Last updated on March 11th, 2019
What is the CICO Diet and Does it Work
I will try explain exactly what CICO is and the so called CICO diet.
The concept is frighteningly simple and is often overcomplicated by weight loss guru’s trying to sell you something.
Don’t buy any kind of diet – just read this article!
CICO is calories in calories out. Ask a whole bunch of people what the best way to lose weight is and you’ll probably get as many different answers as there are mouths in the room.
- Intermittent Fasting
- Keto, bro, on keto I burn fat all the time!
- Fasted cardio
- I only eat when the sun’s up
- Never eat breakfast
- Always eat a massive breakfast
- Have a smoothie for breakfast
- Drink green smoothies
- LIVE OFF SMOOTHIES
- Eat more fruit
- Eat less fruit
- Eat ZERO fruit, ever!
- Cardio, dude. C’mon!
- Drink apple cider vinegar because your stomach is actually acidic and…..*snore*
- Eat to a calorie deficit
- Eat ice cubes when you’re hungry
- Do Ramadan, all year long
- Atkins, all the way (ps. has this person been under a rock for a decade?!)
- Paleo, braaaah
- No, the mountain goat diet
- What! No, the hybrid mountain-goat-keto-caveman-swampdonkey diet
- Drink raw milk. Every. Damn. Day.
…wait, stop, go back a few.
Oh yeah, thought you’d see sense. Well, when I get hungry I just get a couple ice-cubes…
No, not you, moron! Calorie deficit girl. Say again? CICO
Umm, if you consume less calories than you use over the course of a given period of time, it’s called being in a calorie deficit. And, well, you’re guaranteed to lose weight.
It’s. Literally. Physics.
CICO and Appetite Suppression
You can make weight loss super complicated, and subscribe to a whole swathe of diets, plans, programs and weird systems – OR – you can see it for what it really is, and start getting it done.
Calories IN – versus – Calories OUT – CICO
- If you consume more energy than you spend over a given timeframe, you will become heavier.
- If you spend more energy than you consume over a given timeframe, you will become lighter.
Einstein knew that: e = mc2
In other words: Mass = Energy
In the context of diets, the unit of energy is calories.
Now, any diet, supplement or whatever that works to reduce your weight is doing so because, no matter what intricacies are involved, the end result is that you consume less calories than you burn.
You cannot lose weight in a calorie surplus
Some of those responses at the top of the article might sound far-fetched, but there are real people who are zealous advocates of almost all of them in some form or another.
You probably wouldn’t get a room full of people, each with a different idea, but you get the point.
There are thousands of diets and products out there for you to spend your money on, and all of them promise the same thing – weight loss.
Without a doubt the most effective way to consistently achieve a calorie deficit is to reduce your calorie intake.
It’s a much more efficient method than burning existing body fat, although the combination of the two is even better.
Of course, portion control, calorie restriction, just eating less, it all sounds a lot simpler than it is.
That’s why anything that can help you to suppress your appetite – whether it’s an activity, a supplement, or even a type of food that helps you resist other food – is a useful tool in your goals.
Lean Body Mass, Muscle and Protein
Weight loss is a horrible term to be honest. The implication is that any reduction in the number when you step on the scales is a good thing.
And that’s not always the case at all.
If you weighed the same as you did two months earlier but looked and felt better, would the number on the scale really matter to you?
When we say we want to lose weight. What we really mean is that we want to lose fat.
Eating less by effectively suppressing appetite is an excellent way to lose weight, but it can also mean we lose lean body mass (LBM) in the process.
LBM is your fat-free mass. It’s essentially your muscle tissue, bone and vital organs. You do not want to lose muscle mass or bone density because you are cutting too many calories, or the wrong kind of calories.
It’s important in a calorie deficit (CICO) to keep your protein intake sufficient to prevent any muscle wastage.
In fact, once adequate protein is accounted for within your daily total allotment of calories, you can split the rest of the calories as you please.
People often get hung up on macronutrient ratios and the ideal proportions of protein, carbohydrates and fat, when really it’s more of an individualistic thing.
The golden rule is: whatever helps you adhere to a calorie deficit while maintaining as much lean muscle mass as possible is the right way for you.
Most people find that cutting out some snacking and “mindless” grazing helps them. Others need to implement more extreme measures but that’s usually because they have more extreme habits.
The higher your calories surplus and the more emotionally reliant you are on eating snacks and junk, the harder it will be to reduce your overall calorie intake and get into a calorie deficit.
There are tools at your disposal though, and they come in different forms.
Food Selection is Important
Some foods are more filling than others, even when calories are equated. More water and fiber generally help bulk out a food, which increases its appetite satisfying effects without necessarily adding more to your daily energy consumption.
Ketogenic dieters swear by their diets because fat satiates hunger better than carbohydrates. Many go so far as to say it is difficult for them to overeat because fat is their main food source.
There is evidence for this, and it’s worth looking into to see if it works for you. You don’t have to go full keto straight away. You can replace some of your carb calories with fat based foods and just monitor how you are feeling.
If you find it easier to adhere to a calorie deficit by following a high-fat-low-carb (HFLC) diet then by all means go for it.
The flip side of HF diets is that fat has a higher energy density than carbs. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbs both sit at about 4 calories per gram.
I mentioned water and fiber above and how some foods are bulkier than others, even when calories are equal. The majority of fruit and (non-starchy) vegetables would fit this category.
These are foods with low energy density.
Fruit has gotten a bad reputation in recent times, and the latest wave of keto hype has a lot to answer for.
Yes fruit contains sugar, and sometimes it may seem like a lot, especially when you see some form of junk food with not much more.
But fruit is on the whole anti-obesogenic. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is its low energy density compared to other foods.
Simply put, it’s hard to overeat fruit because it’s filling and nutritious. What’s more, the antioxidants, micronutrients and high fiber content contribute to provide even more anti-obesity effects.
Also, when you look at the worldwide obesity epidemic, could you really take anyone seriously if they told you fruit was responsible!?
Dietary Supplements Play an Important part
On top of diet and exercise, there are some genuinely effective appetite suppressing supplements with solid science backing them up.
They don’t all work in the same way, so there is also the opportunity to stack multiple appetite suppressing ingredients together.
In fact, they can be stacked together with fat burners, energy boosters and blood sugar reducers to provide multiple benefits to the dieter simultaneously.
Of course, supplement manufacturers caught onto this a long time ago and have been making “weight management” products for years.
Here are some of the ways appetite suppressants can work:
CICO – Physical Appetite Suppressants
This category will almost always come down to one supplement and that is glucomannan. It’s widely available across the diet pill and diet drink market at the moment.
Glucomannan is a natural fiber that’s extracted from the root of the konjac plant. The fiber can absorb many times its own weight in water, but rather than form a solid it becomes a kind of gell-like mass.
Powdered forms of glucomannan can be taken in pills or mixed with water from a sachet and drunk immediately. Provided enough water is taken along with it the gel mass can form in the stomach and make you feel fuller than you really are. This will help the CICO process.
The fiber is relatively inert aside from this physical appetite suppressing effect, and what other effects it has are positive, such as the potential for LDL reduction and perhaps some sugar absorption.
You will see quantities ranging from 500mg to 3000mg in modern products. The only precaution to take with glucomannan is that you drink enough water with it to help it work.
Unfortunately, some cravings aren’t easily dissuaded by merely reducing the available space in your stomach prior to eating.
Some overconsumption is born of emotion.
Mental / Emotional Appetite Suppressors
“I’m eating my feelings” has become a commonly used phrase, or at least some variation of it has.
It’s referring to emotional binge eating, something most of us have probably lost ourselves in at some point in our lives.
Comfort food is just that: comforting. Usually there’s an inversely proportional relationship between nutritional value and short-term mood lift.
In other words, when it comes to emotional eating, the junkier the better. Remember CICO
If you’re feeling drained, down, stressed, hurt, lovesick – whatever – a dose of glucomannan just isn’t going to cut the mustard.
Especially when your brain is thinking extra large pizza with everything, followed by a full tub of Ben and Jerry’s.
Often, it’s because we’re not functioning at our best that our bodies send the “feed me” signal in the first place. The last thing you want to do is prepare a healthy meal at that point, especially when your mind has dragged your body through the door, with one incentive: to get something decadent in your face as soon as possible.
You want to feel happier. Endorphins and dopamine will help. Chocolate will trigger both.
In fact, most foods we associate with comfort eating will.
There are supplements and ingredients which can help relieve the stresses, worries and sadnesses of life and strengthen our cognitive abilities, including our ability to adapt.
One particularly powerful group of ingredients is appropriately named the adaptogens.
They include, but aren’t limited to:
Each of these ingredients have commonalities which can improve your general cognitive function; help you feel more alert, less fatigued and increase your sense of well being.
They also exert effects fairly unique to themselves. For example, Ashwagandha reduces anxiety and stress when taken before a physical stress like a workout at the gym. Taken daily it tends to help you deal with the everyday BS that we all go through.
In a similar way, Rhodiola rosea can reduce fatigue. Yes, the kind of fatigue that comes from a gut-busting workout (hence why you might find adaptogens in pre-workout supplements) but also the sort of fatigue we drag around with us after a day of work, kids, food preparation, commuting, gym and, you know, bleurgh! Remember CICO calories in calories out
That’s why you might find them in diet pills and other supplements. They aren’t miracle workers, and for them to work, you can’t be burning the midnight oil or the candle at both ends.
…but I can testify that they do help, and there’s plenty of supporting research out there too. They help reduce that desire to eat chocolate by the pound and forget about this year’s target weight.
Behavioural Appetite Suppressors
One of the most common excuses for overeating, especially with respect to evening emotional eating, is that “I don’t have anything else to look forward to.”
We’ve made eating our go-to activity, matched only by our Netflix season binge sessions. Television and eating crap go well together.
If you are of the mindset that you don’t have anything to do in the evening other than eat and watch the latest zombie apocalypse-themed show, then you might be due for a shake-up.
Firstly, find something you are really interested in, and get involved. Even if it’s something you can do while you watch TV, at least it’s not cramming the contents of the fridge down your pie hole.
Another major problem is mindless snacking. This is when you’re not even really hungry, but if someone puts a bowl of cheetos on the table in front of you, you’re going to eat the whole fecking thing, and you won’t even know you’re doing it.
There’s a few hundred calories on your total that you didn’t even want.
The solution is different for different people.
Some will want to move the bowl away from them so it’s out of reach, but that doesn’t work if it’s you that put the bowl there in the first place (mindblower, right!).
This is why your body goals have to be at the forefront of your mind all the time.
When you are craving something, and when you’re not, because the calories are relentless. Let your resolve slip and they will find a way down your gullet.
I’m a fan of mediation and I’ve done a lot of reading on the Zen mindset. It’s difficult for me to convey it with any authority, especially in an article about CICO and the CICO diet technique.
You might find it thoroughly rewarding to pursue meditation, not only as a means to help control your dietary intake, but to help you deal with every single aspect of life.
To sum everything if you are planning on starting a CICO diet the concept is simple.
Don’t over complicate matter the CICO diet is a matter of calories in and calories out – the maths doesn’t lie.