The Difference Between Calories and Carbohydrates

carbs vs calories

There’s a lot of confusion for those who are serious about their diets, particularly for those who want to lose weight. Carbohydrates and calories seem to be the main area of focus in these cases, but what’s the main area of confusion? Do people want to know which one is better or do they want to know which one is worse? 

Most people have a basic understanding of calories and what they represent. When you look on the back of a food product and it gives you the caloric count, then you can get a good idea of whether or not you want to consume that particular product. Carbohydrates aren’t as clear to most people. All  most people understand about them is that simple carbs are supposed to be worse for you than complex carbs. 

The same goes when it comes to calories. People want to know how many of those calories come from fat, because clearly the calories that come from fat are supposed to be less healthy right? This is going to be due to there being a heavy concentration of other unhealthy items in such foods. What I want to do here is give readers a clearer understanding of carbohydrates and calories so that they understand the difference. 

What is keto Diet

I feel a clear understanding is important so that readers can avoid making some of the following mistakes that come due to a lack of understanding: 

  • Thinking that all they have to do is limit the amount of calories they consume in order to lose weight, not understanding that not all calories are created equal. 
  • Thinking that all forms of carbohydrates are bad for you and to be avoided, because not getting enough of specific types of carbs can actually lead to health problems or at least an increased risk of them. 
  • Thinking the best way to experience specific health benefits is to avoid carbs and limit calories, which will severely restrict the types of foods a person can eat. At the same time it can lead to health problems. 

The best way to present the differences between calories and carbohydrates is to give simple facts about each one point by point. This will give you a chance to process what’s being said and truly understand it so there’s no confusion. 

Calories Enable the Body to Have the Fuel it Needs

When someone is trying to limit the amount of calories they need, what they are essentially doing is limiting the amount of fuel the body is going to have in order to function properly. Now for someone who is already overweight, the body can break down fat and use that as fuel. Someone who is already slim though will have a hard time unless they understand how much energy they consume throughout the day. 

Calories Might be Contained in Carbohydrates, But Not the Other Way Around

The source of calories a person consumes is very important in terms of what type of energy will be provided. Calories in general have three primary sources. They either come from proteins you eat, carbohydrates or fats. Some of these are going to contain more than others and some will require more energy in order to burn. 

There is Just One Type of Calorie, But Different Forms of Carbohydrates

A calorie isn’t just a calorie of course. Some are processed easily and they don’t require a whole lot in order to burn. Think of drinking a can of soda and the caloric boost you get from it. Now think of getting the same calories from a sandwich. Which one do you think is going to provide more benefits? The soda based calories come with the consequence of more sugar, meaning carbohydrates. 

Carbs come in different forms. There are simple carbs and complex carbs. If you eat junk food for example then the carbs in these are going to be simple, meaning they don’t provide long lasting energy. Complex carbs are slower to metabolize and they provide more sustained energy. 

One is an Organic Compound While the Other Only an Energy Measurement

The primary difference with carbohydrates and calories is that calories are simply a unit of energy that’s contained within foods you eat. Carbs are a form of organic compound. This is the main area where a lot of people get things confused. Carbohydrates aren’t the same as calories and you can’t simply burn them as you would calories. 

Carbs are an Energy Source, But One That’s Usually Seen as a Backup

When you consume a lot of calories, then these are what your body is going to run on when you partake in physical activity or just general physical activity. When you need more energy, then your body will begin to draw on carbohydrate reserves. It’s not just carbs, but also proteins and fats. Carbs are a form of macronutrient your body requires in order to give energy to your body in calorie form. 

This is why it’s often said to avoid foods with high carb content if the goal is to lose weight, because the carbs are converted into extra energy that if not used becomes fat.

gathering low cab food

The Simplest Breakdown of the Difference Between Calories and Carbohydrates

Calories are energy units that you get from food. Carbohydrates are almost similar to what sugar is. Your body converts it to glucose. So even if you consume foods you think are low in sugar, but contain a lot of carbs (simple or complex) then this is going to have the same effect as if you were still consuming a high sugar content food. Things can get even worse when you consume foods that are high in sugar content as well as carbohydrates and calories. 

Both Carbohydrates and Calories Contribute to Important Body Functions

High amounts of energy are needed in order to help your body with various functions. I’m talking about things such as metabolic reactions, building and repair of certain areas as well as overall maintenance. 

High Consistent Intake of Carbs and Calories Can Lead to Health Problems

Whether it’s a high consumption of calories on a consistent basis or a high intake of carbohydrates on a consistent basis, the end result can be weight gain, obesity as well as diabetes. However, if you control your intake of these two things while not overly restricting yourself, then it can lead to healthy weight loss. 

Calories and Carbohydrates are More Concentrated in Particular Foods You Might Eat

cookie for keto

You can find calories in high levels with the following foods: 

  • Peanut butter
  • Candy bars and cookies
  • Cheeses
  • Various fried foods
  • Different processed meats
  • Sausages as well as animal fats

With carbohydrates you’ll find them more concentrated in the following foods: 

  • Various cereals
  • Noodles
  • Potatoes
  • Various breads
  • Fruits as well as soft drinks 

High Intake of Calories or Carbohydrates Can Lead to Health Problems 

Health problems you’re at risk for with excessive calorie consumption: 

  • Different heart issues
  • Different nutritional deficiencies

Health problems you’re at risk for with excessive carbohydrate consumption

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Ketosis

All Carbs Taken in by a Person is Turned into Fat by the Body

When you consume carbohydrates, then it’s going to be turned into fat and stored in various parts of your body. Storage will particularly take place under the skin, which is what causes weight gain. Calories on the other hand don’t have to cause weight gain, as long as a person is burning more than they take in or offsetting their intake to some degree.  

structure functions of carbohydrates mental nervous

All the differences you’ll find with calories and carbs are usually based on what foods you’re consuming them in. Complex carbs versus simple carbs. Calories from fat or calories from sugar. All of these are important, but not as important as you understanding how to control your intake of the bad and get more of the good or at least less bad. 

Neither of these is bad for you if consumed in the proper foods and in the right amounts. You just need to understand that no diet focusing on minimization of either of these is going to be good for you long term. Balance is needed, because this is what’s going to lead to sustainability and long term health benefits.

Ahmed Matar

Not just food lover, I also like to write about foods and diets, especially keto! Finding low-carb food is fun for me regardless of how others find it difficult. Besides having an interest in foods & diets I also like exercising and walking long distance regularly :)

Recent Posts