When A Calorie Isn’t A Calorie

tdee-pie-chart TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure

You’ve probably heard this before, not all calories are equal. 100kcal of chocolate is not the same as 100kcals of spinach or 100kcals of beef but why isn’t it?

When we eat our bodies need to break down our food to release the nutrients within to be used by our bodies. Proteins are tough and make it a little harder to breakdown therefore our bodies use much more energy than they do for fats or carbohydrates. So our bodies are using calories simply to breakdown the food we are eating.

The amount of calories we use to process our foods comes down to lots of things and are different for all of us but rough figures are:

  • Fats 0-3% of calories – so for every 100kcals of Fat 97-100% can be used for energy or stored
  • Carbs 5-10% of calories – so for every 100kcals of Carbs 90-95% can be used for energy or stored
  • Protein 20-30% of calories – so for every 100kcals of Protein 70-80% can be used for energy or stored

So you can see having a diet heavier in Protein uses more calories than a diet heavier in carbs and fats. This raises your TDEE, your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

Does this mean the Calories In / Calories Out is wrong?

Simple answer No!

We now know the choices we make with our diet changes the number of calories our body uses and this can have a positive effect on our TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure just as if you did a little more exercise that day than normal would have a positive effect on your TDEE.

Why people claim the Calories In / Calories Out theory is incorrect is because they see it as people having their TDEE figures beforehand because they’ve typed their figures into a TDEE calculator. The problem is that TDEE is only a guide, even if it is one of the better calculators that takes into account your macros, it still will not know how much energy your body will use to process them macros. Plus remember that extra exercise you might do that day, how did it know that beforehand, that extra N.E.A.T. (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) – the extra walk you had to make, the lift being broken down and what about all that food packaging you’re using and your the weights you’re using to work out your macros, all spot on too?


If you’re already eating close to your maintenance and your diet is heavier in fats / carbs you could manage your weight simply by increasing your protein and reducing your carbs / fats. Remembering our bodies still need fat so lean towards the carbs for the cut.

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I am Michael the owner of Fit & Able Fitness. I am very passionate about helping and guiding people to improving their health and fitness. Showing them it isn't all about starving yourself and hours slogging away in a gym!