A look at what the popular dieting fad CICO (Calories In, Calories Out) is and whether it is effective for weight management.


There’s a new popular food trend making its rounds among the health-conscious: CICO, or “calories in, calories out.” CICO is the latest in a string of diet fads that have taken the world by storm. But what exactly is it, why is it becoming a popular food fad, and more importantly—is it effective? Let’s find out, gang!


What is CICO?

The “Calories In, Calories Out” diet is a diet that takes into consideration the balance between the food you take in (“calories in”) and your capability to burn these calories through different means (“calories out”). Pretty neat, huh?

Unlike other popular food trends, CICO considers three main ways of burning calories in its diet: your metabolism, or how fast your body burns calories without any exercise or other physical activities; your daily physical activity, which is a combination of exercise and other movement when you go about your daily activities; and the thermal effect of food which is the energy that either speeds up or slows down your metabolism based on the macronutrients in food. Say what now?!

To put things simply, under the CICO diet, as long as you’re consuming less calories than you’re burning, you will not gain weight. But it isn’t as simple as that. People who have tried CICO say they lose more weight with other popular food fads. So how does it actually work?


Introducing macronutrients

You’ve probably heard this from some other popular food trend before: macronutrients (or macros). These are nutrients that you need in larger quantities to provide you energy: protein, fat and carbohydrates. 

Plenty of diet trends will tell you to count your macros in order to lose weight. You’ll need to achieve a balanced macro diet in order to achieve the results you want without depriving yourself of the nutrients your body needs to function. The same goes for CICO. It’s not just about watching how much you eat in general and reducing the amount of food you eat, but balancing those macros to make sure you maximise the calories you burn even in a resting state. Sign us up already!


Food and thermodynamics

What do we mean by that? Well, different types of food are digested differently by the body. Some types of food produce more heat than others, which helps you burn calories even when you’re not exercising or exerting any physical movement. Popular food trends like CICO will reference this often and it’s called thermodynamics in food

Let’s take complex carbs or synthetic carbs for instance. These are carbohydrates from processed food and they are harder to digest and break down in a resting state than simple carbs from fruits or good fat from nuts. In this case, fruits and nuts are healthier to eat and will benefit you more than a slice or two of white bread, because your body can break down and burn those calories better. Makes perfect sense now!


But does CICO actually work?

As with all popular food fads, we have to ask: how effective is this as a diet plan?

The results vary depending on multiple factors. A study showed no significant difference between a low-carb and low-fat diet CICO diet against a diet where participants don’t count calories but avoid processed food. Participants in the study showed the same weight loss for both. No way! What mattered was they stuck to healthier food, avoided processed food and maintained the same recommended physical activity of combined exercise and their daily movement. As it turns out, just because it’s a popular food trend doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective. 


Don’t just rely on a popular food fad

The main takeaway here is that instead of obsessively counting calories as dictated by a popular food fad, you should eat a balanced diet of healthy carbohydrates, protein and fat while avoiding complex carbs or processed food.

Remember to consult a nutritionist before going on any diet as well as people have diverse reactions to different diets. And while your friend may say the CICO diet worked for them, it may not necessarily work for your body type. Finally, make sure to combine your diet with your daily activities, a fitness plan and an overall healthy lifestyle. You’ll be on the road to the body you want in no time. Are you ready for your close up yet?