What’s more challenging after bariatric surgery? Staying hydrated or meeting your protein goals?
Well….the answer will be different for everyone. But we think you surely agree that getting every gram of protein in, is a fullI-time job where you’re the CEO, manager and staff-member (yep – you’re juggling it ALL).
In this blogpost we’re going to give you 5 simple strategies to meet your protein goals better.
Are you ready to learn how? Let’s start!
This is why you need protein after Bariatric Surgery
But first let’s explain why protein is such an important nutrient, especially after bariatric surgery.
1. You need protein to preserve your muscle mass
Did you know that protein is THE building block of your muscles? Without enough protein, you’re not only skimping on building muscles, but you’re at a much higher risk of actually losing that precious muscle mass too.
We hear you thinking: “But I really don’t want to build any muscles, do I still need my protein?”
The answer to that question is a firm YES!
The secret to preserving your muscle mass after bariatric surgery lies in 2 variables:
- Protein intake through your diet
- Having an active lifestyle with some basic strength training
But how much protein is enough?
The American Society for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery (ASBMS) recommends an intake between 60-80 grams of protein every day. Yes, you read that right – Every. Single. Day.
(full disclaimer: your protein goals may differ from the guidelines, always follow your personal guidelines given by your bariatric team).
Now let’s look at another reason why you need protein: a swift recovery.
2. You need protein for your physical recovery after surgery
After surgery, your body takes a hit. And you need time (and nutrients!) to recover from your surgical procedure.
And guess which nutrient helps you recover faster? Exactly, it’s protein again!
When you’re following the post-op diet, you still rely heavily on protein shakes and powders to get your protein in. Over time, solid foods will replace most protein shakes (don’t worry, it’s quite common to still need protein shakes to meet your goals, even years later).
3. Protein helps to curb your appetite
Protein is dense and it helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels too. This means that protein keeps you full longer AND it helps to suppress your appetite.
A high-protein diet is associated with less hunger hormones (like ghrelin for example). So not only does protein help with muscle mass maintenance and healing – it also helps to keep your cravings in check.
The “Protein Catch-22”: why it feels impossible to meet your protein goals after bariatric surgery
If you ever wondered why it’s easier to eat a bowl of chips than to finish 3 pieces of chicken, we have to give you – as we like to call it – the catch-22 of meeting your protein goals after bariatric surgery.
Let’s explain what this is.
Foods that are high in protein, are often more filling too. On one hand, this works wonders for suppressing certain cravings. Protein helps to curb your appetite this way, remember?
But on the other hand, it can also be a pitfall when your restriction is already high (if you don’t know how to make sense of your restriction, then read this next!). In other words: if you’re already struggling to eat a proper meal without feeling full after just one bite, it’s going to be so much more challenging to get that 60-80 grams of protein in every day.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now with the task to eat your protein without feeling sick to your stomach, then let’s quickly move on to 5 ways to meet your protein goals better.
Protein Strategy #1 – Know your high-protein food sources
If you’re not aware of which foods are high in protein and which ones aren’t – you’ll start off on the wrong foot.
So, here’s a quick protein list to help you decide which foods you want to add to your diet. Use this as inspiration for your own meals and snacks. Oh….and one simple hack to remember is this: every 1 ounce (28 grams) of lean protein has about 7 grams of protein. And for a more detailed list including the protein count we recommend the one that’s in our Bariatric Meal Prep Journal!
High-Protein Food Sources
1. Lean meats and poultry
- Lean (ground) beef
- Lean cuts of pork
2. Fish and seafood
- Salmon (also high in saturated fats)
- Mackerel (also high in saturated fats)
- Herring (also high in saturated fats)
3. Dairy and eggs
- Cottage cheese
- (Greek) yogurt
- Other cheese
4. Legumes and pulses
- All beans
- Black eyed peas
5. Nuts and seeds
- Hemp seed
- Chia seed
6. Soy products
- Edamame beans
- Soy beans
Protein Strategy #2 – Make protein your priority
To make sure that protein is your priority – you have to build your meals around protein. If you don’t make protein the Brad Pitt of your own bariatric movie called “What I Eat in A Day”, how are you supposed to hit that 60-80 grams consistently?
So instead of having spaghetti with meatballs, put meatballs and spaghetti on the menu. That way, you shift the focus on protein before digging in! The key is to find high-protein recipes that fit your needs.
Pick one or maybe even two high protein food sources, and build your meal from there.
A simple method to help you with building your post-op meals, is called “the bariatric plate method”. In this method your plate consists of 50% protein, 30% fruit or non-starchy vegetables and 20% complex carbs. In our free guide we explain this method in detail.
Protein Strategy #3 – Add protein to your beverage choices
It’s easy to get stuck on the idea that you can only eat your protein. But even without protein shakes, you can choose high-protein liquids to add to your daily diet too.
And if you don’t have any issues tolerating dairy products, then consider adding high-protein milks, (skimmed) milk or buttermilk to you array of beverages.
Did you know that one serving of skimmed milk has 8 grams of protein? If your daily protein goal is 80 grams, you’re already at 10% with just that one serving of milk.
Of course, water remains the most important form of hydration. But there are other options too. Talk to your dietitian to see how you can incorporate these beverages to your own diet.
Oh, and soy milk is an excellent plant-based alternative to regular dairy. With about 6 grams of protein per serving you’re well on your way!
Protein Strategy #4 – Eat your protein first before you’re too full
Another way to prioritize your protein is to eat your protein first. And this hack has everything to do with your restriction.
You see, your restriction (how much food you’re able to consume in one sitting ) can be skyrocket-high after bariatric surgery for the following reasons:
- Your surgery wasn’t too long ago
- You feel stressed
- You’re not feeling well overall
- It’s just the way your restriction is (it’s personal to your situation)
Restriction feels different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong restriction – there’s just YOUR restriction. And how much food you’re able to tolerate varies greatly between days, and sometimes between meals even.
By eating your protein first you’re making sure that you can cross that first macro off your list. If you’d eat your carbs or veggies first – you may be too full to have another bite of that chicken breast or piece of salmon.
Protein Strategy #5 – Track your meals and log your food
By keeping track of what you’re eating it’s easier to have a clear overview of your overall protein intake. Planning your meals ahead keeps you on top of your protein goals.
Also, try breaking your protein goal down into smaller goals.
For example, if your goal is 60 g of protein daily and you generally eat 6 times a day. Try aiming for 10 g of protein for each meal/snack. Or divide your overall protein intake to 15 g of protein for each main meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and 5 g for every snack.
Struggling to keep track of your protein goals? We’ve created the ULTIMATE Bariatric Planner for your journey so you don’t have to worry about losing sight of what’s really important.
Loved the tips, but what is Your Onederland exactly?
If you liked this blogpost, then we have so much more in store for your journey. Discover Your Onederland, one of the largest bariatric communities providing you with free resources and a free community platform to connect.
But there’s more!
If you’re stuck finding new recipes after bariatric surgery, then these easy-to-follow recipes are just what you need.
1. Mechanick J.I., Apovian C., Brethauer S., et al. Clinical practice guidelines for the perioperative nutritional, metabolic, and nonsurgical support of the bariatric patient: Cosponsored by American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, The Obesity Society, and American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, Obesity Medicine Association and American Society for Anesthesiologists. 2020. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2020;16:175-247.
2. Moize V., Andreu A., Rodriguez L., et al. Protein intake and lean tissue mass retention following bariatric surgery. Clin Nutr. 2013;32(4):550-555.
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