Do Your Medications Contain Calories? Do You Need To Worry About Them?

do your medications contain calories

People who are calorie conscious when trying to lose weight often wonder about the caloric content of everything, but do your medications actually contain calories? Should you be concerned or even be tracking them?

Medications do contain a minuscule amount of calories due to the properties that are used to create them, such as fillers, binders and excipients, but the calorie content is so low that it generally isn’t something you need to worry about when trying to lose weight.

Let’s dive in.

Do Your Medications Contain Calories?

Yes, medications do contain a very small amount of calories inside due to the ingredients used to actually create them by the pharmaceutical companies. A medication tablet or pill could contain anywhere from 0-5 calories per tablet.

The properties within medications that contain calories can be things such as fillers, binders, and excipients that are used in the manufacturing process.

What Are Fillers?

Fillers are inactive ingredients used to bulks up a medication so that it can be easily measured and dispensed.

Some common fillers include:

  • Sugar
  • Starch
  • Lactose
  • Dextrin
  • Gelatin

What Are Binders?

Binders are used to hold everything together and can be found in both pills and capsules.

Some common binders include:

  • Cellulose
  • Silicon dioxide
  • Magnesium stearate

What Are Excipients?

Excipients are added to a medication to ensure that it is stable and can be stored for a long period of time.

Some common excipients include:

  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose

As I stated, the calorie contents of most prescription and non-prescription tablets are very small with supplements such as vitamins containing a bit more due to the fact that they are generally much larger in size and contain micronutrients.

The vast majority of medications will have 0-2 calories per tablet with some having as many as 5. However, the majority of medications do not even have any calories at all, or they are too small to actually be able to given an exact number.

In fact, the calorie content is so low that it really isn’t something you need to be concerned about when trying to lose weight. There is no need to try to figure out the calorie amounts of each pill and include them in your calorie tracking app or food diary.

Can Your Prescription Medications Ruin Your Calorie Deficit?

The calories that are inside your prescription medications do not need to be counted and will not ruin your calorie deficit because the amount is so small and will not cause weight gain. The weight you gain comes from being in a calorie surplus over time.

Prescription medications are necessary if you were directed by your healthcare provider to take them, and these calories are not calories you are using to fuel your body.

You also take these medications every single day, sometimes multiple times per day. The calorie amount that is inside of them are not calories that will make any difference.


The calories you are consuming from your foods and drinks are what actually matter and these calories are what is going to make it or break it for you in reaching your goal, not the super small amount of calories inside of a pill you take every day.

The calories that medications contain are actually not even absorbed by the body in their entirety.

A lot of the fillers, binders and excipients actually pass right through you and are not digested at all.

This means that the amount of calories that are actually being used by your body from these medications can be even less than what is stated on the label and may not even be accurate anyway.

Can Medications Make You Gain Weight?

Medications can make you gain weight, but it is not because the medications themselves contain calories, it is due to the side effects that the medications can have.

Different medications work in a variety of different ways inside of the body depending on what these medications are used for.

Some medications used for depression or anxiety can cause weight gain for SOME people because they can increase your appetite mostly.

Not only do some medications effect appetite, but they can also change body chemistry which can cause weight gain as well.

Let’s take antipsychotic medications for example, as these are known to cause weight gain for many of the individuals who rely on them.

One study has shown weight gain amongst individuals who take long acting antipsychotic medications in injectable (IM) form.

It gathered that after 12 months, the participants weight increased by an average of 7% (6 kg) with both drugs aripiprazole and paliperidone and the percentage of overweight or obese people increased from 33% to 60%.

While this does not happen to everyone who takes antipsychotic medications, it is a possibility that you should be aware of if you are taking these types of medications.

Other medications that are used to treat conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and migraines can also cause weight gain as a side effect.

Birth control is also known to cause weight gain due to the hormones that are present in them.

While it is possible for medications to cause weight gain, as we said earlier, the calories that are inside of these medications are not going to make you fat. It is the side effects of some medications that can make you put on weight.

If you are concerned about any medications you are currently taking and the potential for weight gain, please speak to your doctor so that you can both come up with a solution.

Do not ever stop or start any medication on your own without the advisement of a healthcare professional.

Do You Need to Track Calories In Your Meds?

You do not need to track the calories that are in medications because the calorie amount is so low that it will not make any difference in your weight loss journey in a calorie deficit.

If you have been trying to research the calorie contents of every pill you take, you can stop now. It does not matter and it is not going to ruin your progress if you do not count them.

Calorie tracking is important when it comes to the foods and drinks you consume because these are calories that you are using to fuel your body throughout the day and if you are eating or drinking calories that exceed your maintenance amount, you will gain weight in body fat being in a calorie surplus.

The calories in medications are not used by your body as fuel and are not going to impact your weight in any way.

To ease your mind, just think about all of the things that are not utilized as food that contain calories, such as :

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Lotion
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner

The list goes on and on, but you would not track the calories in any of those items because they are not used as fuel for your body. The same goes for medications!

In Summary

Medications do contain a very small amount of calories, but they do not need to be tracked because they are not going to make a difference in your calorie deficit.

If you are prescribed medication by your doctor, you should continue to take it.

Never start or stop a medication without first talking with your healthcare provider.

All you need to do is continue to track your calories from food and drinks you consume and make sure you are maintaining a calorie deficit that is 200-500 calories below your baseline maintenance calorie range, and you will surely lose weight.

If you want to learn more about how a calorie deficit works and how to create one, check out the post below.

Related Post: Create a Calorie Deficit and Eat Whatever You Want