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

It’s time to find out about The CICO (“energy in, energy out”) Weight loss program!

You most likely have questions like

Steve, does CICO work? 

Will counting energy assist me shed extra pounds?

Okay, what the hell IS a calorie?

Effectively my good friend, you’ve arrived on the proper place!

I’ve been writing about these things for 13 years, and our staff of nerdy consultants assist our On-line Teaching shoppers with all forms of diets (together with CICO). We’re actually flippin’ good at it!

Right here’s what we’ll cowl to reply the query: “What’s CICO?”

It’s time to get began!

What Is the CICO Weight loss program plan?

I guess this is kind of CICO, in a way

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

The CICO Weight loss program is a weight-loss technique the place the participant tries to tip the steadiness of what they eat (energy in) in opposition to what they burn (energy out).

That’s just about it.

It doesn’t actually matter what meals you eat, as a result of there aren’t any restrictions on any particular meals teams with CICO. 

It additionally doesn’t matter what train you do (if any).

So long as you get the equation proper, and the energy you eat are decrease than the energy you burn every day, you’re good to go.

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

The CICO Weight loss program is absolutely easy and has helped fairly a couple of folks shed extra pounds

That is probably why the CICO Weight loss program has grown in reputation within the subreddit r/loseit

Is Dropping Weight Actually About Energy?

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

Sure. Losing a few pounds truly does come all the way down to burning extra energy than you eat.

It’s about as near truth as we will get in diet science.[1]

As we tackle in our information Learn how to Lose Weight (The 5 Guidelines of Weight Loss), our our bodies obey the Legal guidelines of Conservation of Power and Thermodynamics: 

To shed extra pounds, we have to burn extra energy than we eat commonly. 

With this data, it is smart to design a weight-reduction plan particularly round this precept: match the energy you eat (in), with the energy you expend (out).

No different meals guidelines want to use:

So long as you meet your calorie objective, you may neglect concerning the guidelines of any particular weight-reduction plan.

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

This appeals to me personally, as a result of I’ve created my very own tips for the way to eat, and I don’t pledge allegiance to any specific weight-reduction plan technique.

As a result of I’m a mind-reader, I do know your subsequent query is probably going…

Does Calorie Counting Work? (CICO and Weight Loss)

You can totally eat Dim Sum on CICO!

In precept, CICO works.

In observe, it turns into somewhat extra difficult. 

Okay, wonderful, A LOT extra difficult.

That’s as a result of plenty of issues affect “energy in.” 

Ditto for “energy out.”

Let’s break a few of this down.

Listed below are a number of the issues that influence “Energy In:”

Oh, and all the above assumes we’re truly monitoring energy precisely. Which just about no one does. Ever. However I’ll get to that shortly. 

And keep in mind, that is solely half of the equation.

I'll be honest, I don't really know what's going on here...

Listed below are a number of the issues that influence “Energy Out:”

  • Power burned whereas resting: your Basal Metabolic Fee is a rely of what number of energy you burn at relaxation and can be managed by your age, weight, peak, organic intercourse, muscle composition, and so forth. 
  • Power burned via Non-Train Exercise Thermogenesis (NEAT): do you fidget quite a bit? That will increase your NEAT, or the power you burn doing stuff aside from exercising. Assume tapping your toes, twirling your hair, utilizing your palms when talking, and so forth. Even simply an hour of this sort of motion can accumulate an additional 300 energy burned.[6]
  • Train: in fact, how a lot you deliberately train will influence your energy out, though maybe not as a lot as most individuals assume (extra on this later).

That is solely scratching the floor on what determines “energy in, energy out.”[7]

The essential factor to think about right here is that not one of the above invalidate the essential premise of an power deficit being obligatory for weight reduction. 

These elements will simply affect one finish of the equation or the opposite. 

For instance, let’s chat about protein and CICO:

  • Consuming loads of protein has been proven to assist preserve folks feeling full and satiated.[8] So tons of protein may also help of us shed extra pounds, not as a result of it adjustments the necessities for weight reduction, however as a result of it would enable them to get via the day much less hungry (reducing their “energy in.”)
  • Sufficient dietary protein may also help with constructing and sustaining muscle.[9] The extra muscle somebody has, the extra energy they’ll want to take care of it (elevating their “energy out.”)[10]

Learn our information “How a lot protein ought to I eat?” for extra on this topic.

To recap this part: from a organic perspective, consuming fewer energy than you burn is 100% obligatory for weight reduction. 

However all kinds of issues influence the variety of energy we eat and the variety of energy we expend. 

That is going to steer us to…

The Downside With CICO (People Are Dangerous Estimators)

Yeah, humans (or LEGOs) aren't good at estimating calories.

Nearly all of the issues folks have with CICO is that it permits nutrient-deficient meals to enter the weight-reduction plan, solely limiting “how a lot.”

They’ll argue that individuals must be consuming fruit and veggies, lean protein, avoiding processed meals, and blah blah blah… 

Everyone knows this. 

You don’t want another person telling you to eat your veggies.

Eating veggies for health is a no-brainer.

This isn’t the issue with CICO. 

The issue with CICO is it’s actually laborious to estimate “energy in” and “energy out.”

Like, REALLY laborious. We people are TERRIBLE at it. 

Take “energy in” or how a lot we eat: folks usually UNDERestimate what number of energy they eat by about 30-40%.[11] Even dieticians, who’re particularly skilled in diet science, underestimated how a lot they eat.[12]

Millhouse is probably just realizing the issue with CICO

“That could be true Steve, however don’t fear about me. I learn the label on every part I purchase so I do know precisely what number of energy I’m consuming.”

Effectively, are you conscious that the FDA permits a 20% leeway on whole energy recognized on packages?[13] Which means that 100 calorie drink of Orange Juice may truly be 120?

In case you’re a meals producer, which method are you going to lean in the direction of? Particularly when you realize folks may scrutinize the energy of your diet label in an effort to shed extra pounds.

This isn’t simply paranoia: this research discovered that packaged snack meals usually comprises MORE energy in it than marketed.[14]

Yeah…and keep in mind, that is solely half of the equation. 

It’s about to get even worse.

Individuals are additionally actually unhealthy at estimating “energy out.” 

When of us self-assess what number of energy they burned by exercising, they’re usually WAY OFF, by as a lot as 50%![15]

Oh, and people health trackers we put on?

Our Fitbit trackers can help us with analyzing trends and getting in more steps.

They’ve been proven to be inaccurate, some by as much as 90%![16]

That’s why we made this infographic on monitoring “energy out”:

This infographic shows calorie discrepancies from fitness trackers compared to actual calories burned.

That is the primary downside with CICO: we’re caught with educated guesses for “energy in” and “energy out.”

So we underestimate the energy we eat by 40%. After which we overestimate what number of energy we burn by 50%.

No WONDER we expect our metabolism is damaged if we will’t shed extra pounds!

The reality is we’re unknowingly consuming an excessive amount of, and/or shifting too little.


Heck, even what number of energy you want a day (your baseline or Complete Day by day Power Expenditure) is an estimate, one thing we acknowledge in our calorie calculator, which you’ll play with proper right here:



In abstract: balancing “energy in in opposition to energy out” is absolutely all fairly messy if you get proper all the way down to it.

Does that make all this hopeless?

Not even remotely.

But it surely does give us some context in the event you can’t appear to shed extra pounds.

Ideas for Sustainable Weight Loss (Subsequent Steps)

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

This publish will not be made to dissuade you from making an attempt The CICO Weight loss program.

I truly encourage everybody to trace their meals and energy for one week, as a result of it’s typically an eye-opening expertise on how a lot they’re actually consuming.

If doable, take a couple of days and use an affordable meals scale as an alternative of simply eyeballing it. You’ll be shocked concerning the precise portion sizes of some meals!

With regards to sustainable weight reduction, right here at Nerd Health, we encourage two paths:

  • Make small tiny adjustments in the direction of “actual meals” (just like the Nerd Health Wholesome Plate above).
  • Make small tiny adjustments in the direction of a power coaching observe.

Each of those methods can dramatically – and positively – affect “energy in” and “energy out” respectively.  

In our Information to Wholesome Consuming, we clarify why each web site tells you to eat greens (which we additionally let you know): greens are filled with vitamins, include a number of fiber to maintain you full, and are usually low in energy.

These image shows some real food, critical if you're trying to lose body fat.

Consuming a number of greens, or “actual meals,” will aid you naturally decrease “energy in.”

How about one other instance to consider? Listed below are 200 energy of a blueberry muffin:

Yeah, you don't even get the whole muffin.

Evaluate it to 200 energy of broccoli (Because of wiseGEEK):

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Which one do you assume you’re prone to by accident overeat to your calorie allotment?


For our different technique, the Energy Coaching 101 sequence explains why rising robust is essential for fats loss: 

Constructing muscle takes plenty of energy (and so does sustaining it).

In different phrases, a stronger model of your self would require extra energy.

Miss Piggy pulling bars apart in jail.

And can have the ability to escape from jail simpler. 

It will naturally increase your “energy out.”

The trick with all of it is the “make small tiny adjustments” bit.

We’ve seen time and again that small steps (consuming one new vegetable per week, a easy body weight exercise) create momentum. Over time, these small adjustments are the keys to completely getting wholesome.

The complete Nerd Health Teaching program relies on this premise.

So what do you have to do now? Choose a small change and get going!

Listed below are some choices for a wholesome new behavior:

An important factor you are able to do now: begin!

If you wanna win a race, you need to start it!

The precise “small tiny change” doesn’t matter a lot, simply choose one you are feeling comfy with and get going! As soon as that behavior turns into sustainable, choose a brand new one! And so forth and so forth…

We’ve seen it time and time once more right here that that is the true path in the direction of success.


Nonetheless right here? Need some extra steering? A precise plan to comply with on the place to go subsequent?

Alright, you bought it, however solely since you’ve been good this complete time.

Right here’s how Nerd Health may also help:

#1) Our 1-on-1 On-line Teaching Program: a training program for busy folks to assist them make higher meals decisions, keep accountable, and get more healthy, completely.

You’ll be able to schedule a free name with our staff so we will get to know you and see if our teaching program is best for you. Simply click on on the picture beneath for extra particulars:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

#2) If you would like a roadmap for getting in form, try NF Journey. Our enjoyable habit-building app will aid you train and eat higher, all when you construct your very personal superhero.


Strive your free trial proper right here:

#3) Be part of The Rebel! We now have a free e-mail publication that we ship out twice per week, filled with ideas and tips that can assist you get wholesome, get robust, and have enjoyable doing so. 

I’ll additionally ship you tons of free guides that you should utilize to start out leveling up your life too:

Alright, I believe that about does it for this text.

Now, your flip:

What are your ideas on The CICO Weight loss program?

Do you’ve a technique for balancing “energy in” and “energy out”?

Assume I’ve received all of it completely improper? 

Let me know within the feedback!


PS: Be sure to learn the remainder of our content material on sustainable weight reduction:


GIF Supply: Millhouse, Barney Thumbs Up, Joker, A Lovely Thoughts, Leo “duh,”

Picture Supply: A Shock Efficiency Appraisal, In opposition to the Present, There may be at all times a much bigger fish, Dim Sum Trike, miam miam


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