How Much Protein Do I Need After Bariatric Surgery?
Thanks to the internet, popular health media, and the rise of wellness bloggers, today most people possess a vague awareness of ‘protein’ and its benefits for health. Protein is a compilation of individual amino acid units that can be configured in multiple ways to play a role in almost every function within the body. It is needed to help the immune system to fight infection, to form the enzymes needed for metabolism, to make satiety signaling molecules (i.e. messengers that tell the brain you are full), and of course, to build muscle mass. It is everywhere within the body. Despite this, there are several amino acids the body cannot synthesis itself and therefore must be obtained from the diet in the form or dietary protein. The question becomes then, how much protein do you actually need each day, in order to reap these benefits?
The Protein Equation
Generally speaking, most adults are recommended to consume approximately for 0.8 grams (g) protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight as a miminum (for example, this equates to 64 g per day for an 80 kg adult).1 That said, the daily recommended intake for protein after surgery increases based on several factors including your age, gender, surgery type, and activity level (i.e. the older you are, the more activity you do the greater your requirements are). This means some patients may be best to consume closer to 1.5 g of protein per kilo of body weight (note this is based on current body weight, not desired body weight). Most patients are instructed to consume 60-120 g of protein per day after surgery, however research indicates that many patients do not get enough protein on a daily basis.2 So, how close are you to this goal?
How can you get there?
Think about your daily intake… Do you consume a quality protein source such as meat, pork, poultry, fish / seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu / soy products and/or beans at each meal? Tracking your food and supplement intake for a few days can easily allow you to see how many grams of protein you are consuming. Remember, a 200 g steak does not mean 200 g of protein – it is made up of other components as well and therefore might only provide 30-60 g of pure protein. The table below gives you an indication different dietary protein servings that would give your approximately 30 g of protein.
Table 1: Servings of dietary protein that will provide roughly 30 g protein3
|135 g||Tuna (canned)|
|125 g||Salmon (cooked)|
|110 g||Chicken Breast (cooked)|
|100 g||Beef Steak (lean, cooked)|
|110 g||Lamb (lean, cooked)|
|250 g||Tofu (firm)|
|1.5 serves||Either BariNutrics™ Protein or Dairy Free Protein*|
* each serve provides roughly 20 g of protein
Many people find that even with eating protein at each meal they do not meet their necessary protein intake after bariatric surgery.4 Protein supplements can help you achieve your protein goal! They are easy to digest, can be taken in small serving sizes, or can be mixed into recipes to give your meal a protein boost!
Which protein should I take?
Protein supplements are available everywhere. They come in a variety of flavours, from a variety of sources, and in a variety of prices, so how do you choose one that is right for you? At BariNutrics™ we strive to use researched sources of protein such as whey and soy as they are easily digested by the body and mix with natural flavours and sweeteners avoiding many of the unnecessary chemicals found in other protein formulations. Both whey and soy are known as ‘complete’ proteins providing the gamut of essential amino acids you need for optimal health.
Why would I go with whey?
Whey protein isolates, concentrates, and hydrolysates are originally sourced from dairy, but undergo many steps during their processing to remove the whey protein from the milk. The benefit of this processing means that they are lactose-free, so even those who suffer from lactose intolerance can enjoy whey protein isolates/concentrates without physical discomfort. At BariNutrics™ we use a combination of whey protein isolate and concentrate. Isolate is a form of straight protein with one of the highest biological values – meaning it is readily taken up and utilised by the body. Yet, whey protein concentrate maintains a small proportion of fat and carbohydrate to help improve satiety and manage appetite. Whey protein is also naturally high in in in certain immunoglobulins – protein compounds that play an important role in immune health.
What if I am allergic to dairy?
While lactose-intolerant patients can generally enjoy whey without problem, for individuals with a true dairy allergy (i.e. they are allergic to the casein protein within dairy) then whey protein is may be best avoided. Instead, soy protein such as that found in the BariNutrics™ Dairy Free Protein, is a great tasting alternative – again offering a complete protein source. Data directly comparing different protein sources has found that whey and soy ingestion produce similar lean body (muscle) mass increases. Whey protein has a greater concentration of the amino acid leucine than soy, while soy has a greater concentration of glutamine. Both leucine and glutamine are known as branch chain amino-acids that are particular important for maintaining muscle mass amongst other benefits. If you have no problems with dairy allergy, then you may also choose to swap between the Vanilla and Chocolate protein powders to give you a greater choice of flavours (see here for recipes using both of these protein powders).
Consuming your recommended level of protein each day can be challenging, but not impossible!
- Track your food intake for a few days and record how many grams of protein you take in each day. You can also use tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal or Calorie Counter Pro to easily calculate your daily macronutrient intake.
- If your protein intake falls below the recommended level, be sure to have a quality protein source with each meal and consider adding a protein supplement every day to help you meet your protein goals
- If you are still unsure about what is best for you, talk to your healthcare provider who can assess your unique needs.
- Lonnie M, et al. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 16;10(3):360.
- Andreu A, Moize V, Rodriguez L, et al. Protein intake, body composition, and protein status following bariatric surgery. Obes Surg. 2010;20(11):1509-15
- FSANZ. NUTTAB Australian Food Composition tables: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/afcd/Pages/foodsbynutrientsearch.aspx?nutrientID=PROT
- Beckman L, Earthman, C. Nutritional Implications of Bariatric Surgery and the Role of Registered Dietitians. Jour of AND. 2013;Volume 113;Number 3.