Weighing In: Kilocalorie vs. Calorie

Patient Expert
Medically Reviewed
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Question: What is the correlation between kilocalories as presented on my heart rate monitor and the “calories” figure found on a purchased grocery item? Can one be converted to the other?

Answer: That is a great question, and something that I’m sure many people have wondered. The “calorie” of a food is actually a “kilocalorie.” One kilocalorie (kcal) is equal to one calorie. A kilocalorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water to one degree Celsius. So if you are using a heart rate monitor and it reads that you have burned 250 kilocalories while working out, it would be the same as burning the 250 calories you consumed from drinking a 16 ounce bottle of regular soda.

A calorie is a measure of energy, and we need energy to do everything, including all of our body’s daily functions (such as breathing, sleeping, and digesting the food that we eat). The number of calories in a food item represents the potential amount of energy from that food.

If you are interested in learning more about the calorie content of foods you commonly eat, the USDA Food Composition Database is a great tool you can use to search for the nutrient content of foods. Fitness tracker and smartphone apps are also great tools to use to search for calorie content of foods and total calories burned through exercise.

You should know: The answer above provides general health information that is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment recommendations from a qualified healthcare professional.