I was wondering, why do we say that we ‘burn’ calories. And then I came to this question.

  • Tangential to the question you're asking, but "burning" calories in your body is a completely different process from literally burning food. "Burn calories" is a figure of speech.
    – JLRishe
    Jan 6, 2020 at 7:40
  • It's important to remember that cooked food takes less energy for the stomach to digest.
    – forest
    Jan 6, 2020 at 8:51
  • 3
    @JLRishe not as different a process as you might imagine. Indeed one way to measure calories is by literally burning the food in a fire.
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 6, 2020 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


Yes, if you were burning food that provided you exactly the caloric intake you need to maintain your weight, and if you ate only that and didn't replace the lost calories by adding additional food. To carry it to extremes, you could oxidize your food to an inorganic ash. Metabolic (food) calories are ultimately identical to the energy found in any non-food fuel. They're just found in molecules that are digestible. But you'd also be destroying vitamins, fiber, etc., as well as flavor. Slightly singeing it would destroy a few calories, maybe, of properly cooked food.

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