All calories are not the same

  • All calories as units of measurement are the same
  • All calories of food are NOT the same!

This is what we’ve been taught about balancing calories to maintain our weight, from the CDC website, Healthy Weight: Caloric Balance,

What if we stopped using a balance scale as a metaphor and actually tried weighing calories on a scale to attempt to balance them? Why don’t we…

Do the Experiment

Try weighing calories on a scale

Put a calorie on a scale and weigh it. I know a calorie is technically only a unit of measurement, but everybody talks about calories as if they are real tangible objects. We know they are not, but for the moment, assume that they are.

So go ahead, put a calorie on the scale. Well, why the hesitation?

Oh, so you want to know what kind of food to take a calorie’s worth from? Okay, let’s compare a calorie’s worth of carbohydrate versus a calorie of fat.

How much does a calorie weigh? Let’s see.

Carbohydrates have about 4 calories/gram, and inverting that yields 1/4 gram per calorie.

Fats have about 9 calories/gram, and that yields 1/9 gram per calorie.

Thus, one calorie of carbohydrate weighs 1/4 gram and one calorie of fat weighs 1/9 gram. Those are not equal—not the same!

a carb calorie (1/4 gram)  ≠  a fat calorie (1/9 gram)

1/4   ≠   1/9

That’s all fine in theory, you say, but what about real food? Say, bread vs butter?




A stick of butter has 810 calories and weighs 113 grams.

One large slice of white bread has 80 calories and weighs 30 grams. Let’s see how much bread we need match the 810 calories of butter. One large slice of bread is 80 calories, so 810/80 = 10.125 slices. This much bread weighs 303.75 grams (10.125 slices x 30 grams/slice = 303.75 grams). In short,

810 calories (bread) vs 810 calories (butter)

303.75 grams (bread)  ≠  113 grams (butter)

Bread is 2.7 times heavier!

Put them both on a real balance scale, like thisbalance_scale and you’ll see that 810 calories of bread are heavier than 810 calories of butter because the scale does not balance.

Conventional wisdom and nutrition science says that all calories are the same and have the same effect on weight, but doing the experiment proves otherwise.

Clearly, the type of food DOES matter to caloric balance!

All calories are not the same. QED

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