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Why Protein is Important Before and After Weight Loss Surgery

If you haven’t yet had your bariatric surgery, it’s important to prepare yourself for the process, and Lori Rosenthal, a registered dietician specializing in weight loss and bariatric issues suggests the following. “You need to create good habits that you’ll follow after your surgery. To be realistic, you need to start small, eating three small meals a day with protein in each one.” After your surgery, protein shakes will provide nutrition. “If,” Lori says, “one protein shake doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps makes you nauseous, then try another. There are lots of choices and lots of flavors, so there is no reason to suffer.”

Once you can begin adding solid foods back into your diet, post-surgery, Lori points out that good pre-surgery protein habits can come in handy. And, the main rule? Eat protein first.

Importance of protein in weight loss

  • Muscles are made up largely of protein.
  • The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism.
  • The higher your metabolism, the more fat your body burns, even while you’re at rest.
  • Lean muscles – pound for pound – burn 25 times more calories than fat.

Looking at this another way:

  • One pound of muscle can burn 30 to 50 calories per day – 350 to 500 per week.
  • One pound of fat can burn only 2 calories a day – 14 per week.

Plus, protein helps to curb hunger and therefore to reduce the temptation to snack. One amino acid that makes up protein – tryptophan – actually works in the satiety (hunger fulfillment) part of your brain.

Importance of protein after bariatric surgery

The human body needs protein to maintain itself, with every single cell in the body having some protein, and muscles being comprised largely of protein. Plus, substances that manage bodily functions – substances such as hormones and enzymes – are made up of protein, and protein also helps form blood cells, plus antibodies that provide protection from infection and illness. The word “protein” itself means “of first importance” and protein is the most important nutrient in the bariatric diet (and the most important substance overall other than water). After your surgery, protein:

  • Assists in wound healing by building and repairing skin, muscle and major organs
  • Speeds up fat burning and supports your natural metabolism so you can lose weight more quickly; the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the more fat calories you burn
  • Maintains your lean body mass; by eating protein, you preserve your muscle tissue, causing your metabolism to burn fat for energy
  • Minimizes hair loss
  • Helps to keep hair, skin, bones and nails healthy

Protein recommendations, post-bariatric surgery

Protein intake depends upon the recommendations of your surgeon. General guidelines are as follows:

  • Post-surgery intake varies from 55 to 100+ grams, depending upon individual needs and medical recommendations
  • Women typically need a minimum of 50 to 60 grams
  • Men typically need a minimum of 60 to 70 grams

Preferred sources of protein include:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs or Egg Beaters
  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Low fat cheese
  • Skim milk
  • Beans and lentils

Please refer to the dietary charts to see recommended amounts of protein sources and grams of protein provided by each. Protein sources that can difficult to digest, post-surgery, include:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Veal

Because it is difficult to get enough protein into your diet after surgery, ask your doctor how to add liquid protein supplements such as shakes, cold drinks, hot drinks, soups and puddings into your diet.

More about proteins

Your body is continually making new proteins, with thousands of different types of protein making up your body. The building blocks of protein – amino acids – aren’t stored in your body like fat is, so you need to take in protein through food each day. Amino acid facts:

  • Your body can make 13 amino acids
  • Nine amino acids are considered to be “essential,” which means that they must come from food sources

Types of protein sources:

  • Complete: these contain all of the essential amino acids needed for your body to make new protein:
  • Animal proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products
  • Incomplete: one or more essential amino acid is missing:
  • Vegetable/plant proteins

Plant proteins should be used together with animal protein sources to provide you with all of the essential amino acids you need.

Your protein plan

Immediately after your bariatric surgery, your surgeon will have you on liquid protein supplements during the healing process. Once you begin adding solid foods back to your diet, protein shakes supplement your nutritional needs. Once you are fully on a solid diet again, some surgeons recommend ongoing supplementation for a lifetime, or they add supplementation back in for periods of time when your nutritional needs are not being met with food sources only.

Check with your surgeon for specifics.

Order the protein supplements that you need for a healthy diet from Bariatric Choice, the leading source of Bariatric Nutrition.

Next: Read more on Protein for Bariatric Surgery Patients here.