After any surgery or injury comes the recovery period, and that period can be full of questions. Maybe you’re lying in bed Googling “what is a wound healing diet?” or “do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus?” After all, we all want to get back to normal as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Today, we will attempt to answer some of those wound healing questions.
It can be complicated to answer the question: “Do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus?” The short answer is that during recovery, the nutritional demands your body makes, particularly for protein, go up - not down.
Even though your movement may be limited in recovery, it’s actually recommended to consume more calories than you would have before surgery; as part of a balanced diet. If you’re looking to boost your body’s ability to repair itself, the best way may be through effective nutrition.
But what does good post-op nutrition look like? Does healing burn calories at all? If so, how many calories are burned healing from surgery?
Let’s take a look at how many calories your body burns while healing, and how many calories you should be eating to assist it. Then we will once and for all answer the question: “Do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus?”
Rest and recovery is hard work
Let’s paint a more complete picture of your own body’s role in healing so you can answer the question: “Do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus?”
To understand the rate of calories burned healing from surgery, it’s important to dispel a common myth about rest.
Rest is vital after surgery or injury. Your doctor or surgeon will no doubt have already made you aware of that. You do your body no favors by forcing yourself back to work before you’re fully recovered.
Just because you’re comfortable in bed, that doesn’t mean your body isn’t doing anything. The truth is quite the opposite. Your body is hard at work prioritizing your recovery.
Does healing burn calories? Absolutely.
Calories that were previously spent on movement are now calories burned healing from surgery or injury. On the outside you may look like you are resting, but on the inside your body is as hard at work as ever. And you know what they say; it’s what’s on the inside that counts!
Why does healing burn calories?
Just as a doctor stitches a wound back together, your body is slowly doing the same during its healing process. The difference, of course, is that your body’s stitches take place on a microscopic level.
Instead of a handful of stitches, we’re talking about thousands of cellular connections. These connections bring together not just damaged skin, but muscle, ligaments, blood vessels, and even bone cells.
The cost of healing is just time and calories. The rate of calories burned healing from surgery or injury is higher than the rate of calories burned on a normal day. This is even when we take into account the new limited mobility..
With this in mind, the answer to the question: “Do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus?” starts to become clearer.
But to truly answer if wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus, you need to know what a caloric surplus is.
Counting the calories
Now that you’re aware that the rate of calories burned healing from surgery is higher than a regular day, what changes should you be making to your post surgery diet? And, what is a caloric surplus, exactly?
A caloric surplus is when an individual deliberately ingests more calories than their body burns during a day.
It’s not just exercise and movement that burns calories. Breathing, thinking, and even sleeping burn calories too! Even digesting calories burns calories (although not as many as it generates, of course).
Energy is at the heart of everything your body does, which is why nutrition is so important.
How many calories constitute a caloric surplus?
Because every person’s body is different, your nutritional needs after surgery or injury will depend on a variety of factors. The two most important factors are weight and the seriousness of your injury. Age and biological gender can also play a role.
As a rough starting point, a recovering patient will require 15-20 calories per day for each pound they weigh. If you prefer to weigh yourself in grams that equates to 37-50 calories per day per kilogram.
This means a woman with average weight should be looking for 2500 calories per day from her diet while recovering. A man with average weight should aim for 3400 calories per day while recovering.
If you are unsure what a caloric surplus looks like for you, please ask your doctor or nutritionist how many calories you should be consuming for optimal wound healing.
How does a caloric surplus compare to a regular calorie recommendation?
In day-to-day life, 2200 calories is generally considered a suitable caloric intake for the average woman. So, upgrading to a 2500 daily calorie intake is an increase of 14%.
For the average man, the general caloric intake for weight maintenance is 2800 calories per day. Raising this to 3400 calories is a daily increase of 21%.
So now you know what a caloric surplus is, and understand how to calculate a caloric surplus for yourself based on your weight - but do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus? Let’s look into the science behind an increased calorie count and wound healing.
Do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus?
If you take on more calories than you need for survival, your body has increased options on how to use them. Your body will use the nutrients you give it to keep it functioning normally first, and put the surplus to good use building muscle tissue when paired with exercise.
Athletes pay attention to caloric surpluses and will deliberately take on extra protein than their base needs if they’re looking to build muscle mass.
A surplus of protein paired with effective exercise targets muscular areas for growth and reinforcement - increasing speed, strength, and resistance.
These same principles can be applied to healing after a surgery of injury. It’s possible for wounds to heal faster in a caloric surplus if you are eating the right nutrition.
But you may be wondering - even if wounds do heal faster in a caloric surplus, will it make me gain weight?
Will I gain weight after surgery?
It’s much more difficult than you might think to gain weight after surgery.
We constantly learn that exercise helps control our weight, so it’s easy to think that the pounds will mount up with each sedentary day of recovery.
Thankfully, this fear doesn’t match up to reality.
Recovery can have even higher caloric demands on your body than an intense workout schedule. The amount of hard work during post surgery recovery places significant nutritional demands on an individual.
Having a caloric surplus is fueling your recovery process, it’s not contributing to weight gain. That means you can focus completely on how wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus, and forget the worries of weight gain.
What happens if I diet post-op?
Nutrition during recovery is a two way street. If you reduce your calorie intake while recovering, the most likely outcome is that you will slow down your recovery time.
Being malnourished during injury means your cells do not have the resources for collagen wound healing, and injuries will be slow to progress out of irritable inflammation stages.
In extreme cases, the wound will not heal at all.
So you know you’re aiming for a caloric surplus, but if wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus, does that mean you can eat anything you want!?
Before you plan a Post-Op Pizza Party…
A caloric surplus is a great starting point for your post-op diet, but not all calories are created equal. Eating excessive amounts of junk food, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates might harm your recovery more than they help.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, consult with a nutritionist during recovery to ensure you’re getting adequate protein and nutrients to promote wound healing.
For a better understanding of the nutrition and calories your body demands during healing, let’s look at what nutrients are best for wounds - and exactly how they help your body.
The best foods and nutrients for wound healing
Do wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus? Yes, they absolutely can, but only if you’re eating a range of the nutrients and vitamins beneficial for wound healing, such as:
healing, musculoskeletal and skin tissue repair and regrowth
fish, eggs, meat, cheese, soy products, nuts and legumes, protein (collagen) supplements
1.5g/kg body weight
energy for healing, prevention of protein/muscle breakdown
fruit & vegetables, legumes, bread, cereals, rice, pasta, grains
absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, immune response, energy
oily foods (e.g., olive, canola, sunflower), nuts, seeds, avocado, salad dressings, margarine, butter
maintaining and building bones, muscle contraction
milk, cheese, yogurt, soy products, turnip and mustard greens, collards, kale, broccoli, almonds
forming hemoglobin and transporting oxygen
**best when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods
liver, lean red meat, poultry, fish, iron-fortified cereals, legumes, dark leafy greens, dried fruit
helps in wound healing, component of enzymes
meat, liver, eggs, oysters and other seafood
helps in wound healing and growth, skin maintenance
carrots, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, milk, cheese, liver, egg yolks
helps in bone healing and calcium absorption
fortified milk and cereals, butter, margarine, liver, fatty fish, egg yolks
(do NOT take supplements 7-10 days before surgery)
vegetable oils (e.g., corn or sunflower), beef liver, milk, eggs, butter, leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals
helps wound healing response and blood clotting
Leafy green vegetables, fatty fish, liver, vegetable oils
building connective tissue, essential nutrient for healing, cofactor for collagen protein absorption
citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, greens, raw cabbage, melon
While all of the foods and vitamins on this chart are beneficial for wound healing, the best thing to eat to help wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus is protein.
Put protein first
When designing a wound healing diet, protein is the best place to start. Present in all of your cells, protein is the essential structural building block that your body relies upon.
An injury is a disruption to the protein structure of the body, and collagen protein is a leading material in the rebuilding effort your body is undertaking.
Our original question might have been: Do wounds heal faster during a caloric surplus? While the answer is usually yes, the REAL answer is - wounds heal faster in a protein surplus.
In other words, wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus if you are getting adequate protein intake.
But are some types of protein better for wound healing than others?
Because your body needs collagen fibrils to stitch itself back together, the best bet to help wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus may be a high-quality collagen supplement.
The best protein supplement to heal wounds faster
Of all the ways to add extra protein to your diet, a liquid protein supplement is the fastest and most convenient - and a collagen protein wound healing supplement is a priority.
ProT Gold collagen products are nano-hydrolyzed for easy digestion and designed to be absorbed completely in just 15 minutes. They are also certified medical-grade, and trusted for use in daily nutrition in thousands of medical facilities across the United States.
Whether you’re preparing for surgery, or hoping to help wounds heal faster in a caloric surplus after an injury or operation, consider liquid collagen to get yourself back on your feet.