CICO Making you Psycho?

One of the most important aspects of losing weight is the concept of burning more calories than you put into your body. This notion is commonly referred to as calories in, calories out (CICO). Calories in is fairly straight forward and is measured by the number of calories consumed in a day. Calories out is slightly more complicated but can easily be estimated by calculating the sum of the number of calories your body consumes at rest or your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and the number of calories burned through movement (Activity).


Sounds simple right? However, research has found that the common equations that estimate ones BMR are over generalized and often do not provide the most accurate information on an individual level. One potential source of error (and your insanity) stems from the thought that our BMR is a static number. You metabolic system is highly complex and there are far too many variables to try to account for each one individually. Rather than attempting to acquire a complete understanding of each component of metabolism, it is much more time efficient to monitor your weight while you manipulate individual variables.

Thousands of people have used these equations to achieve weight loss. So instead of ditching these equations all together, we should merely use them as a jumping off point with the plan to adjusting our actions. To do this we must carefully define important outcomes measures in which to base our necessity for adjustments.

The first step in creating an adaptive program is gathering baseline data. The more baseline data you gather the easier it will be to point out necessary adjustments and bust through plateaus. Along with this, you will maintain motivation when you see measurable results. In addition to using total weight as an outcome measure, I recommend monitoring your fat free mass.

Fat free mass is exactly what it sounds like, the total weight of your body’s components that are not fat. Since bone and organ mass remains relatively consistent, we can use this number to see if we are losing muscle mass along with fat loss. If you are planning on losing a significant amount of weight, it is inevitable that you lose some muscle mass along the way. To prevent regaining weight, it is especially important that you focus on losing the highest ratio of fat to muscle.

Long story short, your weight loss journey should adapt to your preferences and with your progress. Customizing a program while ensuring that you are on the right path requires you must monitor key outcome variables and make adjustments as you go.