All things CICO - back from the dead thread



We have so many CICO discussions with great replies, it’s a shame some of them get out of hand and end up disappearing into the void. I’m going to resurrect one that went to the grave last night minus the deleted posts. Some of it might be a bit out of context with those posts missing, but I think this could be a great resource for others who show up with the same questions.

I’ll stick a link to Metabolic Pathways diagram here in case anyone needs it for reference. You won’t find a calorie sensor but go ahead and look anyway.

Other discussions of interest about Calories in - Calories out:

Calories in, calories out argument
How many of you watch calories?
Do calories matter?
If you're tracking calories...PLEASE buy/use a food scale
An article: Calorie-focused thinking about obesity - may mislead and harm public health
Calorie restriction?
[rant] One is the cause and one is the effect, conventional wisdom has them switched

I am still not really understanding the science
unlisted #2

(Boots on? Balls to the wall? Good start.) #3

It’s all well & good in theory but it rarely works that way in practice - all you can do is tinker with your diet & see. Walking around at 8-10% bodyfat all year will be hard to maintain at your age & will no doubt require some measure of calorie (likely fat) restriction & if you chronically restrict calories you will very likely slow your metabolism.

(Boots on? Balls to the wall? Good start.) #4

Again, it’s chronic calorie restriction that is a problem. You will likely slow your metabolism and see a drop in energy & strength. Most of the bodybuilders I know do bulk/cut cycles - there is less likely to be long term slowing of the metabolism that way.

(Boots on? Balls to the wall? Good start.) #5

Without extensive metabolic testing you can’t know for certain. There are protocols you can try & signs you can look out for that your metabolism is slowing. Are you familiar with Lyle McDonald? He has some good advice. There are also several good bodybuilding podcasts you could listen to.

(Alec) #6

Here’s the problem with your logic: your BMR is unlikely to be that, and it will vary day to day depending on a host of factors, especially what you eat. BMR is not independent of calories in.

The best method of eating to your BMR (without buying yourself an expensive calorimeter) is to learn the subtle art of hunger signals.

My recommendation is to go back to not counting calories.

(Robert C) #7

I do not think there is a magic number.

Any number you choose that forces you to lose body fat will probably make the body move into a defensive mode eventually (i.e. trying to preserve what it thinks is important for long-term survival - body fat). Remember Dr. Fung’s quote “All diets work and then all diets fail.” (probably not an exact quote).

The problem with the “magic number” is the implication that it is a daily amount. Keto (with fat to satiety) means some days are 1,500 calories and some days are 3,000 calories. The body (since you always go to satiety) never feels threatened and lets go of fat.

(Empress of the Unexpected) #8

The body is not on a 24 hour clock. It cannot possibly require the exact same number of calories per day. It has taken a year for me to figure this out. Some days I am starving, other days no appetite. It appears to even itself out and my body gets what it needs.

(Bacon is the new bacon) #9

It’s not as settled as you think. The hormonal model of energy maintenance suggests that what food you eat is far more important than how much you eat, since the body is perfectly capapble of up-regulating and down-regulating the metabolism to meet food intake, as long as we give it the freedom to adjust by not keeping our insulin level chronically high.

Our experience on these forums is that, given a low-carbohydrate diet (we recommend keeping intake under 20 g/day), the best way to determine proper caloric intake is to eat protein and fat to satisfy hunger, and allow the bodily mechanisms to adjust intake by controlling our appetite. Eating to some pre-determined amount of calories usually ends up causing problems.

I wonder how scientists who consider themselves serious nutritionists manage to justify calorie-counting in light of the evolutionary context. Two million years in which our ancestors maintained their weight properly without even knowing of the existence of calories versus five or six decades of calorie-counting, in which obesity has risen to epidemic levels? Hmmmm . . . .

(Bacon is the new bacon) #10

If you want some real science, try watching some of the lectures by Dr. Stephen Phinney on the Low-Carb Down Under channel on YouTube. Also some of the ones by his research partner, Prof. Jeff Volek. They cover the relevant nutritional research quite well.

For an overview of the history and current state of nutritional science in the U.S. (which has influenced nutritional thinking round the world), the journalists Nina Teicholz and Gary Taubes have some good presentations, as well. The latter two are not researchers, but they painstakingly have produced books with voluminous references to the scientific literature that are well worth pursuing, if you want to learn how much science is “settled.” You’ll be surprised.


YES! What Alec said. ^^

If you really want to do a calorie-in/calorie-out accounting for your diet, I suggest having your metabolic rate measured (and I don’t mean estimated) to form an educated base from which to work. Then retest on a regular basis to see how it changes in response to your methods.

Maybe take a look at some of @Karim_Wassef 's experimental data for inspiration.

(Carl Keller) #12

Beautifully said.

In that same context, I would like to point out that our ancestors were likely to feast after a successful hunt and more often fasted when their prey was smarter, more motivated or luckier than they were. The key missing variable is the carbs they weren’t loading up on when they feasted. I’m a fan of replicating this behavior because it’s obviously worked for at least a million years… and my scale seems to agree.

(⚕ ⚕) #13

I agree that calories matter. Our current problem is this notion that our bodies ever so neatly reconcile, like double-accounting, 24 hours of calories in and calories out.

Close the books at midnight, ladies and gentlemen, a new day of CICO has begun.

The point of low-carb or ketogenic eating is to shift our bodies to metabolizing our fat stores, and not carbs from what we’re digesting. Our fat stores accommodate long-term storage, well outside of 24 hours. As @carl jokes, we want our bodies metabolizing that doughnut we ate in 2008.

Using strict accounting for our CICO, how do we account for that doughnut we ate in 2008? Of course, we cannot account for it.

Our bodies make use of fat stores, which allow us to experience food deprivation well beyond a single day. It is uniquely a first-world and contemporary situation where we find ourselves where our bounty floods us with cheap and ready food supplies. It is also bad nutritional science that has “guided” us to eat up to 6 times a day. The notion of such frequent eating is one of those contortions that have no echo in science.

My n=1 was when I was tracking, which I stopped nearly a year ago, I used to watch, in a highly-disciplined fashion, my daily CICO amounts. As we know, fat-rich foods are calorically dense, yet, when I have a fat-rich day of eating that is calorically high, I don’t experience weight or fat gains.

Remember, this isn’t just about losing fat. We want to change how we live and eat so we may enjoy improved health over the long haul.

(Karim Wassef) #14

You may be able to estimate calories in but calories out is hormonally driven by macros, exercise, sleep… that’s why it’s useless as a tool

My “predicted” rate vs actual measured shows that the calculators and formulas are garbage

Between fasting, cardio, weightlifting and stress… I can either be at 1700 or 4100… so how is that useable to create a “plan”.

Get a personal RMR machine ~$4000 like Nick @Don_Q if you think you want to try… but it’s futile to use calculators.

Put simply, calories out is a dynamic function of calories in… they are not independent constants.

(Charlotte) #15

I agree with not counting cals. Once I quit counting calories and listened to what my body wanted to eat and when, weight has been coming off so much easier. Some days I eat 2000+ cals, some days I eat much less, some days I fast. I don’t over think it anymore which reduces my stress which also augments the loss. Micromanaging your keto can be adverse to your progress.



(Scott) #17

In one of the many podcasts I listen to it was said

“You don’t see groups of animals tallying up their calories on an app to avoid getting fat”


Exactly! My cats have never once turned down a pork rind, because they were over their daily caloric limit. :joy:

(hottie turned hag) #19

@Luckymisslucy Yep me too! Being pretty sedentary, postmenopausal and very small in frame (barely 5’ 2" and current weight 116) I am astounded that some days I can eat: an entire 8oz stick of pepperoni, 7.5 oz can red salmon with much mayo, 2 hotdogs with kraut and five breakfast sausages and still lose weight.

It feels odd to eat such a lot and think it isn’t exceeding what I need/am burning. I never counted cals, and with my obsessive disorder would prob have quit/gone insane as some days I surely am eating 2500.

I follow the fast/feast model; I eat tons one day and nothing some days, dictated SOLELY by satiety/how I feel generally. So easy and yet so hard to convince folks that it works.

(Charlotte) #20

So true! I know in the beginning I had to track every little iota of everything that passed my lips because I had zero confidence in what I was doing which is understandable when you’re new to keto. But once you build up your confidence and just let go of that need for constant reassurance that you have it under control EVERYTHING gets so much easier and so much more successful! My weekly weight loss has doubled since I stopped focusing on calories and macros and just followed the super simplistic approach of just listening to what my body wants and when.