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Why Protein is Important After Bariatric Surgery


By Dr. Dieter Pohl

If you recently had weight loss surgery, then you’re probably aware of the dietary changes you need to commit to after surgery. You might be wondering, “Why do I have to eat so much protein?”. Eating enough protein is a necessary part of your recovery. Here’s why protein is important in your diet following bariatric surgery.

Importance of Protein After Bariatric Surgery

After having weight loss surgery, it’s extremely important to get enough protein in your diet. Protein is necessary to construct almost every part of our bodies, as it is crucial for rebuilding muscle and tissue. If you fail to eat enough protein, your body does not have the necessary nutrients to rebuild itself. It’s recommended for those who have just had weight loss surgery to have at least 60 grams of protein every day although your doctor or dietitian may recommend more. Protein is necessary in your diet after weight loss surgery to maintain healthy muscles and help keep your hair and nails strong. Protein helps with healing after surgery. Although eating a lot of protein may seem like a daunting task to one with a smaller stomach, consuming protein regularly in your diet helps maintain your body’s lean muscle mass. You eventually want to lose body fat but preserve lean muscle. Protein foods can also make you feel fuller for longer.

What to Eat After Surgery

For the first few weeks after surgery, you will get most of your protein from protein shakes or powder. You will also be able to drink clear liquids, like broth, tea, water, and some diet, non-carbonated drinks. The next phase includes blenderized or pureed foods. You can introduce various types of pureed foods, like applesauce or other pureed fruit, yogurt (without any pieces of fruit), blended soups, pureed beans, and other pureed foods.  If you can’t get enough protein from these foods, you can supplement with protein shakes or powder. Eventually, you will be able to eat protein foods like meat, cheese, eggs, chicken, fish, beans and tofu as you add solid foods back into your diet. Everyone is different in how quickly they progress through this phase. You can always add protein powder to your meals if you are unable to reach your protein goal with food alone. In the first few months after surgery, it’s important to eat the protein food in your meal before other foods so you don’t get full before eating your protein. While vegetables, fruits, and healthy carbohydrates are still necessary in one’s diet, the priority is protein. Make sure you have a protein with every meal after weight loss surgery. There are lean meat choices like chicken or turkey that are low in calories and offer good nutrition.

How to Manage Eating Enough Protein

The dietary choices you make after weight loss surgery are critical for your success. Many patients do well in the first few months after surgery. Give yourself the necessary time to make these changes. Encourage family and friends to support you. With the right tools and support, you can change your diet and lifestyle for the long term. Try to reach your protein goals every day. Protein doesn’t have to be just meat and fish. You can incorporate protein drinks,  plant-based protein sources, such as tofu and soybeans, and dairy products.  Dairy products are a great source of protein and can help you feel fuller for longer. Protein is extremely important after weight loss surgery since it is necessary for healthy cells, tissue, and organ function in every part of the body.

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