The key difference between calories and carbs is that the calories are the amount of energy released from the respiration of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, etc., while the carbs are the most abundant organic compounds in nature, which is readily available for energy requirement.
There are several types of macromolecules composed of simple molecules in living organisms. Some of them are carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Autotrophs can produce their foods by themselves. However, heterotrophs obtain organic compounds produced by autotrophs through their diets. Through cellular respiration, organisms produce energy for their metabolic reactions. During the cellular respiration, organic substrates such as glucose, etc., break down into simple molecules. The energy released during the breakdown is stored in the form of ATP (energy currency) in cells. Among the different macromolecules, carbohydrates or carbs are the most abundant and most utilizing organic compound in energy production. Calorie or calary is a unit that measures the released energy from the substrates.
What are Calories?
Calorie or calary is a unit that measures the amount of energy released from substrates. So, calorie is a measurement commonly used to measure food energy. Hence, 1 kilocalorie equals 1000 calories. Obesity is a common problem that prevails these days. Therefore, people pay more attention to the foods and the relevant calory intake into their bodies. Not only for this, but it is also important to know the energy amount of food we are taking, in order to maintain a healthy body. Since we are heterotrophs, we need to consume food for energy production.
Different substrates release varying amounts of energy. For example, 1 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of protein normally produce 4 Calories, and 1 g of fat contains 9 Calories. Foods undergo a process called metabolism. In this process, the chemical energy in the foods transforms into the chemical energy of ATP. ATP is the energy currency that provides energy to all the functions occurring in our body. If there is an excess amount of calorie consumption than the calories burned in the body, they will be stored as fat. As a result of that, the body weight will increase.
Thus, if we want to control the weight gain, we can increase the burning rate of stored fat by exercising. However, if the consuming energy is less than what we want, then the body weight reduces. Different people need different calorie intakes per day depending on age, gender, size, environment and their daily activities. For example, children, athletes, and hard working people need more energy than the older adults.
What are Carbs?
Carb is the word commonly used to address dietary carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the main energy source in our bodies. Most people categorize food as good carbs and bad carbs. All the carbs are important for our bodies, but some are better. Therefore, this is the reason for having two categories of carbs as bad carbs and good carbs. Actually, depending on the type of food, they can be good carbs or bad carbs. Vegetables, fruits, and grains are good carbs. Furthermore, good carbohydrates contain more fibres. On the other hand, most processed and refined food like white bread and white rice are not good for our health. Thus, they increase the risk of bad carbs.
Similarly, when there is a high amount of carbs in the diet, they break down and produce glucose and then absorbed into our bloodstream. Cells absorb these sugars and use for energy production through combustion. When there are a lot of carbs in the diet, the body can constantly produce energy from it and can store some. Because of this, the fat layer will increase, and obesity can result. One solution for losing weight is to have a low carb diet. Low carb diet is the diet with limited carbohydrates (rich with proteins and fat). Since it produces a low amount of sugars inside the body, the fat storage will break down and use for the energy production.
What are the Similarities Between Calories and Carbs?
- Calories and carbs are terms related to energy.
- Carbs contain energy and releases as calories.
What is the Difference Between Calories and Carbs?
Calorie is the unit that measures the energy. On the other hand, carbohydrate is one type of macromolecule that contains energy. Therefore, this is the key difference between calories and carbs. Upon combustion, 1g of carbs produces 4 kcal of energy. Many types of fruits, vegetables and grains contain carbohydrates. Likewise, we consume different foods to produce energy for all the metabolic activities. Hence, it is another difference between calories and carbs.
Below infographic explains the difference between calories and carbs as a comparison.
Summary – Calories vs Carbs
Carbohydrates are known as carbs. It is a major type of food we intake. On the other hand, a calorie is a unit that measures food energy. Compared to fat, carb food has fewer calories. Thus, this is the summary of the difference between calories and carbs.
1. “Calorie.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Jan. 2019. Available here
2. Nordqvist, Christian. “Carbohydrates: Uses, Health Benefits, and Risks.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 17 Oct. 2017. Available here