Kilocalories vs. Calories: 5 Differences and How to Convert

Calories are a way to measure how much energy something has. They are talking about the amount of energy in foods and drinks and the amount of energy you use when you work out.

Depending on where you live, you can measure energy in either kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ).

This can be confusing, especially if you’re trying to figure out how many calories something has or compare how many calories different foods and drinks have.

This page talks about calories, how they differ from kcal and kJ, and how to convert between the two.

What Is A Calorie?

In recent years, people have become more health-conscious. As a result, almost all products sold in supermarkets, grocery stores, and even your local coffee shop now have a label that tells you how many calories you will eat per serving or per a certain weight. But what is a calorie, really?

Kilocalories vs. Calories

Calories are a measure of how much energy a food or drink has, not its weight or nutritional value (4). There are two things they can mean:

  • How much energy do we get from the food and drinks we eat and drink?
  • How much energy you use when you work out or through your BMR (while at rest)

Even though calories give us the energy we need to get through the day, it is important to keep track of how many you take in and how many you burn each day. If you don’t do this, you might eat too much food, which can make you gain weight, which many people don’t want.

Thanks to trusted calorie counter apps like the BetterMe Calorie Counter, this is possible.

These apps help you keep track of how many calories you eat every day, and if you log your workouts, they also help you keep track of how many calories you’ve burned in a day. This helps you stay in shape by eating healthy foods.

What Are Kilojoules?

Calories and kilocalories are the most common food energy units that governments and companies use on food labels.

Kilojoules are also used in some countries. Kilojoules (or kJ for short) are used in the European Union, New Zealand, and Australia, among other places.

What’s the difference between kcal and calories?

There are “little” and “big” amounts of calories. A big “C” in “calories” stands for a big calorie, while a small “c” stands for a small calorie.

A calorie is about the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram (0.035 ounces) of water by 1°C (1.8°F).

On the other hand, a large calorie is about the same amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 kg (2.2 lb) of water by 1°C (1.8°F).

1,000 little calories equal one huge calorie (since 1 kilogram equals 1,000 grams).

How are these terms used?

By law, food and drink companies have to put a nutrition facts label on their products. It provides information such as how many calories an item has per serving and how much it weighs (3 Trusted Source).

The nutrition information label tells you how healthy a packaged food or drink is and if it has any ingredients you should avoid because of an allergy, intolerance, or personal preference.

Depending on where you live, the amount of energy in a meal or drink could be measured in calories, kcal, kJ, or a mix of these units.

Here is a list of countries and their energy labels:

  • United States: calories
  • Canada: calories
  • European Union (EU): kJ and kcal
  • Australia and New Zealand: kJ or both kJ and kcal
  • China: kJ

The amount of energy-giving nutrients in a food or drink is what determines how many calories it has.

There are three main ways to get energy:

  • protein
  • carbs
  • fats

Protein and carbs both have about 4 calories (16.7 kJ) per gram, while fat has about 9 calories per gram (376 kJ) (9 Trusted Source).

Alcohol contains 7 calories (29.3 kJ) per gram.

Manufacturers round to the nearest 1 gram, so calculating the number of calories or kJ from each macronutrient may result in a slightly different total than what’s on the nutrition label (4 Trusted Source).

Also, the number of calories listed on the nutrition labels of foods with fibre, which is a carbohydrate, may be lower than you think.

Kcal to calories nutrition converter: How much is in your food?

The number of kilocalories or calories in a meal or drink is decided by the person who made it. This number is based on the amount of energy from nutrients in the item.

Kilocalories vs. Calories

The three basic nutrients that give us energy are protein, carbohydrates, and lipids. Protein and carbohydrates both have about 4 calories (16.7 kJ) per gram, but fat has 9 calories (37.6 kJ) per gram. There are 7 calories in every gram of alcohol (29.3 kJ).

Manufacturers get these numbers by rounding up to the next 1-gram increment. This means that if you measure the number of calories or kJ from each macronutrient, the total may be a little different from what’s on the nutrition label.

Also, foods with fibre, which is a type of carb, may have fewer calories than you think, according to their nutrition labels. Why? Depending on the type of fibre, it won’t be digested well or at all, so it won’t give you many or any calories.

Bottom line

Calories are a way to measure how much energy our food and workouts give us.

The terms “calories” and “kilocalories” are both used to talk about the amount of energy in food. Whether food and drink labels have calories or kcals depends on where you live.

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