CICO – Calories in, calories out!

Credit and debit. Plus & minus. Full – empty… Its pretty simple mathematics and it doesn’t necessary have to be made hard, but it does need some further explanation to reach its full potential when it comes to weight loss and general health.

Its all about balance, like with everything in life. Are you spending more money than you’re making? Are you filling the gas tank more than you drive? Are you using more calories than you put in? The concept of CICO works, if used with some common sense!

In order to lose weight, you must achieve a negative energy balance – taking in fewer calories than you use. For weight gain, you need a positive energy balance – taking in more than you use.

A calorie is a measurement of energy and 1 calorie is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

The official measurement of energy is Joule. 1 dietary Calorie (kilocalorie) equals 4.184 joules.

1 kilogram of fat is 7700 calories, so if you eat, according to the recommendations for weight loss, 500 calories less per day, you should lose about 0.5 kg per week.

Its very logical that way… However, all calories are not created equal and does not react the same way after it has reached the gut.

Different foods affect different hormones in different ways:


Calories in

  • Glucose & fructose – added sugars

When you eat fructose and it enters to the liver from the digestive tract it can be turned into glucose and stored as glycogen, if the liver is full of glycogen it will be turned into fat and then be shipped out for storage. If you consume too much, it causes insulin resistance, which raises insulin levels all over the body and will turn into the main driver to fat gain.

Fructose doesn’t get registered the same way as glucose coming from natural sources like fruit and doesn’t impact satiety the same way and doesn’t lower the hunger hormone ghrelin. 100 calories of fructose will increase your insulin, add to the fat storing process, lead to higher gherlin levels and increase your appetite.

  • Protein

100 calories if protein will be a little different. About 30% of the calories in the protein will be spent on the digestion since the metabolic pathway requires energy.

(Yes, you burn calories by eating, this is why some people believes that eating every 2 or 3 hours is better since it keeps your metabolism going, this is not entirely true, whats actually happening is that your organs are going on overtime and you will never reach the fasted state required to use excess fat as fuel before glucose, instead these people need to go on a certain restricted diet and will most likely fall back to previous state when they finish or stop the diet).

Protein will increase the feeling of fullness, boost the metabolic rate and also be used as building blocks for muscle which are metabolically active tissues that burn calories day and night.

  • Fat

Healthy fats are the basic building blocks of your cell membranes and hormones. These fatty membranes surround every cell and act as the border patrol allowing the right balance of hormones to enter your cells.

Healthy cell walls mean a healthy hormone balance, especially when we’re talking about thyroid hormones. If thyroid hormones can’t get into your cells, they can’t do their job and you suffer from a sluggish metabolism. To build healthy cell membranes, you need to eat healthy fats.

Unhealthy fats make your cell walls rigid, making it hard for hormones to get into your cells. Cholesterol has been unfairly demonized over the years and the truth is that without it, you’d die.

Important note: Eating fat does NOT make you fat!

So calories from different sources acts differently as they go through their metabolic pathways. Some promotes weight loss and some slows it down, but everything is relative.

Thermal Effect of Food – TEF

The calories you consume also influence the number of calories you expend. Your body expends energy digesting, absorbing, and distributing the nutrients from the food you eat. This is referred to as the thermic effect of food TEF. Not every food has the same TEF:

  • Protein : 30 percent of calories burned as TEF
  • Carbohydrates: 5-10 percent of calories burned as TEF
  • Fat: 0-5 percent of calories burned as TEF

Protein has a significantly greater TEF than carbohydrates or fat. So, if you eat a meal high in protein, your body will expend significantly more calories compared to eating the same number of calories from the other macronutrients. But it is important to know here that excess protein intake will transform into glucose and spike insulin, so it is not a good option to overdo it on the protein.

Another way different types of food impacts the entire CICO has to do with satiety, or how full you feel after a meal. Protein and fat has a more satiating effect than carbohydrates. This is because protein triggers the release of several satiety hormones that send messages to your brain to cease hunger signaling and fat is of a denser character than carbs. Because of this, a person eating a low carb diet (high fat and moderate protein) is more likely to stick to a calorie goal than someone filling up on empty calories.


Calories out – TEE – BMR – EAT – NEAT – PAL

Total Energy Expenditure – TEE, is the total number of calories you expend per day and goes far beyond your exercise habits. This accounts for all the energy factors combined such as exercise, metabolism, organ function and daily activity.

Basal metabolic rate – BMR, is the number of calories you burn at rest if you lie in bed for 24 hours. These calories are expended to carry out functions essential to survival, like breathing, blood circulation, and oxygen and nutrient delivery. Your BMR may account for up to 70 percent of your TEE.

It is very important that you reach this calorie goal for your body to function properly. If you’re under this goal, your body will signal survival mode and store fat for emergency situations. So starving yourself is never a good option! 

The BMR values ranges from about 1200-1600 calories, depending on your length, weight and age.

Exercise activity thermogenesis – EAT, refers to the number of calories you expend via your exercise habits. Of course, the duration and frequency of your workouts obviously influence this number, but the type of exercise you engage in heavily impacts this amount, too.

Exercises such as resistance training and high-intensity interval training have a lasting impact on your metabolic rate after the exercise session ends and up to 24 hours later. This means you not only expend more energy during these types of workouts, but your energy expenditure remains elevated for a prolonged period afterward. These activities are especially effective for fat loss.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis – NEAT, refers to the number of calories you expend in all other non-exercise specific activity such as standing, walking and executing tasks throughout the day. This number of calories is highly individualized. Someone who works a manual-labor job is going to expend far more calories than someone working a sedentary 9-5 desk job.

Physical activity level – PAL, is the factor to measure the actual numbers in calories you need. By multiplying your BMR to the different levels of activity, you can decide how much you actually need to consume to stay above, neutral or under your caloric need. These numbers factors in how much total activity you get throughout a day.

Your TEF may account for up to 10 percent of total calories expended per day.

Yes calories in calories out absolutely works, but it need some adjustments and common sense, getting your maintenance calorie goal (BMR+EAT/NEAT) from Coca-cola and Skittles won’t really do the trick.


Calculate your BMR


BMR x PAL = your daily caloric need

Weight loss: subtract 500 calories daily.

Weight gain: add 500 calories daily.

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Or use this calculator


Bottom line

You need to plan your diet, make sure you’re at the correct calorie intake and consider the macronutrient composition and quality of your nutrition and ingredients, your exercise programs, duration, intervals and daily activity.

When all of these factors are well balanced and you are ready to make a lifestyle change, all the pieces will fall into place and you will have the results you’re looking for!




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