Nutrition
Video/Text

What Makes Up Energy In?

Lesson 2 Module 1

Energy (or calories) in is defined as the number of calories you consume through food and drink on a daily basis. Your food contains macronutrients, which in turn contain calories that fuel your body. Those macronutrients (commonly known as macros) are:


  • Protein - There are 4 calories (kcals) per gram of protein.
  • Carbohydrate - There are 4 calories (kcals) per gram of carbohydrate.
  • Fat - There are 9 calories (kcals) per gram of fat.
  • Alcohol - There are 7 calories (kcals) per gram of alcohol.


Therefore, the food and drink you consume, digest, and absorb contributes equates to your calorie intake.


When thinking about calories in there some considerations you should be aware of. However, these do not change the overall principles of calories and energy balance.


  • The body will not absorb all the energy contained in foods with indigestible fibre.
    • Does this matter? Not really. You should not let this affect your daily tracking of calories. Stick with what's on the food label. This is covered in more detail in the carbohydrate module.
  • Not all energy consumed by foods is absorbed, eg the energy content of almonds is overestimated by up to 32%. 
    • Does this matter? Not really. You should not let this affect your daily tracking of calories. Stick with what's on the food label.
  • Not all food labels are accurate, e.g UK Government allows a 15% variation in food labelling.
    • Does this matter? Not really. You should not let this affect your daily tracking of calories. Stick with what's on the food label. It will even out over time.
  • You might lie. Either knowingly or unknowingly you might not track the calories you consume each day.
    • Does this matter? Yes. But don't get obsessed. Be as honest and accurate as you can.
  • If you have a disease (eg Crohn's) your absorption of nutrients may be significantly lower.
    • Does this matter? Yes. You should seek medical advice.


Here's some further reading on calories in that you might find interesting:


Misreporting of energy and macronutrient intake estimated by food records and 24 hour recalls, control and adjustment methods in practice. (Poslusna et al 2009). (Pubmed Link)


Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. (​​Novotny et al 2012). (Pubmed Link)

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