Are nutritional label calorie counts all inclusive?
May 5, 2013 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Do the nutritional label KCAL metrics include all calories inclusive of fat, carbs and protein?

If so is it right to assume the fat, carbs and protein counts are there to guide consumers on intake of those amounts? So, by definition is it right to assume, from a weight gain/loss perspective as long as I'm within my KCAL limit it doesn't matter if the calories come from fat, carbs or proteins?
posted by gadha to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
Yes, if you're on a calorie restriction diet you are correct, the only number you care much about is the total calories.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on May 5, 2013

Generally, yes, as far as labels go this is correct.

There's a lot of handwavey YMMV stuff if you have particular health or metabolism issues (and as someone who has been paying a lot of attention to calories in the past year it's important to understand food measurements well) but for weight loss a labelled calorie is a labelled calorie.

Googling "a calorie is a calorie" will get you a lot of interesting things to read about the ways in which this is not the case and/or the nuances inherent in the weight loss process from many perspectives.
posted by jessamyn at 4:23 PM on May 5, 2013

I'm a counter. I'm also pretty much in the calorie is a calorie camp when it comes to weight loss.

My initial weight loss was exactly linear with the calorie restriction over time. It was astounding.

There is a ton of information out there about food categories that are hard to digest and what not - paleo this and paleo that, glycemic index this and satiating that. These differences, while sometimes (rarely) validated by research as scientifically significant (not due to chance), are pretty much always not dietarily significant (the effects even if real are so small as to be negligible). Differences at the margins are not very important at all when you need to eat 3000 to 3500 kcals less for each pound you lose.
posted by srboisvert at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2013

All else being equal*, a Calorie is a Calorie (and a kcal is a kcal, in your country) and the label on foods reflects the total caloric content at the top. While Googling for UK specifics, I found this article that describes how that total is calculated, and that it's really an estimate (and sometimes a bad one) based on the total fat, carbs, and protein. I don't know how much of that I believe - I was under the impression the calories from the breakdown of fiber by gut bacteria, even with a very healthy gut flora, was not significant - but it's a good thing to keep in mind, that is IS just an estimate (and often rounded to the nearest 5/10/whatever kcal) and can vary more or less depending on the food, how you cook it, and your body.

*All else being equal, that is, if you increase or reduce your caloric intake while keeping the proportions of fat/carbs/fiber/protein the same, it should proportionately affect your weight gain or loss. It's when you start adding soda and chips (or skipping breakfast) that things can happen disproportionately.
posted by WasabiFlux at 10:14 PM on May 5, 2013

A calorie is a calorie in terms of weight loss. A macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) is pretty much only significant if you are attempting body recomposition or have medical issues with digesting fat or protein.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:35 AM on May 6, 2013

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