Kcal vs. Calories: Differences and How to Convert

Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022
Kcal vs. Calories: Differences and How to Convert
Since calories are too small a measurement to use when discussing nutrition and exercise, kcal measurements are used instead and the term is interchangeable with calorie

Kcal and calories are a unit of measurement of energy in nutrition and exercise. The terms are used interchangeably in nutrition and do not need to be converted.

Calories are referred to as either small (lowercase “c”) or large (uppercase “C”), with 1 large Calorie equalling 1,000 small calories. Scientifically,1 kcal or kilocalorie is equivalent to 1 large Calorie or 1,000 calories. 

In other words, 1 kcal = 1 Cal = 1,000 cal

Since calories are too small a measurement to use when discussing nutrition and exercise, kcal measurements are used instead and the term is interchangeable with calories.

How many calories do you need a day?

Calories refer to the amount of energy consumed from food and beverages, as well as expelled through daily activities and physical exercise. Fat, carbs, and protein are all calorie sources. Any calories not used by your body are stored as fat and can be turned into energy. 

Based on your age, size, and fitness you require a different amount of calories on a daily basis. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Women: 1,600-2,400 calories a day
  • Men: 2,000-3,000 calories a day

However, your level of physical activity also determines your recommended calorie intake:

  • Sedentary: Daily activities but no concentrated exercise
  • Moderately active: Light physical activity, such as walking, for 30-45 minutes a day, 3-4 days per week
  • Active: Working out for about an hour most days of the week

To maintain weight, you need to expend the same amount of calories you consume. To lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume (burn calories through exercise) or consume fewer calories than you expend (restrict calorie intake). To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you expend.

What are good vs. bad calories?

Nutrition labels will inform you of the calorie (kcal) content of a specific food, but there is a big difference between good calories and bad calories. Good calories do not always come from low-calorie items. High-calorie and even high-fat meals can provide healthy calories. The key is the calorie-to-nutritional-value ratio.

Good calories include:

  • Lean protein
  • Healthy fats
  • Complex carbs from whole foods

Bad calories include:

  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Refined flours
  • Unhealthy fats
  • Artificial ingredients

What are the pros and cons of a low-calorie diet?

A low-calorie diet involves consuming foods that are rich in nutritional value yet low in calories. This type of diet emphasizes eating healthy and nutritious foods may help you lose weight and lower your risk of lifestyle diseases.

The principle behind the low-calorie diet is that eating fewer calories allows our systems to use stored fat rather than calories to sustain physical functions.



The most significant risk of calorie restriction is just going too far. Eating a little less than normal can improve your health and well-being, but going too far can be dangerous in many ways. Before starting a low-calorie diet, talk to your doctor to make sure that it is right for you.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Kcal Vs Cal: What's the Difference? https://www.10differences.org/kcal-vs-cal/

Do You Know How Many Calories You Need? https://www.fda.gov/media/112972/download

How Many Calories Do Adults Need? https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/how-many-calories-do-adults-need