Eat fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight according to the CICO diet. You can also call this the “calories in, calories out” approach.
But what is CICO more specifically? It is a weight loss diet that restricts your calories but allows you to eat what you want within your calorie goals. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, this may sound like an appealing way to lose weight.
But is simply taking in fewer calories enough to lose weight, or do you also need to change what you eat? While calories do matter, the quality of your diet matters more. When following the CICO diet, you’ll want to be strategic on what you eat to see long-term weight loss.
You’ll also need to seek the guidance of a professional to ensure you’re eating the right things. With professional guidance, you won’t have to learn how to count calories, because you’ll be able to eat intuitively.
But don’t worry, there will still be room for some fun foods too as long as you have a calorie deficit diet plan in place. If you’re curious about the CICO diet as a weight-loss tool, read on to find out how to start CICO diet directives and find out more about this weight loss diet.
What Is The CICO Diet?
CICO is a calorie deficit diet plan that stands for “Calories In, Calories Out.” A calorie deficit is when you are burning more calories than you’re taking in to lose weight.
The CICO diet is a good concept, as studies have shown reducing calories is one of the most effective ways to lose weight. However, the type of food you eat should be taken into account first, with the focus on filling foods like those high in protein and fiber.
Some examples of these foods include eggs, lean chicken, turkey, greek yogurt, tofu, and beans for protein, and fruits and vegetables for fiber.
How Does CICO Work?
With CICO, you are set up to burn more calories than you eat. The idea is that if you stay within your daily calorie limit, you’ll lose weight fast. You should aim for a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day according to recommendations. This can be done through diet, exercise, or a combination of both.
To learn how to start the CICO diet, you need to determine your calorie level for weight loss. A nutrition coach can help you figure this out and guide you on the best foods to curb hunger while ensuring you have enough energy.
Calculating Your Basal Metabolic Rate
Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the number of calories your body burns from everyday activities. You can calculate your BMR yourself, or have a nutrition coach do the work for you.
The most accurate way to calculate BMR is by using the Mifflin St. Jeor equation.
- Men: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) - (5 x age in years) + 5
- Women: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) - (5 x age in years) - 161
Once your calorie needs are determined, a nutrition coach can help you tweak your plan further based on your results.
Tracking Your Calories
It’s helpful to track daily, including weekends, to gain an understanding of your eating habits and to know if you’re staying within your calorie targets.
What Can You Eat On CICO?
You can technically eat what you want on the CICO diet. There are no rules as to what you can or can’t eat, and the focus is solely on the number of calories to take in.
Is Calorie Counting Effective For Losing Weight?
Calorie counting can be effective for losing weight. If you’re doing it regularly and keeping track of the trends, you’ll be able to make better choices to improve your diet.
The best way to follow the CICO diet is to ensure most of your calories come from nutritious foods. Prioritizing whole foods like those high in protein and carbohydrates rich in fiber will fill you up, provide lasting energy, and curb hunger.
For more personalized guidance on exactly what to eat and how much, we suggest working with a nutrition coach.
What Are The Benefits Of CICO?
There are a few attractive features of the CICO diet - it is less restrictive than other diets in terms of what you can eat, and is easy to start.
The CICO diet may not feel as restrictive since it doesn’t require you to eliminate any particular foods. It only has one primary rule - to burn more calories than you eat.
Easy To Adopt
The CICO is easy to start because it doesn’t involve eliminating any foods. You just need to stay within your calorie limit.
However, for the biggest weight loss benefits, we recommend focusing on eating plenty of filling foods first, then determining your calorie level.
What Are The Risks Of CICO?
There are still a few risks to consider with the CICO diet.
First, there is a risk of nutrition deficiencies. The type of foods are not taken into account on the CICO diet, and so some nutrients may be lacking in the diet.
There is also a risk of overeating if the quality of food is not taken into account. If you’re on a low-calorie diet but are not eating satisfying foods, you are more likely to overindulge.
An easier way to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need and staying full is to focus on foods that are high in protein and fiber.
It’s therefore important not to solely focus on calories, but to also establish healthier eating habits.
The Value Of A Calorie
The definition of a calorie is a unit of energy. But in the nutrition world, a calorie is not just a calorie.
Filling Calories Vs Empty Calories
Calories are not all created equal. In fact, calories come in 2 distinct categories - filling calories and empty calories.
Filling calories - Calories that keep you full and control cravings in between meals. They are highly nutritious and are found in the highest amounts in high protein, high fiber whole foods.
Studies have shown that people who eat more fiber tend to weigh less. Protein is also incredibly satisfying, and also has the added bonus of supporting a faster metabolism.
Empty calories - Calories that don’t fill you up because they offer little nutritional value, such as potato chips, baked goods, and soda. These should be limited because they tend to make you feel more hungry.
If CICO is not your cup of tea, there are other healthy diet alternatives to help you lose weight without feeling hungry:
Paleo - A way of eating that is built around the way our caveman ancestors ate and is very limited in processed foods.
Keto - A very high fat, low carb diet that is moderate in protein. It can be very filling due to the high-fat content and can be an effective weight-loss method.
Atkins Diet - A high protein, low carb diet that can lead to fast weight loss. It starts more restrictive, then your food choices gradually increase over time.
Mediterranean Diet - A way of eating inspired by those who reside near the Mediterranean sea, and includes foods like fish, beans, olive oil, olives, nuts, and fruits and vegetables.
Whole30 - A 30-day elimination diet that removes certain foods said to cause cravings and inflammation.
Low Fat - A low-fat diet that focuses on reducing calories from fats.
Vegan Diet - A plant-based way of eating that involves completely avoiding animal products.
All of these diets require eliminating certain foods and may not be sustainable long term. We suggest working with a nutrition coach to determine which diet is best for you.
What Other Factors Impact Weight Loss & Regulation?
There are other factors that affect weight loss than just calories - such as the quality of your food, your metabolism, exercise, sleep, and stress level.
An effective weight loss program needs to address all of these for sustainable results. These are potential barriers that hinder weight loss if not addressed, and often fuel those frustrating yo-yo weight cycles.
Take our fitness quiz to find out how a Fitmate custom meal plan can help you lose weight effectively.
What Does CICO Mean?
CICO stands for “calories in, calories out,” a weight loss diet that aims to burn more calories than you take in. It doesn’t typically take into account the type of food you’re eating, another important factor for sustainable weight loss.
How Do You Start CICO?
It starts with figuring out your baseline calorie needs. Then, you subtract 500 calories a day from that total, either through diet, exercise, or a combination of both, to get your daily calories to follow for weight loss.
What Is the CICO Rule for Weight Loss?
The golden rule is you need to burn more calories than you take in.
Who Does CICO Work for?
CICO is good for someone who wants to lose weight but doesn’t want to change their diet. However, the best long-term results are seen when you also prioritize high-quality foods, as we do at Fitmate.