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One passionately debated concept is that of “calories-in, calories-out” (CICO). This is colloquial phrasing for how energy balance relates to bodily energy stores. And this gets translated as shorthand for indicating how energy balance influences gain/loss of body mass.
When looking at some of the commentary related to CICO, there are two opposing positions that are both incorrect. On one hand you have people who clearly focus too heavily on calories alone. But on the other you have people claiming that “CICO is wrong” and that looking at energy balance as the main driver of changes in body mass is misguided.
In this episode, we focus in on the latter of those positions, i.e. the claim that “CICO is a myth”, or “calories don’t matter” or “fat loss has nothing to do with CICO” or several other similar statements that we’ll look at one by one.
- Claims of why “calories in, calories out is stupid”
- What CICO is not synonymous with
- Common Claims “Disproving” CICO:
- “I am eating more now and my body composition is better. CICO is nonsense”
- “I reduced my intake but I stopped losing weight. CICO is nonsense”
- “Tracking calories never worked for me, but when I went low-carb weight just dropped off. CICO is nonsense”
- “I developed hypothyroidism and gained weight on the same diet, see it’s hormones. CICO is nonsense”
- “Tracking calories isn’t psychologically healthy and isn’t a sustainable way to live. CICO is nonsense”
- “There is more to diet and body composition than calories. CICO is nonsense”
- Problems Calculating Calories: Is assessing calorie intake and expenditure a problem?
- Sigma Statement: The “Calories In, Calories Out” Confusion: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Energy Balance
The idea of “calories in, calories out” can be an unhealthy one and it’s a mindset that people should shake if they find themselves in it. Great insight shared in this!
Yes I think if people think solely in terms of calories, they are missing much of the picture of health. Beyond that, things like equating certain foods to an amount of exercise to “burn off that number of calories” is unhelpful and likely damaging.
Of course, none of this undermines the fact that the energy balance equation is valid and holds true.