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Calories: What are they and is it really meaningful to count them?

Cut down on calories, burn calories, calorie expenditure and the latest methods on getting rid of all these calories! It seems inevitable to avoid the word "calories" when talking about a healthy diet or losing weight.

What are calories?

Calories are used to quantify the energy of food.

If a bar of chocolate is consumed and burned by the body it delivers for e.g. 569000 calories of energy or 569 kilocalories. Kilocalories are very often referred to as calories.

If you go roller-blading for an hour you will use the same amount of energy.

Is it meaningful to count calories?

Yes and no!

If you are eating more calories than your body can expend you will put on weight. This statement is true. The problem is that it is not easy to accurately determine calorie intake and calorie expenditure.

All calorie tables are inaccurate!

Even if a calorie table states that an apple has 49 kcal for 100g, it does not mean that the apple you have just eaten contains 49 kcal. The calorie content of food ranges vastly according to the type, weather and preparation methods. All of the information provided can only be based on average values. In addition to this, how much of the energy of the apple will be used by your body?

Determining the calorie expenditure of a person is more or less impossible!

Theoretically it is relatively simple:

Basal metabolic rate + physical activity = calorie expenditure

The inaccuracies begin with the calculation of the basal metabolic rate, e.g. a person with a lot of muscles uses up a lot of energy even when resting. Even slight changes in temperature can have an effect on the basal metabolic rate when the body is at rest.

The calculations for the physical activity are only based on estimations. How many times did you go into the basement today? A person who fidgets a lot uses a lot of energy because of all the small movements they make. Every movement needs energy. It is therefore impossible to measure the calorie expenditure brought about by physical activity because of the variety of different movements a person does in a day.

Calorie Balance

A calorie balance is not very meaningful if one considers the extreme inaccuracies of determining both the calorie intake and the calorie expenditure.

What next?

Use the calorie tables and charts for orientation and comparison. You should remember that the values provided are always average values so leave your calculator switched off.


What everybody wants to know:

1 kg of body fat stores 7,000 kilocalories.

For those who believe in calories:


Extensive calorie tables


Calculate calorie expenditure for 59 activities


The Calorie King's Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter


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