Kilocalories vs. Calories: What’s The Difference Between Kilocalories And Calories?

Kilocalories and calories are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different units of measurement. In this article, we'll explore their pros and cons, provide examples and find out differences about them.
Kilocalories vs. Calories: 6 Key Differences, Pros & Cons, Similarities

Kilocalories vs. Calories: most people in the world are Calorie-conscious and always want to know the number of calories they are ingesting. There are two different measurements for that: kilocalories and calories. If we look at kilocalories vs. Calories differences. Both have different symbols, energy, and labels. Kilocalories are equal to one thousand calories, while calories are the measurement of food energy.

Let’s take a closer look at Kcal vs. Cal

SymbolsKilocalories are symbolized as kcal while calories as cal
LargerKilocalories are 10000 times larger than calories
DetermineBoth are determined by the manufacturer of the product
PurposeBoth terms are used to measure energy in the food

What Are Kilocalories?

What Are Kilocalories? If we look at kilocalorie meaning, it is the amount of energy that is required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius at the pressure of one atmosphere. The term kilocalorie is still used in chemistry. For example, it is used to describe the energy that is released in a 1 mole of a reagent reaction. On food labels, kilocalories are often mentioned as Calories. These Calories are not the same as scientific calories, but they are actually kilocalories. That's why they are written with the capital "C." in the past, kilocalories were calculated with the help of a bomb calorimeter; the food was completely burnt. This calorimeter allows an indirect estimate based on how much the temperature of the water was raised by the heat produced by the burning of food.

If we look at kilocalorie meaning, it is the amount of energy that is required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius at the pressure of one atmosphere. The term kilocalorie is still used in chemistry. For example, it is used to describe the energy that is released in a 1 mole of a reagent reaction. On food labels, kilocalories are often mentioned as Calories. These Calories are not the same as scientific calories, but they are actually kilocalories. That’s why they are written with the capital “C.” in the past, kilocalories were calculated with the help of a bomb calorimeter; the food was completely burnt. This calorimeter allows an indirect estimate based on how much the temperature of the water was raised by the heat produced by the burning of food.

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What Are Calories?

What Are Calories? If we look at the calories meaning, it is the amount of energy that is required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius and at a temperature of one atmosphere. The amount of energy that is needed to raise the temperature of the water is also referred to as the specific heat of the water. So, the Calorie can also be defined as a way to measure energy by means of heat. After 1942 calories were mostly viewed in the term of joules, which is the unit of energy in the SI system. When we buy products, we often see the calories mentioned on the food package. They are not actual calories but refer to kilocalories. Calories are also used in physics or chemistry calculations. But these are not used when human nutrition and metabolism are discussed.

If we look at the calories meaning, it is the amount of energy that is required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius and at a temperature of one atmosphere. The amount of energy that is needed to raise the temperature of the water is also referred to as the specific heat of the water. So, the Calorie can also be defined as a way to measure energy by means of heat. After 1942 calories were mostly viewed in the term of joules, which is the unit of energy in the SI system. When we buy products, we often see the calories mentioned on the food package. They are not actual calories but refer to kilocalories. Calories are also used in physics or chemistry calculations. But these are not used when human nutrition and metabolism are discussed.

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6 Key differences Between Kilocalories and Calories

ComponentsKilocaloriesCalories
SizeA kcal or kilocalorie is 1000 times larger than a calorie.  A calorie is the measurement of energy, and 1000 calories make 1 kilocalorie.
EnergyA kilocalorie is an energy that is required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius and on the pressure of 1 atmosphere. While Calorie is energy that is required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius and on the pressure of 1 atmosphere 
Food CalorieA kilocalorie is also known as the dietary of food calories, and it is mentioned as “Calories.”  On the other hand, Traditional Calorie is not used as food calorie or dietary Calorie.
Food LabelIn food labels in some countries, kilocalories are often mentioned as “kcal” even though it is called Calorie.Calories are not mentioned on the food labels. Instead, these are converted into kilocalories and mentioned in kcal.
Metric EquivalentThe metric equivalent of kilocalories is kilojouleThe metric equivalent of the Calorie is the joule.
Used ForThe term kilocalories is used on food product labels to describe the number of calories in them. It is also used to measure basal metabolic rate.Calories can not be used to measure metabolic rates as they are smaller units of energy, but they are used in various chemistry labs to measure the energy level during reactions.

Kilocalories vs. Calories Similarities

  • Kilocalories or calories are both terms used interchangeably to describe the amount of energy present in our food.
  • Whether it’s food and drink, the label of calories, or kilocalories on it, both depend upon the geographic location.
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Kilocalories vs. Calories Examples

Kilocalories Examples

  • A Big serving of fried fish contain 4 Kilocalories
  • One big potato chips bag has 1.24 kilocalories

Calories Examples

  • 1 medium banana has 105 calories
  • 1 medium size avocado has 204 calories
  • 1 boiled egg has 78 calories

Calories vs. Kilocalories Pros and Cons

Kilocalories Pros and Cons

Kilocalories Pros and Cons

Pros of Kilocalories

  • Term kilocalories are used on the food labels or when the basal metabolic rate is.
  • Kilocalories are also mentioned  on the food labels but in the form of “Calories.”

Cons of Kilocalories

  • Kilocalories that are labeled on food products are referred to as “Calories,” which makes it difficult for a common person to keep their calorie count.
  • Due to mentioning kilocalories as Calories on the food labels, most people got confused as these are actual calories rather than kilocalories.

Calories Pros and Cons

Calories Pros and Cons

Pros of Calories

  • Various chemistry labs use the term calorie to calculate the energy during reactions.
  • Keeping count of calories on a daily basis can be very helpful in eating healthy and maintaining a healthy body weight as well.

Cons of Calories

  • A calorie is a very small unit of energy, and that’s why it is not useful in determining metabolic calculations.
  • Calories are also not mentioned on the food labels, as they have kilocalories, which are referred to as “Calories,” with the capital letter “C.”

Comparison Chart

Kilocalories and calories are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different units of measurement. In this article, we'll explore their pros and cons, provide examples and find out differences about them.

Comparison Video

Calories or Kilocalories

Conclusion

Calories and kilocalories both are terms that we hear on a daily basis. These terms are often used interchangeably, but if we talk about kilocalories versus calories these both are different from each other. The main difference between kilocalories and calories is in their measurement. A kilocalorie is an energy that is required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius and on the pressure of 1 atmosphere. Calorie is energy that is required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius and on the pressure of 1 atmosphere. Kilocalories are used on the food labels or when the basal metabolic rate is to be determined. But in these cases, it is referred to as “Calories.” Calorie, on the other hand, is not used for metabolic calculations because it is a small unit of energy. 

Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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