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Yeah, it can be confusing when you don't understand CICO.

It’s time to learn about The CICO (“calories in, calories out”) Diet!

You probably have questions like

Steve, does CICO work? 

Will counting calories help me lose weight?

Okay, what the hell IS a calorie?

Well my friend, you’ve arrived at the right place!

I’ve been writing about this stuff for 12 years, and our team of coaches help their Online Coaching clients with all types of diets (including CICO). We are really flippin’ good at it!




Here’s what we’ll cover to answer the question: “What is CICO?”

It’s time to get started!

What Is the CICO Diet plan?

I guess this is kind of CICO, in a way

“CICO” stands for “Calories In, Calories Out.”

The CICO Diet is a weight-loss strategy where the participant tries to tip the balance of what they eat (calories in) against what they burn (calories out).

That’s pretty much it.

It doesn’t really matter what food you eat, because there are no restrictions on any specific food groups with CICO. 

It also doesn’t matter what exercise you do (if any).

As long as you get the equation right, and the calories you eat are lower than the calories you burn on a daily basis, you’re good to go.

Naturally, Barney would like CICO, because it doesn't forbid beer.

The CICO Diet is really simple and has helped quite a few people lose weight. 

This is likely why the CICO Diet has grown in popularity in the subreddit r/loseit. 

Is Losing Weight Really About Calories?

One way to lose weight is to be eaten, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Yes. Losing weight actually does come down to burning more calories than you consume.

It’s about as close to fact as we can get in nutrition science.[1]

As we address in our guide How to Lose Weight (The 5 Rules of Weight Loss), our bodies obey the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Thermodynamics: 

To lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume regularly. 

With this knowledge, it makes sense to design a diet specifically around this principle: match the calories you eat (in), with the calories you expend (out).

No other food rules need to apply:

As long as you meet your calorie goal, you can forget about the rules of any specific diet.

I can see why CICO might appeal to the Joker...

This appeals to me personally, because I’ve created my own guidelines for how to eat, and I don’t pledge allegiance to any particular dieting strategy.

Because I’m a mind-reader, I know your next question is likely…

Does Calorie Counting Work? (CICO and Weight Loss)

You can totally eat Dim Sum on CICO!

In principle, CICO works.

In practice, it becomes a little more complicated. 

Okay, fine, A LOT more complicated.

That’s because a lot of things influence “calories in.” 

Ditto for “calories out.”

Let’s break some of this down.

Here are some of the things that impact “Calories In:”

  • Appetite: how hungry we are is going to drastically affect how many calories we consume. Hormones, our body composition, and tastes and preferences will all impact our appetite.[2] 
  • Calories absorbed: the preparation of food will affect the bioavailability of calories. For example, cooking starches
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