The CICO Diet, Explained: A Complete Guide


There are already hundreds of diets around. The CICO diet is one of the most simplified versions among them. It doesn’t believe in restricting any type of food or meal time. Instead, the CICO diet is based on the calories you intake versus the calories you burn. Compared to other diets, CICO just wants to simplify everything.

In this article, you will find detailed information on the CICO diet and how to start it. Along with this, it provides the benefits of the diet and some drawbacks too. The article will bring along the pros and cons of the diet and whether it helps you to lose weight or not. Follow through the coming paragraphs to know how to start the CICO diet!

What Is The CICO Diet?

CICO is the abbreviation for Calories In, Calories Out. This is not a fine-lined eating plan brought by a nutritionist or celebrity. CICO diet is rather a general approach that relies on the simple knowledge of calorie restriction. It means you should eat fewer calories than you burn.

CICO diet is founded on the principle that, when you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. And when you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight. CICO diet plan solely depends on calorie intake regardless of other factors such as macronutrient intake or diet quality.


On the CICO diet, there is no restriction on what type of food you eat. The only demand is to reduce the intake of calories to the number of calories you burn. The whole of the CICO diet equation is based on the sole factor of ‘calorie deficiency’. And by creating a calorie deficiency in your body, you can lose weight.

According to the CICIO diet equation, one pound is equal to eating 3500 calories. So if you want to make a one-pound weight loss per week, you must put away 500 calories from your food daily. This means you can shave off 3500 calories in a week and thereby can lose 1 pound easily. 

You can make this possible by eating less, exercising more, or combining both.

How does it work?

Unlike many other diets, the CICO diet method doesn’t have many rules or regulations. If you are following the CICO method, you need to have some kind of system to count your calories. Only by knowing the calorie count, you can create a calorie deficit. 

To make this possible, you need to calculate your basal metabolic rate aka BMR. BMR means the number of calories you burn when your body performs some basic functions. This includes activities such as breathing, nutrient processing, circulation, and cell production. 

Knowing your BMR can help you to lose weight. If your goal is to lose weight, you should use fewer calories than you burn. Now, if your goal is to gain weight, you should consume more calories than you burn. If your goal is weight maintenance, the rate of calorie burn should be equal to the calories you consume. 

What Are The Benefits Of The CICO Diet?

The CICO diet offers many benefits. These benefits can be attributed to two umbrella categories. One is calorie deficit-related benefits and the other is weight loss benefits. Details of both these categories are given below.

A calorie deficit or calorie restriction of around 30%-40% can provide many health benefits if proper nutrition intake is maintained. Some of these benefits are listed below:

  • Balanced cholesterol levels and reduction in obesity: Calorie deficit in the proper manner can reduce your cholesterol levels and the chance of obesity.
  • Less oxidative stress and inflammation: Studies have shown that calorie restriction can lead to reduced levels of oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Enhanced brain and cognitive functions: Some researchers have shown that proper calorie restriction can lead to an improvement in verbal memory scores.
  • Leads to hormonal balance: Calorie deficiency can lead to hormonal balance by increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing the production of ghrelin, a hormone responsible for hunger. 

Many benefits are associated with weight loss. Some of them are listed below:

  • Lower chances of heart disease and stroke: As you lose weight, your blood pressure gets back to normal. This reduces the chances of heart disease and stroke.
  • Lesser risk for diabetes: Weight loss is associated with a balance in blood sugar levels which can reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • Increase in movement and flexibility: When you lose weight, you experience more energy. This can lead to more movement and flexibility.
  • Lesser chance of cancer and other diseases: If you lose weight, there is a high chance for you to have a reduced risk of cancers and other conditions such as asthma, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, etc.

What Are The Downsides Of The CICO Diet?

Along with potent benefits, the CICO diet has also some downsides. These are listed below.

  • Higher chances for nutrition deficiencies: As the CICO diet is based on calorie restriction, it can also lead to nutrition deficiencies.
  • Chances for weight gain: CICO diet is not an overall healthy approach to weight loss in the long run. So there is a high chance to gain weight once you have stopped the diet.
  • Intake of unhealthy calories can lead to further health problems: As the CICO diet doesn’t lack any foods, it can lead to indulgence in unhealthy food such as processed food and sugars. This can lead to weight gain and diseases such as heart disease, cancer, etc.
  • Inability to exercise: Calorie restriction can lead to certain symptoms such as fatigue, stress, and demotivation in some individuals. This can act as a hindrance to exercise. 


  • Easy-to-follow
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Helps to lose weight and balances cholesterol levels
  • Easy to find foods that fit individual needs as there are fewer restrictions 


  • Chances of weight gain are high once the diet is stopped
  • Risk for malnutrition due to a calorie deficiency
  • Chance for hypertension and IBS as the inclusion of unhealthy foods is there
  • Need to constantly update about the calorie which can lead to unhealthy eating

Foods You Can Eat

When you choose foods for the CICO diet, you should select nutrient-dense foods with low calories. Some of these food items are given below:

Whole grains: Whole grains are an ideal choice to lose weight by eating nutrient-rich foods. Some of these are Brown rice, Millet, Quinoa, Oats, Barley, etc.

Healthy fats: Some foods that contain healthy fats are nuts, avocados, and olive oil.

Vegetables: Beetroots, Celery, Arugula, Iceberg Lettuce

Fruits: Strawberries, Guava, Pear, Apple, Papaya, Bananas, etc.

Lean proteins:  Chicken, Yogurt, Lentils, Cottage Cheese, Tofu, Lean Beef, and Fish. 

Who Shouldn’t Follow The CICO Diet

Not everyone can follow the CICO diet. People who are restricted from following the diet are mentioned below:

⚠️People who are under treatment for any chronic medical condition need to consult their doctor before starting any diet including the CICO diet.

⚠️People with eating disorders such as anorexia should refrain from the CICO diet as it can further restrict their calorie intake.

⚠️Children are not supposed to take the diet as calorie restriction can tamper with their nutrient intake.

⚠️Pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t follow the CICO diet as it can be harmful to their babies.

CICO Diet And Weight Loss

This is a rather problematic area. The CICO diet can help you lose weight but at the same time, it can cause some serious issues. According to many experts, the sole focus on calories is a bit problematic. When you put too much emphasis on calories, there is a higher chance of missing out on important nutrients.

This kind of calorie deficiency can result in malnutrition and lead to many health complications. Also, counting your calories every time you eat is not that much practical. So, it is doubtful whether one can keep up with the CICO diet and follow it healthily.

But at the same time, if you implement some healthy methods in the CICO diet you can lose weight. One of the tactics is to install a calorie-counting app and calculate your daily calorie goal. You can then adjust how many calories should you be taking in and putting out.

CICO Diet And Weight Loss

Also, put reminders for your meals as this can be helpful to log the data. Along with that, watch your portion size. While it might be difficult when you are just starting the CICO diet, you can practice this slowly and maintain a portion control strategy.  And finally, don’t just put all your effort into CICO.

You should add some nutrient-rich foods along with your calorie intake to make it whole and healthy. If you follow these methods along with the diet, you can easily lose weight.

How to start the CICO diet?

To start a CICO diet, you need a calorie count calculator. All you have to do is to calculate how many calories you need to maintain weight and how much weight you want to lose each week. The amount of calorie deficit you need to have to lose some pounds per week is given below

  • If you want to lose half a pound per week, you need to lose 250 calories per day.
  • If you want to lose one pound of calories per week, you need to have a 500-calorie deficit per week.
  • If you want to lose two pounds per week, you need to lose 1000 calories per day. 

You can create a calorie deficiency by either eating less or engaging in any physical activity such as exercise. Several apps can be used to track calories. Some of the popular ones among these are SparkPeople, MyFitness Pal, and FatSecret

Along with eating whatever you like, one thing to keep in mind is to not load up on junk foods. Include more protein-rich foods and vegetables in your diet. Minimizing the intake of heavily processed foods and refined items is important. Otherwise, they can lead to harmful conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. 

CICO Diet Meal Plan

There are various meal plans which are based on the individual needs of a calorie deficiency. Here is a sample meal plan for someone who needs to limit their daily calorie intake to 1500. The meal plan is for one day. 

BreakfastA cup of green tea with cheesy bacon breakfast tortilla ( 304 calories)
LunchRoasted veggies with hummus sandwich  (448 calories)
Snacks2 tablespoons peanut butter and 3 celery stalks (230 calories)
DinnerMixed green veggies 2 cups with Creamy chicken (506 calories)

Final Words

Going through the article, one can understand that the crux of the CICO diet is to stay within a calorie range. If one wants to lose weight, the intake of calories should be less than the calories burned. Even though this diet seems so simple, the process can be a bit tiring.

Keeping track of calories every time one eats something is not easy as it seems. There are certain apps available today that can track the calories one consumes. Still, there can be difficulties regarding knowing the exact amount of calories. Also, one should be wary of not restricting healthy foods while on the CICO diet.

The CICO diet is easy to start but caution should be maintained to consume healthy foods and altogether to follow a healthy lifestyle.


Q.  I am already under the treatment for a medical condition. Can I practice CICO?

If you are affected by any medical condition, consult your doctor first before starting any kind of diet.

Q.  Can the CICO diet lead to weight loss?

Even if you have put your body into a calorie deficit mode, chances for the weight gain to come back are plenty. Unhealthy foods and lack of exercise can lead to this situation.

Q. Can the CICO diet help diabetic people?

If you aim for weight loss, it can have a positive effect on reducing the risk of diabetes. 

Q. Can the CICO diet be beneficial for someone with eating disorders?

Counting calories every time one eats can be a bit detrimental to the mental health of people with eating disorders. So CICO diet can’t be that much beneficial for them.

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