Can someone tell me if my thoughts are correct on CICO

(Debbie Fojtik) #1

I got to thinking (can you smell the smoke) while I was logging my food into My Fitness Pal about how many calories I had eaten and the great CICO debate. Is the reason they really don’t matter is because when I consume something high in sugar/carbs, the body produces insulin and thus stores it as excess body fat. Bit when I eat very little carbs and almost no suger, but healthy fats no insulin spike occur’s and the fat is not stored. Am I thinking right or out in left field?

(Bob M) #2

I think your overall insulin level is lower, therefore meaning you store less and have access to your own body fat.

Another possibility is that you’re able to lose more calories per day, such as by breathing them out (breath ketones) or peeing them out. Some don’t believe in this, but there are some studies indicating this is true.

Also, I’m sure someone is about to chime in that calories do matter, even on a keto diet.

(Cindy Ward) #3

I think calories DO matter, even on keto. I just think they matter less. :wink: With CICO, even if you’re eating at a deficit, your elevated insulin levels are screaming “Feed me MORE!”, and then when you do, those calories are shunted to fat…so you’re still tired and cranky, and yet insulin levels are still elevated because it’s carbs/sugar. So lower or raise calories…doesn’t matter as much because your body’s tendency will be to convert what it can to fat.

With keto, your body starts burning fat for energy. Satiety feelings go up. Hunger signals go down. So people will tend to eat LESS (less calories naturally) and feel fuller longer. But if you eat an excessive amount of protein and fat, the protein CAN spike insulin. Eat an excessive amount of fat and your body doesn’t use your own fat stores for fuel (if weight loss is the goal). So in that sense, calories DO matter because protein and fat do have calories.

That’s all in the CICO sense of the word calories. Was it Dr Fung who said that a calorie is a unit of physics, not physiology, so applying a calorie to what our bodies do isn’t accurate.

(Debbie Fojtik) #4

I am going over my calorie goal, but I am staying very close to my macro goals. Today, I was a little over on my fat and protein intake, I meet them most of the time, but I’m on my hitting around 3-6 total carbs most days.

(Cindy Ward) #5

More importantly, I think, is how you FEEL. Most calorie and macro calculators are based upon averages and statistics. You know, a woman “this” tall should weight X and at that weight, should consume X calories. Then the macro calculators convert that to grams of fat, protein, carbs.
So that doesn’t take anything else into consideration. Well, some ask about your activity level, but that’s about it. Strong genetic tendency toward obesity? Extra muscle mass due to a lifetime of physical work? Hormonal issues? Pre, peri, or post menopause for women? The calculator numbers are about as accurate as BMI charts in my opinion.
That’s why I let my hunger decide for me. If I’m not hungry, I don’t eat. If I am hungry, I eat. Doesn’t matter if I’m going over or under some random calorie goal that statistics have set for me. :wink:

(You cannot outrun a bad diet) #6

^^^ +1 This.

I can’t say this often enough. You know yourself far better than a app on a smartphone. Those calorie counting apps are also misleading to the point of utter uselessness.

(chris luis) #7

This is a question I have often pondered since starting keto about 7 weeks ago. I don’t purposely count calories, but my app does it automatically.

My calorie goal per the app is 1800/day. I am usually well under that number. IF, and it is a big IF, I were to consume <1800 calories/day on a non-keto diet I’m am sure I would lose weight. But the fact is that eating carbs, there is no way I could eat less than 1800 cal/day.


That’s the thing, they DO matter. It’s true we have more wiggle room because we’re not storing it typically but where most go wrong is thinking that calories are ALL that matters, which we know isn’t even close to true. Hormones play a HUGE part in it, but you can’t dismiss calories either. Many can get away with not counting and eating intuitively which is great, I did that myself for years but once I switched from weight loss mode to put on some muscle mode I needed to start watching calories to make sure that I was eating enough because if I run on my satiety, I’ll under eat huge for muscle gains. My wife who also ate intuitively with me for years finally ran into an unbreakable stall, fasting would give it a kick but it would always come back. We tried all the normal tricks without luck. It was only after tracking calories did we find (more or less) what her limits were and started working on reverse dieting to get her caloric intake UP to get the metabolism up and running at a good level again.

(Carl Keller) #9

Yes you can lose weight by restricting calories but without being able to burn body fat to supplement the deficit, your body will think it’s starving… and your metabolism will go down, cravings and hunger will go up and you will feel like shit.

Eating 1800 calories is not hard while restricting carbs. Fat has 9 kcals per gram while carbs and protein each have 4 kcals. So if you eat a 12 oz steak that has a fair amount of fat, that’s around 1000 calories all by itself (with zero carbs).

WIth all of that being said, calories are not my main focus. Calories are something I notice on my tracker but I don’t fret if I am way under or slightly over. Somewhere inbetween is just fine for me. There’s plenty of studies where people ate low carb/high fat and were allowed to eat as much as they wanted and weight loss was consistent across the board. I can go 10+ hours and not feel hungry on 100 grams of fat but if I only ate nothing but 25 grams of carbs, I would be hungry in a few hours.

(Ken) #10

You don’t store carbs as body fat unless your glycogen stores are full. The great thing about an overall fat based nutritional plan is that it’s very difficult to regain fat. It’s important, because there’s a lack of understanding what actually happens when you eat carbs while following Keto. What usually happens with a carb meal is that it temporarily halts lipolysis, but one meal or so doesn’t make it out of the digestive system, with little or none being stored as glycogen. To fill up glycogen really requires some intake. For me, when I was training heavy, a recompensation required about 36 hours and I’d have to eat an extra days worth or so in carbs during that period. In excess of daily caloric requirements! That’s a lot of carbs.

This is why it’s not necessary to be anal about occasional carbs, it’s the overall pattern that’s important. That and the fact that occasional carbs are good for your metabolism.


Many diets had people counting calories, “eat less, move more” - but after a few decades of this there’s absolutely no denying it just doesn’t work. In this sense “calories does not matter” because counting calories does not solve the problem.

But we’ve learned if you focus on counting 20g carbs you flip the “burn-fat-switch” and instead or storing fat you burn it. So in this sense counting calories doesn’t matters but counting carbs does.

But this does not mean overall calories does not matter and you can eat a truckload. If you eat 3500 calories and should really only have 1800 then you will gain weight, keto or not.

Count calories matters, Counting carbs matters more.

Hope that helps.

(says mix it up! Let chaos reign!) #12

Well, except that that’s kind of meaningless as a statement, from both an input and an output POV.

(Alex ) #13

One of these days, I’m going to eat 10,000 calories worth of butter, cheese and coconut oil every single day, and track my weight over a week and see what happens.

i can’t get my head around the differing opinions here, there never really seems to be a definitive answer to this question.

Surely the basic science of metabolism has to come into play, your body needs X amount of calories to live, if you give it too much, that energy will get displaced somewhere else?

(says mix it up! Let chaos reign!) #14

It seems your body finds ways to use it or dispose of it. It’s bloody confusing, I know that much…

(Alex ) #15

Like, i can BELIEVE there is science available that proves that the calories may not matter when you’re fat adapted and consuming an excess of calories.

For example, I have a friend who had chronic thyroid issues and illness - she COULD NOT put any weight on, regardless of what she ate.

So this being a hormonal issue - and keto also working on a hormonal path/process - maybe CICO does have no relevance?

I do not know haha!

(Wendy) #16

The thing is a calorie is an antiquated measurement of energy. A calorie is NOT a calorie as the sugar industry wanted and wants us to believe. 50 calories of carbs is not the same as 50 calories of fat or protein. They are metabolized very differently so the calculating is worthless in my opinion. Us eating too much can’t be good for us but eating too many carbs is definitely detrimental to our health and usually our waistlines.
Have you read Gary Taubes The Case Against Sugar? I love the history he provides in his books of both the research and the politics of nutrition science. Sometimes things we accept as established facts are nothing but oft repeated lies.
I share this as someone who also has had great results eating keto. I’ve not counted calories nor really worried about exact macros. I just eat whole real foods that are not high in carbs or processed garbage. I’m now trying NOT to lose anymore weight. I’m increasing my fat but may have to include a few more carbs as that hasn’t done it yet. Maybe some more cooked carrots or something like that.


Hi Debbie,

The calorie is just a unit of energy. We use it to describe how much energy we consume, when we eat.
Our bodies either use the energy, or store it (trace amounts are excreted).

Your body will be more/less efficient at using/storing the energy, than mine (we are a little different). We can affect how efficient our bodies are at this to some degree, by the way we eat and take care of ourselves (hormones etc). But, we CANNOT escape the fact that, if we do not use the energy we consume, our body will store it. That’s just the way it is.

Where keto helps is, it’s great at reducing our appetite. Therefore making it much easier (for most) to limit our intake, without feeling hungry, and needing to eat. The hormonal effects of keto WOE, are also of benefit. @RobC can tell you more about this than I can.

(mags) #18

Is this really possible do you think? I am sure the satiety thing would kick in and if not you would feel bloody sick :confounded:

(Robert C) #19

Hi @Debbie_Fojtik,

I think what you are saying is correct for someone that is fat adapted (doing well on keto for more than 6 weeks - or longer/shorter for some). Then, you can say a high calorie carby meal will cause fat storage but a high calorie high-fat very low carb will not (confounding the CICO people’s sensibilities). Mark Sisson calls these “parlor tricks” (where a truly fat adapted person can down 5,000 extra calories of pure fat without weight gain).

But, people are not machines and will not react to the same set of inputs the same way every time. If you are not truly fat adapted - and have high insulin resistance - all bets are off. Potentially both of those two high calorie meals (one carby and one high-fat very low carb) will seem to work in a very CICO way (both stored as body fat).

So, I would say your statement about “it really doesn’t matter” should be taken in the context of where you are between these two extremes. Genetics, imperfect keto, stress, sleep issues (and more) can prevent you from being able to do the “parlor tricks” so, calories should still be worried about as part of the equation (and especially so if you are still working on insulin resistance).

I do not want to misrepresent - I am not a doctor or in any way medically inclined - I am writing here about what I have learned researching these topics up to this point in time.

(Alex ) #20

very likely! I’d either be sick, or have an extreme abundance of energy, I can only imagine there would be massive complications somehow, diarrhea probably as well