Calories are the units of energy gained from food and lost through boy processes like metabolism and excretion or exercise. This article helps you understand how many calories are there in a unit pound of body fat and scrutinizes the 3,500 calories/lb figure, which has been long used.

You might have noticed that every nutritional breakdown of food or any dietary component included the calories contained. Simply put, calories are the units for quantifying energy obtained from food or lost through exercise or other physiological processes. When you eat, the fats, carbs, and protein constitute the calories obtained from that food. Once the body takes them, they are converted to glycogen (a form of carbs) and stored in the liver or fats stored in the adipose tissues. For weight loss and health-conscious people, fats are not just about constituting the tissues, but how much is lost translates to weight loss. Therefore, peer into this article to know how many calories a unit-body fat pound has and get the answers to some of the critical weight loss concerns.

Understanding body fat

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of calories in a body fat pound, let’s understand what body fat means and how it differs from pure fat. Pure fat is a form of fat without any other compound and comprises fats only. Consequently, a unit pound of pure fat contains 4,100 calories, and everybody fat gram has 9 calories. However, body fat differs from pure fat in composition. Apart from the fats, it also contains fat cells, also called adipocytes, with proteins and fluids. Therefore, compared to pure fats, body fat typically has fewer calories and slightly fewer energy packages.

Are the 3,500 calories per unit body fat calorific value ideal?

For a long time, scientific literature and media have been quoting 3,500 calories as the amount of energy found in a unit pound of body fat. This quotation dates back to 1958 when scholar Mark Wishnofsky generated it based on the evidence available then. However, as time advances, research has equally advanced, and several studies question this figure.

Although many generally accept the value and quote it in research, some studies show otherwise. However, it is conventionally agreed that a pound has 454 g, and while pure fats have 8.7 to 9.5 calories per gram, body fats have approximately 87% of this. This translates to 3,436 to 3,752 calories in a unit pound of body fat. Still, these calculations are grounded on old studies, some of which do not harmonize with the most recent research. For instance, some studies dispute the figure and claim that body fats have 72% fats. In addition, it is noteworthy that many factors influence calories in body fats, and different body fats surprisingly have different fat compositions.

What about the 500-calorie deficit for weight loss myth?

The modern world is crazed with the quest for weight loss, and people go to different heights to achieve it. You might have noticed that many people believe in the 500-calorie deficit for weight loss myth, which reality greatly questions. The theory claims that you can lose a pound of body fat by lowering your calorie intake by 500 in a day or 3,500 in a week. This theory suggests that since there are 52 weeks in one year, the 500-calorie deficit translates to 52 pounds body fat loss.

The myth sounds great to people and may seem like a great achievement. However, it overlooks how the human body responds to calorific loss and tries to restore things to normalcy. In reality, the myth frustrates people who at first may seem to lose weight but whose bodies suddenly adjust, leading to disappointments. The human body is unique, and as you cut off your calorie intake, calorie burning slows down, jeopardizing weight loss. This non-linear weight loss trend means that it takes more than reducing calorie intake to shake off extra pounds.

How best can you predict weight loss?

The previous paragraph has clearly shown that the 500-calorie deficit is a misconceived idea that does not work in the long term and often frustrates people. The good news is that you can find better weight loss prediction tools online, and some of these have high precision. For instance, the National Institute of Health developed a tool called the Body Weight Planner, which you can use to track the calorie levels you need to lose and what’s to be maintained. The tool is well-researched and heavily backed with mathematical calculations. This is why it accounts for many factors, including reduced calorie intake, exercise, diet, and how they affect body fat. In addition, you can use the Single Subject Weight Change Predictor, a weight loss prediction tool by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Like the other tool, this predictor accounts for how exercise and diet affect body fat.

Body fat loss will not necessarily translate to weight loss

It can be really frustrating if you lose body fat but don’t lose weight. Actually, losing weight isn’t all about shaking off excess fats. The unique fact about weight loss is that while you might be working hard to lose body fat, you may miss the point and lose muscle mass instead. Therefore, you need to do a few things to ensure that your muscles don’t waste away as you try to lose weight. For instance, boost your protein intake so that the body does not depend on muscles for energy. In addition, you could try resistance exercise through weight lifting to boost muscle resistance. Moreover, the two methods will help your body keep up fat and calorie burning, ultimately sustaining weight loss without affecting muscles.


In 1958, scientist Mark Wishnofsky invented the 3,500 calories/pound as the calorific value for the energy in a pound of body fat. However, modern studies question this, with most settling at 3,436 to 3,752 calories in a unit pound of body fat as the ideal range. This article has reviewed these values and has shown the gaps in the 500-calorie deficit for weight loss. Try the Single Subject Weight Change Predictor or the Body Weight Planner if you want to predict weight loss more accurately. It’s also noteworthy that weight loss isn’t all about body fat loss, hence the need to boost your protein intake and incorporate resistance exercise to prevent muscle mass loss.

Tatyana Dyachenko

For the past years, Tatyana has worked as a sex blogger and a relationship advisor. She has been featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue. Vice, Tatler, Vanity Fair, and many others. Since 2016, Tatyana has focused on sexology, attended various training courses, participated in international conferences and congresses. “I wish people would address sexual issues in a timely manner! Forget shyness, prejudice and feel free to see a sex doctor for help or advice!” Tanya enjoys pursuing her flare for creativity through modelling, graffiti art, astronomy, and technology.