What Is The Difference Between Cal And Kcal?

For anyone that has tried losing weight seriously, we’ve all glanced at the side of food packets to see precisely how many calories we are consuming.

What Is The Difference Between Cal And Kcal?

However, we might often be confused, as some packets read ‘cal’, while others read ‘kcal’. So what exactly is the difference?

Well, kcal stands for kilocalories, while cal simply stands for calories. A calorie indicator with a small c always stands for smaller calories.

1,000 of these small calories is what makes up a larger calorie or kilocalorie, which is indicated by kcal.

So what exactly is the difference between these two? What is the one that you should be paying attention to when you are trying to lose weight or are just generally tracking calories?

Well, if you want to know the answer to these questions and a lot more, then we would suggest that you keep reading.

What Are The Main Differences Between Cals and Kcals?

So, as we have discussed above, there is a difference between small calories and large calories. But it might be helpful for a general definition of calories in general.

A calorie is a measurement of energy. This can refer to the energy that you gain from certain foods and drinks as well as the amount of energy that you burn during exercise.

Now, if you are looking at large calories, then this will be the amount of energy that it takes to raise the temperature of water in the body to around 1 degree. The amount of water will usually be around 1kg.

However, with a smaller calorie, then you’ll need to raise the temperature of a smaller amount of water, usually 1 gram. A small calorie will also need to raise the temperature of the water by around 1 degree.

So, taking these definitions, you can be sure that 1 large calorie will be equal to around 1,000 small calories, as 1 kg will translate to roughly 1,000 grams.

Modern Usage Of Cals and Kcals

However, the above terminology for these kinds of calories is remarkably different. A lot of food packaging does not distinguish between cals and kcals

So when you are looking at the packaging and you see kcals, you will not have to convert them into cals. In fact, you will often see the two written side by side like this: kcals/cals.

You might also see calories as represented by the abbreviated KJ.

How Do Different Countries Label Calories?

There are laws in most countries that require companies to label the number of calories that you might find in food.

These will usually be listed along with the weight, how many calories per serving and macros like proteins, carbs and fats.

The fact that you can track accurately the number of calories in food will be very helpful if you are on a calorie-controlled diet.

You can also use these to avoid any allergies that you might have.

For example, a box of cereal might advise you that the products contain nuts, traces of nuts or were packaged in a factory where nuts are also packaged.

A box of cereal will also be able to tell you how many calories there are per serving along with the wights of that serving.

You can use this as a guideline for how much food you should consume as part of your healthy diet.

The USA and Canada are very much the same when it comes to measuring calories and they just use the distinction ‘calories’.

The countries in the EU will use KJ or Kcal to indicate calories on their food packaging.

Australia, New Zealand and China all use KJ as the marker for calories on their food packaging.

What Are Calories Made Up Of?

What Are Calories Made Up Of?

These energy markers are made up of three subcategories, the main ones being proteins, carbs and fats.

A protein gives 4 calories of energy per gram, whereas fat will give you around 9 calories of energy per gram.

You can also get calories from alcohol, which will give you around 7 calories per gram.

However, different food companies will often give you different measurements for your calories and will round up to the nearest gram for accuracy.

This means that the actual nutritional value of your food will differ from that listed on the packet.

If your food packaging contains fiber, which is often counted as a carb, then you might expect to find fewer calories in your meal than actually indicated. The reason for this is that fiber actually doesn’t get digested as well.

This means that if your meal contains fiber, it is poorly digested and will actually contribute little or no calories to your diet.

Why Should You Track Your Calories?

If you are looking to lose weight, then we would certainly recommend that you track your calories.

Having a greater awareness of calories will allow you to shift your eating habits and overall reduce your calories.

You can also help it to identify certain eating habits that you can then correct.

For example, if you are eating too many calories in the evening, then you can disperse these calories throughout the day or cut them out completely.

If you are suffering from thyroid issues, then you might also want to track the number of calories that you are ingesting.

How Can You Track Cals/Kcals?

There are many great apps that are available that will allow you to log your calories, which will not only allow you to get an eye on them throughout the day, but will allow you to track them across months and even years.

If you are training and you want to micromanage your diet, then using an app is also a great method.

There are some apps that will allow you to scan the barcode of your food, which will then be matched against an online database of food.

However, be careful of this, as sometimes the calorie measurement might be inaccurate.


We hope that our definition of calories as well as the difference between cals and kcals has helped you to monitor them in your diet.

Jenna Priestly