Calories in Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates

Diet and Weight Loss Tutorial

Macronutrient Calories Kilojoules
Protein 4 16.7
Fat 9 37.7
Carbohydrate 4 16.7

Yes, each gram of fat you consume provides more than twice as many calories as a gram of protein or carbohydrate!

As an example of how these numbers are used, imagine a food containing 10 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and 10 grams of carbohydrates. That would total 170 calories:

(10 g protein x 4) + (10 g fat x 9) + (10 g carbs x 4) = 170

In this imaginary food 40 calories come from protein, 90 calories come from fat, and 40 calories come from carbohydrates.

Technical Notes

The Numbers Don't Always Add Up

If you check a food label you may find that the total number of calories listed doesn't match the number you arrive at using the 4-9-4 method described above. The reason for the discrepancy may be that the figure for carbohydrates includes insoluble fiber, and the food manufacturer has accounted for this in their figure for calories.

Insoluble fiber passes through your body without being converted to a form that provides energy, or calories. Knowing this, the manufacturer may subtract the caloric value of the insoluble fiber (4 calories per gram) from the total calories figure. When they do this, the 4-9-4 method will give you a higher figure for total calories than the one you find on the food label.

You might think that you could subtract the figure for fiber from the figure for carbohydrates to correct the discrepancy. But the figure for fiber will likely include both soluble and insoluble fiber, and you'd only want to subtract the insoluble fiber. Unfortunately you have no way of knowing how much of the fiber is soluble, and how much is insoluble.

Calories in Alcohol

You will also find that the numbers do not add up when you are looking at the caloric value of liquor. This is because the total calories for liquor include the calories in the alcohol, and this is not addressed by the 4-9-4 equation.

A gram of alcohol provides 7 calories.

Our next topic discusses the proportions of the three macronutrients necessary for a healthy diet.

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