Caloric Needs of Amputees

Do amputees need more calories or less than individuals without an amputation? It’s an important question that you should talk to your physician and prosthetist about, especially if you already are carrying extra weight or are a diabetic. It’s also a surprisingly complex question that doesn’t have an easy answer.

Your caloric intake need is based on your estimated energy expenditure, which varies based on your ideal body weight, activity level, age, height and gender. To calculate your ideal caloric need post-amputation, you will need to determine your ideal body weight post-amputation and to estimate your energy expenditure. Because everyone is different, it’s a process that may take some trial and error. Here are some things to consider when trying to determine your caloric needs.

1. How long has it been since your amputation? If your amputation has happened recently, you may need to eat more calories. Your body burns through more calories after a major surgery because it needs the extra energy to heal.
2. Are you sedentary? If you were mostly sedentary before your surgery and continue to be mostly sedentary after your amputation heals, you will need to take in less calories than you did before. This is because your overall body mass has decreased so your basal metabolic rate (BMR) has lowered. BMR is the number of calories your body burns naturally throughout the day before activity is accounted for and is generally determined by your height, weight, age, and body mass index.
3. Are you actively using a prosthesis or wheelchair? While it’s true that you have lost mass and therefore have lowered your BMR, you’ll be burning a greater number of calories by using your prosthesis or wheelchair. The balance and strength needed to get yourself around using this equipment can send your metabolism into overdrive. Some amputees need massive amounts of calories just to break even. Be sure not to overdo it calorically though. It’s always better to increase slowly and track your weight and activity level over time.

Keeping these questions in mind, you next must make sure to feed your body healthy and nutritious food. Not all calories are built the same and you can run into trouble if you’re eating nothing but junk even if you’re staying in the correct calorie range. Make sure you’re honest about your activity level before deciding on how many calories that you’ll need. If you’re an active person but have a more sedentary day or two, be sure to adjust your calorie count proportionately to your activity. Too much weight loss or weight gain can make the fit of your prosthesis to be off. Always be sure to track your weight and adjust your caloric intake when needed.