Summer 2017 Potato Hack…CICO

Do calories matter? Yes and no.

The potato hack, an all-potato diet, is calorie restricted by its nature. The goal is to eat [just enough] potatoes to induce feelings of satiety. It’s nearly impossible to eat enough potatoes to gain weight, but it would be possible.

CICO stands for “calories in/calories out,” long used as the gold standard for weight loss. “Experts” will tell you that as long as you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. Here are my biggest problems with this theory and why the potato hack works so well:

Calories in are very hard to measure. It requires weighing every morsel you eat or reading the food labels which are notoriously inaccurate.  Even when using a Fitbit or other piece of technology, there is ample room for error.

Calories out are impossible to measure, unless you have a metabolic chamber at your disposal.

Calories out can be effected by many things: hormones, time of day, sex, weight, age, other foods eaten, stress levels, fitness level, etc… It’s not so simple as looking at the screen on your treadmill that says, “600 calories burned!”


Potatoes are easy to measure for calories. A pound of potatoes has 347 calories, we’ll call it 350. So at the upper end of potato hacking limits, 5 pounds of potatoes will have at most 1750 calories. This is considered a fat loss level of calories for most people. At the lower ends of potato hacking, you will definitely be in a calorie deficit. And at this level of food intake, your calories out do not matter. No need for a crazy exercise plan devised to burn off excess calories, just being alive takes about 1200-2000 calories per day, this is your basal energy expenditure (try the free calculator!).

Take Home Message

Calories matter, but figuring them out will drive you insane. Don’t make the potato hack a contest to see how many or how few potatoes you can eat, but how many it takes to feel full and energized. Most people find the sweet spot to be in the 3-5 pound range.

3 Comments on “Summer 2017 Potato Hack…CICO”

  1. Allison August 9, 2017 at 5:51 am #

    thanks for the link to the BEE calculator


  2. dpleader August 9, 2017 at 6:53 am #

    Did you mean to say …”eat as MANY potatoes as possible…”


    • Tim Steele August 9, 2017 at 8:06 am #

      I think I said it right. The goal is to eat “just enough” potatoes to get full. Don’t intentionally overeat. For instance, last month I was back home for the 4th of July. My thin, extremely active, healthy 12 year old nephew ate 5 baked potatoes at a family barbecue along with his chicken. Trust me, the look on this kid’s face said, “That’s enough!” Those potatoes surely had less calories than the macaroni salad, rolls, baked beans, and other stuff everyone else was eating, but yet he was the only one to pass on dessert.

      I think one problem with us these days is that we never know what it’s like to be really hungry or really full. You can easily eat 1000 calories of ice cream with fudge toppings and still have room for a lot more.

      When I potato hack, I usually end up with lots of uneaten potatoes on my plate, something that rarely happens otherwise.

      Hope that’s clear!


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