will be dropping the pounds by eating fewer calories than your body can burn daily, which makes sense.

Related reading: The Paleo Diet: Beyond Calorie Counting 

Calories are the unit of measurement for energy. If more calories are needed than you are actually eating, stored fat is burned as additional fuel. In the end, you could lose all that excess fat or could you?

According to Bethany Doerfler, a clinical dietitian at Northwestern University,

“The idea of calories in and calories out is absolutely the backbone of weight loss. But metabolism and weight loss are so much more complex than that.”

Counting calories may not always translate to weight loss or fat loss and may not be effective for long-term weight management. As a matter of fact, this strategy has a tendency to leave people feeling deprived, which could lead to disordered eating.

What Are the Potential Benefits of the CICO Diet?

The idea behind the CICO diet, which restricts calories, may be effective for the most part. Eating fewer calories than your body needs could lead to weight loss but not necessarily optimum health depending on the type of foods you eat.

If you find the keto diet or other diets to be restrictive, the CICO diet might help but it’s not necessarily healthy. I’ve seen diets which are based on counting calories that include desserts that are loaded with sugar! Not healthy for anyone!

With CICO, you need to keep track of the calories that you consume on a daily basis, which can be an eye-opener for some people. In fact, others are surprised by the amount of calories present in their food and how many calories they can burn through exercise. As such, the diet may help people in making better choices.

Not All Calories Are The Same

In order to find out if the CICO diet is truly effective, let’s take a closer look at how calorie counting works. We burn calories every single day through the activities that we perform. In fact, even breathing takes calories, and so does eating.

BMR or the Basal Metabolic Rate refers to the amount of calories that your body is burning in order for you to stay alive. But this rate differs from one person to another and is affected by a number of factors, such as your age, weight, and height.

There are calculators online that can help you figure out your BMR, but the figures are a mere estimate. Doctors and medical professionals often use breathing machines in obtaining a patient’s BMR more precisely.

Lifestyle factors, as well as the amount of physical activity that a person does, must also be considered when it comes to the BMR. And, although losing weight requires eating fewer calories than your body needs, it’s worth noting that not all calories are equal.

According to Abby Langer, a Registered Dietitian from Canada,

“Calories as we know them are so arbitrary. The calorie was invented a really long time ago and isn’t necessarily accurate in terms of how our bodies metabolize each individual food.”

The US Dept. of Agriculture has found that people can only absorb 75% of calories from almonds. Did you realize that? Emerging studies have also found that our body handles processed foods differently than non-processed foods.

Basically, the foods that we eat are viewed differently in our body on a cellular level, which is why calories differ from each other.

Calorie Quality Matters

Although losing weight happens due to a caloric deficit, which is what the CICO diet is all about, there are limitations to this rule. As mentioned above, not all calories are the same. Our body views the foods that we eat differently.

Certain foods may increase your body’s calorie-burning abilities. Known as the “thermogenic-effect”, foods that are rich in fiber, such as vegetables and whole grains would need more calories for our body to break down.

This might just be a small amount of calories in a day, but in the long run, this difference could play a role in the total amount of calories that your body would need in order to maintain an ideal and healthy weight.

Besides, the type of food that you eat can have a major impact on your overall health. The CICO diet puts greater emphasis on the amount of calories that you eat but not on the quality of the foods or the nutrients present in them.

This could lead to problems, such as too many refined, processed foods, protein deficiency and the lack of essential nutrients that your body needs, such as calcium, iron, potassium, etc. Nutritional deficiencies and too much sugar could lead to a host of health problems.

Related reading: 6 Damaging Effects Of Sugar On Your Body

Is the Cico Diet Good For Fat Loss?

Counting calories is not a good weight loss strategy for everyone. It has been found that people who keep track of numbers could develop an emotional relationship with food and may not work very well in the long run. There is definitely so much more to healthy food and healthy eating than mere numbers.

In addition, this diet does not emphasize the importance of nutrients and overall health. Sure, you may lose some weight with the CICO diet, but your health could be compromised in the long run. People should put more focus on their health as well as simply fat loss.

Counting calories is so laborious and such a bore for most people.  Much better to eat a healthy balanced diet. I’ve never seen people not lose fat or weight when they eat the right healthy foods, take exercise and live a stress-free healthy life.

A tall order maybe but it can be done and the CICO Diet will not do it!


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