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# What Are Kcal Calories?

by
M. Gideon Hoyle
M. Gideon Hoyle is a writer living outside of Houston. Previously, he produced brochures and a wide variety of other materials for a nonprofit educational foundation. He now specializes in topics related to health, exercise and nutrition, publishing for various websites.
People exercising in a studio. Photo Credit XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

A kilocalorie, or Kcal in abbreviated form, is a measurement of the amount of energy in the foods you eat. Low-energy foods have a relatively small amount of kilocalories, while high-energy foods have a lot of kilocalories. In common usage, non-specialists and consumers refer to kilocalories as calories, although these two terms have different technical definitions.

## Kilocalories vs. Calories

In scientific terms, a single calorie contains enough energy to increase the temperature of a gram of water by 1 degree on the Celsius or centigrade scale, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus. A kilocalorie, on the other hand, contains enough energy to increase the temperature of a kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. A kilogram contains 1,000 grams, and a kilocalorie contains 1,000 real calories. For the sake of convenience, the word calorie is used instead of the more technically correct kilocalorie.

## Metabolism

When you eat or drink, your body breaks down the food and beverages in your diet and uses their energy content, or calories, to maintain all of your systems and internal functions. This breakdown and conversion process, called your metabolism, continues 24 hours a day whether you’re physically active or inactive. However, physically active people generally burn through more calories than physically inactive people. A variety of additional factors can influence your body’s rate of calorie usage, including your body size, muscle content, gender and age.

## Calorie "Types"

Since calories are units of measurement and not actual substances, all calories are the same, Medline Plus explains. For instance, a calorie of protein contains the same amount of energy as a calorie of fat or a calorie of carbohydrates. Some marketers and diet advocates ignore or don’t understand this fact and promote diet plans that target “types” of calories. However, in energy terms, these foods differ only in the amount of calories they contain when weighed in equal portions. Fat contains about 9 calories per gram, while proteins and carbohydrates contain less than half this amount of calories per gram.

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