Protein Guidelines After Bariatric Surgery

Protein is an essential part of any diet, especially after bariatric surgery. However, there are some guidelines to follow regarding how much protein you need after weight-loss surgery as well as which proteins are the best to consume. Here’s everything you need to know about how much protein you need after bariatric surgery.

What is protein, and why should I eat it?

The word protein comes from the Greek word “proteios,” which literally means “first place, or primary.” We store carbohydrates and fats in the body, but the same cannot be said about protein. This is why we need to consume a certain amount of protein every day to provide our body with what it needs. After bariatric surgery published nutrition guidelines suggest a minimum of 60 grams per day.

Almost every cell in the body requires amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to function. These amino acids are needed to support muscle mass and provide structure to tissues and cells, and they have been found to help with appetite regulation.

Do I really need to worry about how much protein I eat after bariatric surgery?

Protein increases satiety, or the feeling of satisfaction after eating a meal. It also helps to spare your muscle as you’re losing weight, which can help keep your metabolism firing. When you are in a rapid weight-loss phase, like you are after you’ve had bariatric surgery, you are losing weight from both muscle mass and fat mass. Eating adequate protein each day after surgery can help protect your body from losing too much muscle and not enough fat.

When you lose weight, ideally you want to lose most of your body weight from fat and keep as much muscle as you can. Without consuming enough protein each day, your body is unable to do this, and you can lose too much muscle mass instead of fat mass.

Because of these things, having adequate protein intake each day can help you lose weight and keep the weight off after weight-loss surgery.

How much protein do I need each day after surgery?

The daily recommended intake for protein after surgery varies based on several factors including your age, gender, surgery type, and activity level. Most patients are instructed to consume 60-120 grams of protein per day after surgery. Research indicates that many patients do not get enough protein on a daily basis.[1]

How close are you to this goal? Tracking your protein intake everyday through an app will allow you to easily see how much protein you are taking in each day.

How can I eat at least 60 grams of protein each day?

Think about your daily intake…Do you consume a quality protein source (meat, pork, poultry, fish/seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu/soy products, beans) at each meal? If you only eat three meals per day, you will need to eat at least 20 grams of protein with each meal. That would look like 3 eggs, 3 oz. of chicken (the size of a deck of cards), or 6 oz. (1 ½ small containers) of Greek yogurt.

Tracking your food and supplement intake for a few days can easily allow you to see how many grams of protein you are consuming. Download Baritastic now and start tracking today!

If you find that you don’t consume at least 60 grams of protein each day, know that you’re not alone. Many people find that even with eating protein at each meal, they do not meet their necessary protein intake after bariatric surgery.[2] Protein supplements can help you achieve your protein goal!

Supplemental protein options after bariatric surgery

Supplemental protein options come in a variety of flavors. They can be sourced from many different ingredients including pea, egg white, soy, and whey. Many patients and health care providers suggest whey protein isolates as a supplemental protein source; it contains all essential amino acids to help support muscle growth.

However, some products are plant-based for people who prefer plant-sourced protein. There are also “protein shots” or 1 oz. liquid protein that provide 16 grams of protein in a quick shot. Many people find these convenient and easy to help them reach their daily protein goal of 60 grams.

How to use supplemental protein in recipes

Protein powders can also be used to increase the amount of protein in a food-based meal, like these high-protein pancakes!

Protein Pancakes

Protein Pancakes

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl combine first 3 ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, beat eggs and add milk.
  3. Add eggs and milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.
  4. Heat skillet or electric griddle to medium; once hot, add ¼ cup of pancake mix. Cook on first side for 3 minutes until able to flip; flip and cook an additional minute.
  • Yields: 4 pancakes Serving size: 2 pancakes
  • Nutrient totals per serving:
    • [Calories: 155, protein: 21 g, fiber: 3 g, carbohydrate: 6 g, added sugar 1 g, fat: 2 g]

Conclusion

One of the most important nutrition strategies after surgery is to make sure you are getting at least 60 grams of protein every day, regardless of the source of protein (food or supplement). This is why tracking your daily nutrition intake at least a few times per week is such a helpful strategy for long-term success after bariatric surgery.


[1]. Andreu A et al. Protein intake, body composition, and protein status following bariatric surgery. Obes Surg. 2010;20(11):1509-1515.

[2]. Beckman L et al. Nutritional implications of bariatric surgery and the role of registered dietitians. Jour of AND. 2013;113(3).

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