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What Is a Kilocalorie?

Scientists sometimes use kilocalories to assess how much energy is released and absorbed by a substance.
A caloriemeter can be used to determine a substance's kilocalories.
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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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In science, a calorie (about 4.2 joules) is the amount of energy it takes to raise one gram of water one degree Celsius. This measurement is useful for scientists who may deal with very small energy measurements, but can be cumbersome when it comes to larger amounts of energy. For this, a larger measurement called a kilocalorie is used. A kilocalorie is the equivalent of 1000 calories (approximately 4200 joules). It's the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. A kilocalorie is sometimes differentiated from the one-gram calorie by the capital letter “C,” as in Calorie, and this article will use the two interchangeably.

Scientists can use a kilocalorie to describe the amount of energy a substance contains. In order to determine the amount of kilocalories a substance has, a calorimeter can be used. During the process, the substance being studied is burned completely in the calorimeter and the amount of energy released is calculated by scientists. This process will tell the scientist how much energy that substance has. For instance, there are 31,000 kilocalories in one gallon of gasoline.

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Many people recognize the kilocalorie because of the role it plays in food. When you look at the Calorie content of food, you are actually looking at the amount of kilocalories the food has. The Calorie count will tell you how much energy your body will be able to use to function. The higher the amount of Calories the food has, the more activity you will have to do in order to burn it all. If your body does not burn the extra Calories, it will store it as fat.

One way to keep weight down is to reduce the amount of Calories you eat. The amount of Calories you need depends on your age, gender, and the way your body is composed. For instance, men tend to burn more Calories than women and should eat more. Similarly, younger people tend to burn more Calories than older people, and active people more than inactive people. It is important, therefore, that you speak to your doctor about how many Calories and how much exercise you need in order to stay healthy.

Many countries use the kilocalorie to describe the amount of energy that is found in foods. It must be noted, however, that the kilocalorie is not the only measurement used to measure the energy content in food. Some countries, such as Australia, use the joule instead of the Calorie to denote the amount of energy found in food. In either case, knowing the amount of energy your food has can help you keep slim and trim. Whether joule or Calorie, it is important to consume the appropriate amount of energy for your activity level.

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