After undergoing bariatric surgery, the most important thing you will have to consider is your diet, of course. Your diet will change quite a bit from what it was before surgery, and every bite should count! Protein is a very important nutrient particularly after bariatric surgery.
The importance of protein
So why is protein so important? Protein is one of 3 necessary macronutrients, (the other two being fat and carbohydrates.) Protein is needed by every cell in your body and is an important component of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Adequate dietary protein helps build and maintain muscle mass. This is especially important when losing weight, and more so when losing rapid or significant amounts of weight as would occur after bariatric surgery. You want to lose fat, not muscle and adequate protein is essential to prevent loss of muscle during weight loss. Protein is important for satiety which means it helps keep you feeling full longer so that you eat less and thereby promotes healthy weight loss as well. IT is also necessary to help repair muscle and other tissues. Protein aids in wound healing which is another important consideration after bariatric surgery of course. In addition, protein has many other benefits for the body.
Protein intake after bariatric surgery
Of course not all “bariatric surgeries” are the same. But they all warrant a higher than usual amount of protein in the diet. The recommended amount of protein after bariatric surgery is higher than for the average person or even the average person trying to lose weight. Guidelines suggest a minimal protein intake of 60 g/d and up to 1.5 g/kg ideal weight per day. This is typically on the average of 80-100 grams of protein daily. Your doctor may recommend a bit more or a bit less based on your particular needs, but for most, those guidelines are a good number to shoot for.
How to get more protein into your diet: special considerations after bariatric surgery
Bariatric surgery leaves you feeling full easily and not being able to eat much in one sitting, especially in the early months just after surgery. And at first, you’ll need mostly liquid and soft forms of protein. Many major high protein foods, like steak, are not recommended soon after bariatric surgery. So how do you make sure you can fit enough protein into your diet? Protein shakes or powdered protein drink supplements are perfect for the early stage. Cottage cheese and yogurt are also good, soft sources of protein. Further down the timeline, go for softer meats like ground beef, ground chicken, or ground turkey, or fish, as well as other soft proteins like beans and lentils. Spread out your protein throughout the day, too. Nuts, eggs, protein bars, and high protein veggies are good snackable items. Using a protein supplement is probably something you’ll find yourself doing most days to help ensure adequate protein intake. The best protein supplement is one that you enjoy the taste of, and preferably one without added unnecessary, unhealthy fillers.
Of course, follow your doctor’s advice for the best results. They know your particular situation including surgery type and can best advise you. Using these guidelines and your doctor’s advice should help you get through the bariatric surgery transition smoothly!