If you're tracking calories in everything you eat and drink, one question that may pop up as you take your daily multivitamin is: Do vitamins have calories? Most vitamins and minerals do not have calories — but here's how to spot potential outliers.
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Vitamins and Minerals Are Calorie-Free
Essentially, in their purest form, isolated vitamins and minerals — like vitamin C or iron — are calorie-free.
"In general, basic vitamins and minerals do not contain calories," Sebastopol, California-based Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN, a private-practice dietitian, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
While vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, they are considered micronutrients — as in, they're only needed by the body in small, or "micro," amounts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
If any vitamin or mineral supplements contain calories, it's because they have additional ingredients that contain calories, not because the vitamins or minerals themselves contain calories, Beale says.
Most Supplements Have Minimal Calories
Knowing the types of nutrients that have calories can help you to better understand which supplements will, too.
As a general rule of thumb, Beale says, most vitamin or mineral supplements in pill form will not contain calories. However, certain other types likely will.
"Chewables and gummies will have calories because of the ingredients used to make them," Beale says. If it's formulated to taste good, it will likely contain some sugar.
Sweeteners or sweetening agents are added to dietary supplements for taste (as well as technological function), the most frequent of which is sucrose (aka table sugar), according to an August 2020 article in Nutrients.
Others are made from oil, which also has calories. "Some oil-based supplements, like fish oil, will have calories from the oil itself," Beale says.
That said, the calories provided by all of these supplements are minimal and will have a negligible effect on your overall calorie intake, Beale says.
But if you're curious or counting, the calories per serving for all vitamin and mineral supplements are disclosed on the Supplement Facts label as required by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Calorie Count From Protein Supplements
One class of commonly used supplements that does contain a significant number of calories is protein supplements. While these supplements often contain calorie-free vitamins and minerals, they are primarily designed to provide protein, which contains 4 calories per gram, according to the USDA.
If you're tracking calories for weight loss or another reason, you'll want to make sure you track the calories you get from protein supplements if you take them because these can add up. Generally, protein supplements contain significant amounts of calories because of the protein they contain, according to Mayo Clinic.
Many of these supplements may also contain sugar or fat, which help to improve the taste and texture, which also add calories to the supplement, Beale says.
Protein supplements typically come in powder form or as premixed shakes or drinks, and, according to the FDA, you can check the number of calories per serving on the label.
But for the most part, your basic vitamin and mineral supplements won't be adding to your daily calorie count.
- Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN, private-practice dietitian, Sebastopol, California
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Micronutrient Facts”
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: “Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide: Chapter IV. Nutrition Labeling”
- Mayo Clinic: “I’m Trying to Lose Weight. Could Protein Shakes Help?”
- Nutrients: “Sweetening Agents and Sweeteners in Dietary Supplements for Children — Analysis of the Polish Market”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Weight Loss and Alcohol”
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: “How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?”