Difference Between Active and Total Calories (With Table)

For every activity we do, our body requires energy to accomplish the task. Let it be walking, standing, or even taking rest in the lounge, every activity requires energy. We get energy from the food we eat and this energy gets spent in various ways. Part of the energy is reserved by the body for the later use.

To give a quantification on the energy spent, we use a unit called calories to understand how much we have spent for a particular process. The food which we eat provides us with these calories.

Depending on the activity we do and the normal functioning of the body, calories can be briefly classified under two categories. One is active calories and the other one is total calories.

Active vs Total Calories

The main difference between active and passive calories is that active calorie takes into account the energy used for doing all physical tasks such as jogging, swimming, running, etc. Whereas total calories give the individual the number on the total amount of energy spent by the body for all the activities.

Active calories are the calories burnt by the body when we are involved in any kind of external work. The work could be as simple as walking, climbing steps or complex works such as lifting weight etc.

Total calories are the sum of active calories and other calories consumed by the body for its routine function. The routine function includes respiration, digestion of food, thinking etc.

There are certain functions carried out by our body throughout the time such as breathing, supplying energy to all parts of the body etc. The calories spent on these activities get included under total calories which is the special part of it.

Comparison Table Between Active and Total Calories

Parameters of Comparison

Active Calories

Total Calories


It represents the energy utilised by our body for carrying out the physical activities in our day-to-day life.

It represents the sum of all energy used by the body for all physical and normal functioning of the body.


It is one of the important factors in weight loss and management.

It indicates the energy spent on our normal activities.

Activities which falls under the category

All physical work is done consciously by an individual. The example includes running, jogging, swimming etc.

Respiration, thinking, digestion etc.

Units of Measurement




= calories burnt during physical tasks.

= active calorie + basal (resting) calories.

What is Active Calorie?

Active calories represent the energy used by our body for carrying out various physical activities which we do daily. Let assume that we need to pick an object. So, the energy is utilised by our hand to pick the particular object. The energy consumed for this process falls under the category of active calories. Likewise, the energy consumed for all physical activities done by the individual falls under the domain of active calories.

 A calorie is a term which denotes the energy spent for a particular process. One calorie equals 4.184 joules. The body gets the calorie from the food we eat. The calorie content varies from one food to another. High-calorie food includes foods rich in carbohydrates such as rice, potato, whole grains. Chicken, meat, pork which are rich in proteins also constitutes to calorie-rich foods. All these carbohydrates and protein are finally broken down by the body and the energy obtained is distributed to all parts of the body.

Based on the requirement, the energy gets consumed. Muscles would require energy when the body is involved in a physical task. Basically, active calories keep into account all energy utilised by the body for the physical activities. There are devices which help in measuring the active calories. Example include smart wrist bands which calculate both active and total calories.

What is Total Calorie?

Total Calorie is the summation of all calories consumed by the body. It is the addition of active calories and calories used by the body for normal functioning. Some functions take place in our body without our influence. For example, breathing is an activity which is an involuntary process. Though we can exercise our control by holding our breath for some time, the activity happens naturally.

There are yet other functions happening in our body which are needed for our survival. Digestion is another example. These functions require energy for proper functioning. Total calories take a note on energy employed by the body for these normal and vital functions. Without energy, the body would cease to exist. These calories which are vital for normal functioning of the body at rest is called as basal calories.

The addition of active calories along with basal calories makes up basal calories. Total calories consumed by a person varies due to factors such as one’s weight, activity level, health condition etc. This also means that the basal calories vary from one individual to another.

Main Differences Between Active and Total Calories

  1. Active calories constitute the energy employed by the body for doing physical activity. Total calories indicate all the energy utilised by the body for both physical activity and regular functioning of the body.
  2. Active calories can be taken as an indicator for weight management while total calories give a picture on the requirement of basal calories for the individual.
  3. Active calories could help us to identify the energy utilised for physical works and therefore letting the individual how healthy the person is.
  4.  Less burning of active calories indicates that the level of physical activity has been reduced but lower total calories do not mean that there is a reduction in basal calories.
  5. Active Calories does not give an idea on basal metabolic rate whereas total calories is a combination of both active and resting (basal) calories.


Active and total calories will differ from person to person. They act as a health indicator and help us to know our level of activity. There are so many personal gadgets to help us identify the calories burnt.