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Why Protein Matters After Weight Loss Surgery

Written By: Emma Squillace

Bariatric surgery like a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass is the most effective way for the majority of people with obesity to lose a substantial amount of weight. Not only do thousands of people each year succeed in losing weight with bariatric surgery, but they also often maintain substantial weight loss. For people who have tried to lose weight for years or decades, this may seem like an impossible goal; but for bariatric surgery patients, this is often the reality. One question our potential patients often ask us about what types of food they’ll be eating after surgery. This is a great question, because success is not achieved by “surgery OR lifestyle changes,” instead it is achieved by both.

Why food matters after surgery

The first thing to realize is that weight loss surgery is not a ‘magic bullet’. Instead, it is an incredible tool that lets you succeed from your own hard work. That’s why your food choices will play a large role in your journey, long after the day of your operation. When we talk about food choices, we want you to keep in mind that having bariatric surgery does not mean an end to enjoying food. In fact, many people tell us that although their relationship with food changed dramatically post-surgery, they came to love food in other ways like cooking new foods and creating healthy habits for their whole families.

Today we want to talk about a particularly important nutritional component after bariatric surgery: protein.

Why protein is important

Protein is the nutritional component that helps us build muscle. This is very important when you’re losing weight, because it is easy to lose weight from muscle, instead of from fat. When you’re working on improving your health, it makes sense that you’d want to maintain or build your muscle mass, at the same time as losing fat. Muscle not only helps to keep you strong, it also burns more calories than fat – so by focusing on muscle you get extra benefits during weight loss. Sometimes when people cut calories without figuring out how to increase their percentage of calories from protein, they find their muscle tone diminishes quickly. Protein also plays an important role in repairing tissue, strengthening bones, and making hormones. Finally, protein can help you feel less hungry, so not only are those calories beneficial to your body, but they can naturally help you eat less than if you’d eaten the same amount of calories in carbs.

A recent study showed that a group of overweight adults who used a reduced calorie diet with high protein, lost 18 pounds on average. More importantly, 87% of the weight they lost was fat. A control group lost only half a pound. The study was performed on people using protein shakes to ensure they consumed enough protein. At West Medical, our weight loss experts are happy to make recommendations for ways that you can get enough protein after your weight loss surgery, either through protein shakes & bars, or from choosing the right foods.

The risk of low protein after bariatric surgery

After any bariatric surgery, or non-surgical procedure like the gastric balloon or endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, you will reduce your calorie intake by a fairly significant amount. The danger here is that when you reduce your calories, you risk getting too little of important components like vitamins, minerals, and protein.  Our team will work with you to make sure you are comfortable with the right type of diet to follow before surgery, while you’re recovering, and during the long-term weight loss phase. A focus on protein will be one of our primary points. If you do not eat enough protein, your body will react by breaking down your muscles.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, you’re likely wondering how you’ll eat after your procedure. In general, we can tell you that you’ll be encouraged to focus on lean proteins, fresh produce, plenty of hydration, and a reduction in simple carbs and sugar. The foods you eat will play a substantial role in your successful weight loss journey, and West Medical is committed to seeing you through every step of the process. If you have questions about weight loss, please call us at 855-690-0565.

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