Enteral Nutrition: Types, Formulas & Calculations

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  • 0:04 Tube Feedings
  • 0:45 Types of Tubes
  • 1:25 Enteral Formulas
  • 3:42 Feeding Example
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

What is enteral nutrition? What are the specific types and formulas used to feed enterally? How do you calculate how much and how fast to give enteral nutrition? Prepare to learn all about enteral nutrition.

Tube Feedings

Enteral nutrition is used when a person cannot adequately feed him or herself due to a medical condition. These may include a coma or a stroke that limits a person's ability to chew and swallow.

Enteral nutrition involves supplying nutrients directly into the stomach or intestines (the word 'enteral' comes from the word 'entrails', which means 'intestines'). Enteral nutrition is often referred to as 'tube feeding' because a tube is used to supply a liquid formula directly into the GI tract. This liquid formula contains calories, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed for proper health and survival.

Types of Enteral Nutrition

There are several methods for supplying enteral nutrition to the GI tract. These methods include:

  • Nasogastric (NG) tube: a tube inserted down into the nose until it reaches the stomach.
  • Nasoduodenal (ND) tube: a tube inserted down into the nose until it reaches the duodenum (first part of the small intestine).
  • Nasojejunal (NJ) tube: a tube inserted down into the nose until it reaches the jejunum (the second part of the small intestine).
  • Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube: a tube surgically inserted through the abdominal wall and into the stomach.

Enteral Formulas

There are many different formulas that are used for enteral nutrition, and each formula is specific to the medical condition. For example, there are formulas for relatively healthy people, and those with cancer, diabetes, and kidney or liver disease, among other medical conditions. Most formulas will provide between 1.0-2.0 calories per mL of formula.


To perform proper calculations for enteral nutrition, a person should follow these steps:

Step 1: Calculate BMR

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories a person burns in a 24-hour period at rest. The Harris-Benedict Equation is one of the most commonly used formulas to calculate the BMR. This equation is slightly different for men and women:

  • Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years).
  • Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years).

Step 2: Calculate Total Caloric Needs

The total calories a person needs over a 24-hr period is calculated by multiplying BMR by the activity factor. The activity factor is a number used to represent how many calories a person burns through physical activity. The various activity factors are:

  • Sedentary: 1.2
  • Lightly active: 1.375
  • Moderately active: 1.55
  • Very active: 1.725

Step 3: Calculate the Amount of Formula Needed

On average, enteral formulas deliver between 1.0-2.0 calories/mL of formula. To calculate how much formula is needed, divide the total calorie needs by the amount of calories per mL of formula.

Step 4: Calculate Infusion Rate

The infusion rate refers to how much formula is administered into the tube over a specific period of time. To calculate infusion rate, divide the amount of formula needed by the amount of time (in hours) a person will be receiving the tube feedings. For example, if a person is receiving tube feedings throughout the entire day, they would divide the total formula needed by 24.

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