How many calories are in a pound of body fat?

In this brief article we will answer the question,”How many calories are in a pound of body fat?” We will also explain what calories are and their daily requirements. We will discuss how the body burns calories and briefly talk about empty calories.

How many calories are in a pound of body fat?

There are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat. This was deduced in 1958 by a Scientist known as Max Wishnofsky who stated that the caloric equivalent to 1 lb of weight gained or lost was equivalent to 3,500 calories.

What are calories?

Calories are basically the units of energy that you get when you drink or eat food and the energy  used during physical activities. Most food items at the store usually have the calories intake listed on the package.

Different foods have varying amounts of calories, for instance foods such as homemade granola, chicken leg, firm tofu, salmon fish and avocados have very high calories. On the other hand, foods such as zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, strawberries and turnips have low calories.

The amount of energy your body requires is dependant on a no. of things such as:

  • Age: Young children that are still growing require more energy as compared to the elderly.
  • Size: Height and weight affect how rapid you require and use energy.
  • Lifestyle: For example, how physically active you are.

There are also other factors that can affect your energy requirements and they include:

  • Some hormones such as thyroid hormones
  • Some medications such as glucocorticoids which are corticosteroid hormones that are used treat inflammation and sickness.

What is the daily requirement for calories?

The United States 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommended a calorie intake from 1,000 cals for an infant of 2 years to 3,200 for active males aged between 16 years to 18 years. The average man requires 2,700 kiloCalories in a single day and the average woman requires 2,200 kiloCalories in a day.

As people continue to age, their energy requirements decrease because of low metabolic rates. For instance women aged between 19 to 25 years recommended intake is 2,000 calories in a day but after 51 years it decreases to 1,600.

Different people require different no. of calories in a day. This is because metabolism rates differ from person to person and some people have more active lifestyles than others.

Therefore the Recommended Intake of calories per day is dependent on various factors which include the below:

  • Physical activeness
  • General health of a person
  • Sex (gender)

How does the body burn calories?

The human body requires energy in order to survive and remain alive. When you consume foods and drinks, about 20% of the energy derived is consumed for brain metabolism. The rest is used for basal metabolism.

When in cold environments, the body requires more energy to maintain a constant body temperature because there is an increase in metabolism rates so as to generate more heat. In a warm environment, the converse is true.

The body also requires mechanical energy for the skeletal muscles so as to move around and maintain posture. 

The body also uses calories for cellular respiration. This is a metabolic pathway that takes place within the cells breaking down glucose and releasing ATP.

Therefore calories are very important for normal body functioning being used in activities such as breathing, circulation of blood, respiration, cell production, maintaining body temperature among others.

What are empty calories?

Empty calories as the word suggests refers to calories that have negligible nutritional value instead they contain solid fats and added sugars that can ultimately result in weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.

To find out foods that contain empty calories you require to check the food labels for added sugars and solid fats. Added sugars refer to sugars that are incorporated to foods as they are being processed. Solid fats are fats that remain solid at room temperature.

Some examples of such foods which you should avoid because of either added sugars and solid fats are:

  • Fast foods such as pizza, burgers, french fries etc
  • Beverages such as sports drinks, sodas, fruit drinks and energy drinks
  • Ice cream, cheese and other full fat dairy products.
  • Candy bars and hard candies


In this brief article we have answered the question,”How many calories are in a pound of body fat?” We have also explained what calories are and their daily requirement. We have discussed how the body burns calories and briefly talked about empty calories.


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