CalorieKing Blog

For awesome calorie counting tools and expert advice Join Now

What Is Causing Calorie “Discrepancies” When I Count?

We’ve received many questions from our audience asking why their calorie counts sometimes differ from CalorieKing. Here’s some insight as to why the “4-9-4″ rule that is often used to Calorie Questions - CalorieKing Blogcalculate calorie values can sometimes add up to different calorie counts from what is automatically calculated in the CalorieKing program.

Q: I multiplied protein, fat and carbohydrate values by 4-9-4, but my calorie value is different from Calorieking’s. Why?

A: Simply applying the 4-9-4 calorie calculation rule can overstate the calories in some foods.

Calories in basic foods are derived from:

  • protein ~ 4 calories per gram
  • fat ~ 9 calories per gram
  • carbohydrate ~ 4 calories per gram

This gives rise to the 4-9-4 rule that can be applied to most basic foods.

However, adjustments to the 4-9-4 rule need to be made for foods which contain fiber, sugar alcohols or polydextrose. This is because, in the U.S., these components are included in the “total carbohydrate” figure shown on food labels – despite these components having a lesser (if any) calorie value.

  • Insoluble fiber (example: bran of wheat/corn/rice) provides zero calories.
  • Soluble fiber (examples: oats, nuts, beans) provides 2 calories per gram
  • Sugar alcohols used as sugar substitutes (examples: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol) provide around 2.5 calories per gram. Erythritol supplies negligible calories.
    • Polydextrose, a bulking agent (soluble fiber), supplies 1 calorie per gram.

So, for foods with a high fiber content (such as bran breakfast cereals), simply applying the 4-9-4 rule – without deducting insoluble fiber from total carbohydrate – will result in an overstatement of calories.


Kelloggs All-Bran cereal
A 1 oz serving shows: 0.9g fat, 3.7g protein, 21g total carbs (which includes 9.1g dietary fiber)

Applying just the 4-9-4 rule, total calories = 107 calories (rounded)

Applying 4-9-4 rule minus insoluble fiber, total calories = 73 calories (as stated on package label and Calorieking’s database)

This accounts for the supposed “discrepancy” of 34 calories between the 2 methods of calculation.

Sugar-Free Jelly Beans

1 oz serving shows 60 cals, 0g fat, 0g protein, 26 total carbs (which includes 17.7g sugar alcohol and 5.7g polydextrose)

Applying the 4-9-4 rule, total calories = 104 calories
Applying the 4-9-4 rule and allowing for lesser calorie values for sugar alcohol (2.5 calories per gram) and polydextrose (1 calorie per gram) total calories = 60 calories

Thus, the 4-9-4 rule without sugar alcohol allowances creates an overstatement of 44 calories.

Note on Alcohol Calories

Calorie calculations should also allow for the alcohol content in alcoholic beverages. Apply the 4-9-4 rule and simply add 7 calories per gram of alcohol.
The Calorieking database does show alcohol content in grams.

2 Responses to What Is Causing Calorie “Discrepancies” When I Count?

… [Trackback]…

[...] Find More Informations here: [...]…

While the 4-9-4 rule does, indeed, accurately estimate the calorie content of most food products, it’s a drastic oversimplification in some cases. Two basic problems could invalidate the calculation for some foodstuffs: 1) Nutrients from different food sources are not utilized (assimilated) by the human body with the same efficiency; and 2) some food materials contain significant levels of ingredients other than protein, fat, CHO, ash and water.