CICO – The Golden Rule of Weight Management

Whether you want to lose, gain or maintain weight, it comes down to CICO.

What is CICO?

CICO (calories in, calories out) is formula that’s utilizing the fact that your weight is based on the amount of calories you consume (calories in) compared to the amount of calories you burn (calories out). If you consume more energy than you need, you gain weight because your body stores the excess energy as fat. If you take in less than you spend, you lose weight, since your body is using the energy storage (fat) you already have. If both sides balance out, your weight will stay the same.


What is a calorie?

1 calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. The kcal (also know as kilogram/food calorie) you find on nutritional labels are equal to 1.000 normal calories.

What contains calories?

Macronutrients. They are primary source of energy for humans and the nutrients of which we consume (and need!) the largest amount. There are four classes of macronutrients, protein (4 kcal/g), carbohydrate (4 kcal/g), fat (9 kcal/g) and alcohol (7 kcal/g). Of those four, alcohol is the only one that is not a dietary necessity

How much do I burn daily?

It’s pretty simple! First, you have to calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is the amount of energy your body needs to stay alive (this number does not include physical activity). You can use this BMR-Calculator. Afterwards calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), which includes physical activities. I’d recommend using the Harris Benedict Equation. This is the number you base your intake on! Lower for losing, higher for gaining and about the same for maintaining. Just be honest to yourself and it will work. The most important part for this is honesty to yourself! Don’t put wrong info into those calculators (overestimating activity is a common mistake).

How much should I eat?

That depends on your goals! 1 lb (~450 g) of fat in the human body consists of roughly 3.500 kcal. So to lose 2 lb per week, your caloric deficit needs to be 7.500 kcal a week, or, on average, 1.000 per day. For gaining weight, it’s the exact opposite. I recommend you to use Myfitnesspal to count calories (it’s what I use), but there are multiple alternatives. Again, be honest to yourself. Weighing your food with a kitchen scale brings the most accurate results, since underestimating portions can easily happen. Also try to include snacks and liquid calories, people tend to forget those.

Anything more I should know?

Yes! The calculated numbers are, obviously, not always 100% accurate! Weigh yourself consistently and adjust your intake accordingly. Lower/increase your calories if you’re weight does not behave as expected. Also note that this, on its own, does not guarantee a healthy diet! You can eat whatever you want, you only have to limit the amount, it’s just a way to control your weight. Being a healthy weight and eating unhealthy food is always better than being obese (or underweight) and eating healthy food.

I have more questions!

That’s good! Leave me a comment, or ask me via social media. I’ll try to help you as much as I can!


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