Energy requirements for critically ill patients with COVID-19

Nutr Clin Pract. 2022 Jun;37(3):594-604. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10852. Epub 2022 Mar 21.


Early reports suggested that predictive equations significantly underestimate the energy requirements of critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) based on the results of indirect calorimetry (IC) measurements. IC is the gold standard for measuring energy expenditure in critically ill patients. However, IC is not available in many institutions. If predictive equations significantly underestimate energy requirements in severe COVID-19, this increases the risk of underfeeding and malnutrition, which is associated with poorer clinical outcomes. As such, the purpose of this narrative review is to summarize and synthesize evidence comparing measured resting energy expenditure via IC with predicted resting energy expenditure determined via commonly used predictive equations in adult critically ill patients with COVID-19. Five articles met the inclusion criteria for this review. Their results suggest that many critically ill patients with COVID-19 are in a hypermetabolic state, which is underestimated by commonly used predictive equations in the intensive care unit (ICU) setting. In nonobese patients, energy expenditure appears to progressively increase over the course of ICU admission, peaking at week 3. The metabolic response pattern in patients with obesity is unclear because of conflicting findings. Based on limited evidence published thus far, the most accurate predictive equations appear to be the Penn State equations; however, they still had poor individual accuracy overall, which increases the risk of underfeeding or overfeeding and, as such, renders the equations an unsuitable alternative to IC.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; critical illness; energy requirements; indirect calorimetry; nutrition support.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Calorimetry, Indirect / methods
  • Critical Illness* / therapy
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Nutritional Requirements