Why Protein is Important after Bariatric Surgery

By Derek
Why Protein is Important after Bariatric Surgery Bari Life

Bariatric surgery is a big step towards better health and conquering your weight, but with it comes some big responsibility. After the procedure, you must pay close attention to what and how much you eat. One of the most important aspects of your new diet will be your protein intake. Read below to learn why protein is important after bariatric surgery.

Why Protein Is Important After Bariatric Surgery

Every cell, every muscle, and every organ in your body is made up of protein, and that protein breaks down. You have to replace it, and this becomes even more important after bariatric surgery because you are limiting how many calories you take in throughout the day. This means many of those calories need to be from protein sources.

Protein helps your body in a number of ways after your surgery. It maintains and builds muscle mass that is essential for weight loss. Because of your low-calorie diet, you are already at risk for reduced muscle mass. If your body does not receive enough protein from outside sources, it will break down even more of your muscle mass to compensate.

Protein also helps your body heal from the surgery and the wound itself. Other benefits include healthier skin, nails, and hair, as well as a higher-functioning immune system. Protein even fills you up for longer periods of time, so you will find yourself less hungry between meals.

How much protein do you need?

Your doctor or dietician will tell you exactly how much protein you need after your surgery, but there are some general guidelines that most patients can follow. Typically, the average bariatric surgery patient should have between 60 and 80 grams of protein daily. Also, patients who have biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS) may need at least 90 grams per day.

Again, it is important to talk to your doctor about your own individual needs, because too much protein can also present a problem after your surgery, especially if you are not staying hydrated. Most patients should drink between 64 and 96 ounces of water daily. Otherwise, if you are dehydrated, the protein will prevent you from absorbing other important nutrients.

Tips for Incorporating More Protein into Your Diet

  1. Eat your protein first. This way, if you fill up easily, you will ensure that you consumed your protein.
  2. Experiment with protein shakes. Shakes are a great way to add extra protein to your diet, and they come in a variety of flavors. You can also add foods like peanut butter and fruit to them to make them even more flavorful.
  3. The leaner the protein, the fewer calories it has and the more you can eat. Chicken and turkey are great lean protein sources.
  4. If you are a vegetarian, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate protein into your diet. Eggs, beans, and tofu are good sources. Protein bars and shakes made from products like soy, whey, brown rice, and other plant-based products are great, too.
  5. Keep a food diary. This way you can ensure you are getting your daily recommended amount of protein.


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  1. Hi Im out 2 years after my surgery. And both of my legs are in so much pain. and very very swollen . To the point where my legs hurt really really bad. I don’t know what to do any more to help the pain. Its to the point where I don’t or cant walk without pain. Ive talk to my doctor but nothing. My legs hurt so bad even when I sleep. Please help

  2. I had an RNY 11/19/19. I am doing well following the plan. I went to my post 2 month and saw a nutritionist and she told me to reduce to 1 shake 30 grams protein and 3 meal of protein 1/4 cup each and possibly next month i’ll drop to no shakes and three protein meals 1/3 cup each. She states my blood work looked great including the protein levels. I workout about 20 minutes 5 days a week and feel great. Another bara patient said they never heard of dropping shakes totally. I drink at least 64 ounces a day of fluids. Is what she stating about no shakes normal to follow? Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Hey Nancy! First – always follow your surgeon/dietitian/nutritionist/nurse’s advice. No one else is going to know your specific situation like they do (nor are they qualified probably!).

      That said, the general recommendations for macros are summed up here: https://www.barilife.com/bariatric-4-phase-post-op-diet/

      Protein shakes aren’t necessary – if you can get your protein with real food AND stay within your calorie goal then do that. But protein shakes are pretty much straight protein without the calories that come with other real foods like carbs and fats. Just think of your diet in terms of reaching those macronutrient goals and you’ll be fine!

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