What Is the CICO Weight loss plan? (Counting Energy for Weight Loss)


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 plan!

You most likely have questions like

Steve, does CICO work? 

Will counting energy assist me shed some pounds?

Okay, what the hell IS a calorie?

Nicely my pal, you’ve arrived on the proper place!

I’ve been writing about these things for 13 years, and our group of nerdy consultants assist our Online Coaching clients with all kinds 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 plan plan?

I guess this is kind of CICO, in a way

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

The CICO Weight loss plan 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 are not 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 plan is absolutely easy and has helped quite a few people lose weight

That is probably why the CICO Weight loss plan has grown in recognition 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 right down to burning extra energy than you eat.

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

As we deal with in our information How to Lose Weight (The 5 Rules of Weight Loss), our our bodies obey the Legal guidelines of Conservation of Power and Thermodynamics: 

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

With this information, it is smart to design a food 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’ll be able to neglect concerning the guidelines of any particular food plan.

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

This appeals to me personally, as a result of I’ve created my own guidelines for how 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 apply, it turns into a bit extra difficult. 

Okay, tremendous, A LOT extra difficult.

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

Ditto for “energy out.”

Let’s break a few of this down.

Listed here are among the issues that impression “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 here are among the issues that impression “Energy Out:”

  • Power burned whereas resting: your Basal Metabolic Rate is a depend of what number of energy you burn at relaxation and will likely be managed by your age, weight, peak, organic intercourse, muscle composition, and so on. 
  • Power burned by way of Non-Train Exercise Thermogenesis (NEAT): do you fidget lots? That will increase your NEAT, or the power you burn doing stuff aside from exercising. Suppose tapping your ft, twirling your hair, utilizing your palms when talking, and so on. 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 impression 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 vital factor to contemplate right here is that not one of the above invalidate the fundamental premise of an power deficit being mandatory 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 hold folks feeling full and satiated.[8] So tons of protein may also help people shed some pounds, not as a result of it modifications the necessities for weight reduction, however as a result of it’d permit them to get by way of the day much less hungry (reducing their “energy in.”)
  • Satisfactory dietary protein may also help with constructing and sustaining muscle.[9] The extra muscle somebody has, the extra energy they’ll want to keep up it (elevating their “energy out.”)[10]

Learn our information “How much protein should I eat?” for extra on this topic.

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

However all types of issues impression the variety of energy we eat and the variety of energy we expend. 

That is going to guide us to…

The Downside With CICO (People Are Unhealthy Estimators)

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

The vast majority of the issues folks have with CICO is that it permits nutrient-deficient meals to enter the food plan, solely limiting “how a lot.”

They’ll argue that individuals must be consuming vegatables and fruits, 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 educated in vitamin science, underestimated how a lot they eat.[12]

Millhouse is probably just realizing the issue with CICO

“Which may be true Steve, however don’t fear about me. I read the label on every thing I purchase so I do know precisely what number of energy I’m consuming.”

Nicely, 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 would possibly truly be 120?

In the event you’re a meals producer, which manner are you going to lean in the direction of? Particularly when you recognize folks would possibly scrutinize the energy of your vitamin label in an effort to shed some 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.

Persons are additionally actually dangerous at estimating “energy out.” 

When people 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 principle 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 predict our metabolism is damaged if we can’t lose weight!

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 Whole Each 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 once you get proper right down to it.

Does that make all this hopeless?

Not even remotely.

Nevertheless it does give us some context when you can’t seem to lose weight.

Suggestions for Sustainable Weight Loss (Subsequent Steps)

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

This submit just isn’t made to dissuade you from attempting The CICO Weight loss plan.

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 really consuming.

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

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

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

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

In our Guide to Healthy Eating, we clarify why each web site tells you to eat greens (which we also tell you): greens are stuffed with vitamins, include plenty 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 plenty of greens, or “actual meals,” will show you how to naturally decrease “energy in.”

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

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

Examine it to 200 energy of broccoli (Due to wiseGEEK):

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

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


For our different technique, the Strength Training 101 sequence explains why rising robust is vital for fats loss: 

Building muscle takes a variety 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 be capable of escape from jail simpler. 

This can naturally elevate your “energy out.”

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

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

The whole Nerd Fitness Coaching program is predicated on this premise.

So what must you do now? Decide a small change and get going!

Listed here are some choices for a healthy new habit:

Crucial factor you are able to do now: start!

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’re feeling snug 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 towards success.


Nonetheless right here? Need some extra steering? A precise plan to observe 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 Online Coaching 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 group 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’d like a roadmap for getting in form, take a look at NF Journey. Our enjoyable habit-building app will show you how to train and eat higher, all when you construct your very personal superhero.


Strive your free trial proper right here:

#3) Be a part of The Insurrection! We have now a free electronic mail e-newsletter that we ship out twice per week, stuffed with ideas and methods that will help you get wholesome, get robust, and have enjoyable doing so. 

I’ll additionally ship you tons of free guides that you need to use to begin 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 plan?

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

Suppose I’ve bought all of it completely flawed? 

Let me know within the feedback!


PS: Ensure you learn the remainder of our content material on sustainable weight reduction:


GIF Supply: Millhouse, Barney Thumbs Up, Joker, A Beautiful Mind, Leo “duh,”

Picture Supply: A Surprise Performance Appraisal, Against the Current, There is always a bigger fish, Dim Sum Trike, miam miam

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