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What is a Calorie?

Counting them, cutting them, consuming them - every day revolves around calories. But what is a calorie? Mention food or exercise, and calories crop up. Whether we’re trying to burn calories at the gym or resisting the temptation to tuck into too many, there’s no escaping them.

Jeans too tight? Post-chocolate guilt? Calories are in the firing line. Despite demonising them, surprisingly few people actually understand what a calorie is. We know we didn’t! Are you clued up on calories?


Essentially, a calorie is a unit of measurement for the amount of energy in food - more specifically, the amount of energy needed to raise 1 gram of water by 1°C at atmosphere pressure. The units of energy are found in the food we eat, which is why we say our food contains calories.

A calorie is a calorie, whether it comes from fat, carbs or protein. Calories certainly aren’t the enemy, although eating too many could increase body fat, leading to weight gain.

On the plus side, every single thing we do burns calories - from breathing to running a marathon. Calories fuel the body, and we literally can’t live without them.

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