We all know those calorie counting apps and the food scales that help us figure out how many calories we’re consuming vs how many calories we’re burning. Otherwise known as the CICO method, calories in calories out seems simple enough. But is it really effective?
Here, we’re exploring the CICO method and whether it’s the best way to control your diet and workout plans. Let’s get started!
Are all calories created equal?
Sure, a calorie is a calorie but that doesn’t mean all calories are created equal. In other words, 100 calories of kale are not the same as 100 calories of candy. Nutrient density is what really matters when trying to get healthy and fit.
Foods that are protein-rich, full of healthy fats, and packed with nutrients all really do make a difference to how you feel as well as your body composition.
For example, healthy fats and proteins keep you feeling satiated for longer than empty carbs or refined sugars will. That means you’re less likely to give in to cravings or have an energy crash after only a few hours.
In short, you’re more likely to make healthy choices and have the energy to stay active when you eat nutrient-dense calories instead of calories for the sake of calories.
Is counting calories even possible?
Another reason why the CICO method doesn’t really work is that it’s incredibly difficult to calculate calories in vs calories out in the first place.
We all metabolize calories differently which means that an app on your phone won’t be able to truly calculate how many calories you burned during a workout or how many calories you consumed from your food.
While these estimates can help you when it comes to giving you a starting point, without a scientist and top-of-the-line equipment, it’s only ever really an estimate.
Plus, counting calories is a recipe for disordered eating, and if it’s not even necessarily accurate, why risk destroying your relationship with food?
Can you outwork a bad diet?
Many people believe that you can outwork a bad diet. And while this might be true if you’re young, it’s certainly not the case as you start aging or if something else is out of whack.
So, no you cannot outwork a bad diet. Your nutrition is just as important (if not more important) than your workout routine. Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with your hormones.
How do your hormones affect fat loss?
While the health and fitness industry has a lot to say about workout routines and nutrition, it hardly ever talks about hormonal health and how this affects fat loss and overall well-being. The truth is, our hormones are in charge of all sorts of processes that happen within our bodies.
For example, cortisol (our stress hormone) can actually block your body’s ability to burn fat. When cortisol levels spike, our body is sent into fight or flight mode which stores as much fat as possible to use as a resource if we’re in danger.
Certain foods can actually cause stress in the body (ahem… sugary foods) and so when we assume that a calorie is a calorie, we’re ignoring the fact that certain foods affect our hormones and can sabotage all of our efforts to be truly healthy and lose weight.
This is also why stress-relief tactics like mindfulness practices and meditations are so beneficial for fat loss and overall health. But, that’s a topic for another time.
While hormonal health is an extensive topic that would require an entire series of blog posts to cover, the point is, a CICO-based diet doesn’t account for hormonal health which is a big reason why it’s not all that reliable.
All in all, calories do matter. In other words, you won’t lose weight if you consume more calories than you’re burning. However, it’s not that simple.
The nutrients in your food matter far more than their calorie count, you may not be accurately counting your calories anyway, you can’t outwork a bad diet, and your hormones matter far more than we’re led to believe.
So, long story short, no it’s not as simple as calories in, calories out. So, stop counting calories! Please and thank you.