A Nutritionist Weighs In On The Cico Diet - Men's Health Magazine Australia

A Nutritionist Weighs In On The Cico Diet

There’s no way this popular diet is as simple as counting calories, right? Nutritionist Dezi Abeyta weighs in.

The  Cico diet isn’t exactly new, even if this is the first time you’re reading about it. And even “new” supposedly innovative diets aren’t often based off of breaking research (yes, even Keto).

You see, the latest weight-loss fads only appear different. Diet marketers (yes, they exist) try to create this separation with their particular diet’s set of rules, banned foods or food groups, and/or daily caps on certain nutrients.

But the truth is that most diets operate upon roughly the same mechanism: cutting calories. Whether it’s Whole30, Paleo, or Keto, the goal of these diet plans is to encourage (demand that?) you to eat less food overall, thereby losing weight.

This approach works—but as we’ve written about countless times before—often only in the short term. And “failing” a diet can lead to re-gaining weight, a process known as “yo-yo dieting.” In short, fad diets don’t work long term.

And so now here comes an emerging diet trend called “Calories In, Calories Out” (CICO), which is puts the calorie-counting method of weight loss front and center.

The CICO plan operates under the premise that you’ll lose weight by consuming fewer calories than your body uses to perform its daily functions.

There’s no way this popular diet is as simple as counting calories, right?

“The idea of calories in and calories out is absolutely the backbone of weight loss,” says Bethany Doerfler, M.S., R.D.N., Clinical Dietitian at Northwestern University. “But metabolism and weight loss are so much more complex than that.”

So before you jump on the CICO bandwagon, it’s important to understand a few key elements of how your metabolism and your body works when it comes to dieting and weight loss.

There’s a healthy way to do CICO and there’s a way that can create some serious issues. Here’s what you should consider when it comes to health, happiness, and satisfaction, before you adopt the CICO approach to losing weight.

What It Is

There’s no real plan with CICO; you just consume fewer calories (calories in, or “CI”) than you burn (calories out, or “CO”) every day.  And, honestly, any diet – be it keto, paleo, 5/2 or otherwise – can be a complicated method for consuming less energy than you burn. CICO attempts to simplify the whole shebang.

The Promise

Run an energy deficit and you’ll start to drop kilos. All you have to do is calculate your current calorie needs, activity level and target weight. Websites like niddk.nih.gov/bwp and apps like MyFitnessPal can do this. Their formulas will spit out a lower total number of calories – your new goal for daily intake.

What You Can’t Have

Everything is on the table. So if you wanted to drink beer and eat fries every day, you could, as long as you either consumed less of those things or exercised more to maintain an energy deficit. Given all the calorie counting, you’ll want to keep a diet journal or use a calorie-tracking app.

The Good

CICO doesn’t ban any foods, so you don’t have to suffer restrictions. And it’s great to know how many calories you eat daily. If you’re self-motivated and know that
a good diet includes lean proteins, quality fats and fibre-rich carbs, well, then CICO can help you lose weight and improve
your health.

The Not So Good

By laser-focusing on calories, you may forget about filling fibre, muscle-building protein and disease-fighting micronutrients. And you can obsess about tracking. If you ever find yourself “running off” indulgences or skipping meals for the sake of CICO, that’s a signal flare.

The Verdict

CICO is what you make of it. Because the strategy doesn’t tell you what you can and can’t eat, you’re more likely to stick to it. Running a calorie deficit for weight loss works, we know that – but you also have to consider the quality of your calories for overall health. My recommendation: 75 per cent of the calories you eat should come from high-quality whole foods, and that’s regardless of whether you’re on CICO.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the former Digital Editor at Men's Health Australia, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she has written for Women's Health, esquire, GQ and Vogue magazine.

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