Keto vs CICO

The ketogenic lifestyle has been embraced worldwide. It’s a simple way of living that focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods to improve your health and performance. Sticking to the correct macronutrient ratios (75% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates) offers great weight-loss results beyond a whole range of health benefits.

I consider keto to be a lifestyle as opposed to a “diet.” Keto vs CICO. The Calories in Calories Out (CICO) regime is a traditional diet that has recently lost its way in the health community. I always think it’s always worth comparing weight-loss methods so that people can make the right decisions for themselves.

Keto – The Basics

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carbohydrate lifestyle. The roots of keto date back over two thousand years and its modern version was developed in 1921. Restricting carbs puts your body into a state of nutritional ketosis to tap into stored fats as a source of energy.

Eating keto means consuming fibrous green vegetables, healthy oils (olive oil), and healthy proteins including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and nuts. Keto is effective for weight loss since you don’t have insulin spiking from carbs entering your system, leaving you feeling more satiated for longer.

Keto – How it Works and Benefits

When you are in a state of ketosis, the liver breaks down fats into ketones which can then be used as energy sources for the body instead of glucose. It’s a natural appetite suppressant that will keep you from overeating and binging on junk food.

In addition to weight loss, keto is a known anti-inflammatory that significantly reduces risk factors associated with cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. There are many variables that can be tweaked within keto, such as how high you want your carb intake to be (20g net carbs or below is the goal), how much protein you eat, and what types of fats you consume.

I believe that it’s easy for people to follow because there are clear guidelines on what can and cannot be eaten.

CICO – How It’s Supposed to Work

The CICO diet has been around since the early 20th century and started trending as part of the fad diet culture we see today. In 1918, Lulu Hunt Peters popularized calorie reduction through a column she wrote in the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Peters had lost seventy pounds by restricting calories so her own testimonial propelled her to fame.

CICO is based on obtaining Energy Balance, that’s defined as the relationship between the energy you take in (via food and drink) and the energy your body uses (burns off). If you maintain an energy equilibrium, you’ll stay at the same weight. Hence, a change in the equilibrium will cause weight gain or loss.

Losing weight with CICO depends on a calorie deficit and encourages calorie counting by ensuring you burn more calories than you consume whether they’re from fat, protein, or carbs.

CICO – The Flaws

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Despite all the diet strategies out there, weight management still comes down to the calories you take in versus those you burn off.” That sounds like a vote for CICO, doesn’t it?

Here’s the problem, research confirms that people are generally poor at estimating their daily caloric intake and expenditure. In fact, the average person underestimates their actual caloric intake by 30%. People also misreport their exercise level, resulting in an additional 10% underestimation of actual caloric expenditure.

If you’re trying to lose weight with CICO, you need accurate data about your Basal Energy Expenditure (BMR) and the number of calories in your foods. For an accurate measurement of BMR, “a person must undergo monitoring in a clinical setting under tightly controlled conditions.”

Otherwise, you’re left to use a BMR calculator that will be less than accurate. And then there’s the problem that food labels can be inaccurate or misleading, and most people are not good at estimating the caloric content of the foods they eat.

CICO doesn’t account for the effects of food on overall health. For example, a muffin and a coffee with added sugar aren’t nearly as satiating as a breakfast of berries, eggs, and avocado. A muffin and coffee are lacking in fiber and protein that are essential to controlling appetite.

CICO focuses on caloric content and ignores the importance of choosing foods that are vital to a healthy body. Your diet needs to consist of the right balance of carbs, fats, protein, and minerals.

It’s true that you can lose weight even if you eat packaged, processed foods or indulge in fast foods. But is that good for your health? Of course not!

Scientific research confirms that ultra-processed foods are detrimental to your health putting you at risk of a host of non-communicable illnesses including some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.


Here’s the bottom line… The keto diet focuses on nourishing your body with whole foods, while CICO leaves you without adequate nutrients. The underlying goal of keto is to keep your body healthy, while CICO focuses completely on weight loss.

Keto is based on the fundamental principles of changing your body’s primary source of energy from carbohydrates to fat. Keto works by switching your metabolism so it burns fat rather than sugar for fuel. With this metabolic change, you can eat high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and low carbohydrate intake while maintaining appetite and satiety control.

Keto encourages high-quality foods such as organic vegetables, grass-fed meat, animal products, free-range eggs, avocado oil, coconut oil, and other healthy fats. While Keto is very effective at achieving weight loss goals it also has benefits for overall health including improved mental clarity, appetite control, heart health, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, protection against cancer cells, and increased energy levels.

Studies show that people underestimate their caloric intake and overestimate their energy expenditure. This is a recipe for failure on the CICO diet which is entirely based on calorie reduction. Beyond the need to accurately establish your BMR, count caloric intake, and energy expenditure, CICO does not promote nutrient-dense healthy foods. Your food choices are NOT limited to whole foods. You could eat ultra-processed foods as long as they fall inside your daily calorie range.

Like thousands of people, I can testify to the benefits of the keto lifestyle. While no one would deny that a calorie deficit can reduce weight, I believe that keto lets you have your cake (keto cake, that is) and eat it too. You can lose fat and improve your health all at once. If you are pursuing the keto lifestyle or just considering it, please reach out to me at eat@thekelliekitchen for support or tips on getting started.

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