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Kicking your protein goals after weight loss surgery

Following any type of bariatric procedure, you will want to eat less – this is due to both structural changes within your digestive tract that restrict food volume, as well alterations in your appetite and satiety hormones induced by the surgery. You might be thinking “hurrah! This is great news!” These mechanisms explain why the surgery is so effective for weight loss. However, there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss – and ideally, for optimal long term health as well as a more toned, physical appearance the aim is fat loss over general weight loss! Dietary protein is a critical factor to shift the dial toward fat loss instead of generalised weight loss (which often includes a significant loss of muscle). Even though you might not feel like eating as much as the previous version of you, it’s important that the calories you do consume are nutrient-dense and supply your body with adequate protein. So why exactly is protein so important? And what are some simple ways to get it into your body without it feeling forced? Read on below….

All the reasons you need protein after surgery

Protein comes from the Greek word ‘prōteios’ meaning first, which alludes to the fact it is a top priority nutrient for health. It could also indicate you should consume your protein first since bariatric surgery reduces the capacity of the stomach to a very small volume, you don’t want to feel too full to eat this very important macronutrient. Proteins, which are made up of amino acid building blocks, are critical components of every cell, and make up your hormones, enzymes and other body chemicals as well as your physical structure such as hair, nails, skin, cartilage and of course muscle tissue. Really, there isn’t much protein doesn’t do. Here are just some of the reasons that adequate protein is essential:

  • Optimises the health of skin, hair, nails, bones and cartilage
  • Aids in wound healing, including healing post-surgery
  • Regulates appetite hormones and increases satiety
  • Increases the thermogenic effect of food (the amount of calories you burn WHILE you eat)

Specifically, through supporting your muscle mass (which is maximised further when you are also physically active) protein:

  • Helps your body burn fat as a fuel source
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Turns up your metabolism
  • Increases energy levels
  • Creates a toned physique

Easy and Tasty Ways to Achieve Your Protein Needs

The general recommended dietary intake for protein is 0.8 g per kilo of body weight – that is your current body weight, NOT your desired body weight. That said, this value is considered to be the bare minimum and is not optimised for physical activity, age, or recovery after surgery. In a recent paper, the European Society for Clinical Nutrition has indicated that somewhere between 1 – 1.5 g per kilo of body weight is more conducive to optimal health.1 Unfortunately it is hard enough for people to meet their recommended protein intake, even if they haven’t been through bariatric surgery. Studies show that those who have been through gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery do not meet their protein recommendations, even years after the surgery and protein supplementation can be a really effective way to help them achieve their daily protein goal.2 Key is, you don’t want to experience flavour fatigue from drinking the same protein drink every day – discover ways to experiment and get creative with your protein intake so you are inspired to consume it every day!

Here are some example recipes below that you can sip on throughout the day:

Berry-Burst Protein Shake

Berry Burst Protein Shake for Weight Loss Surgery Patients
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1/1 cup water

Post-Workout Liquid Breakfast

Post Workout Liquid Breakfast for Weight Loss Surgery Patients
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp LSA mix
  • ½ cup low fat milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup raw oats

Banana Berry Icy Shake

Banana Berry Icy Shake for Weight Loss Surgery Patients
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ medium banana
  • ½ cup frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup water

Mango & Cream Smoothie

Mango and Cream Smoothie for Weight Loss Surgery Patients
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup soymilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup water

For more creative recipe ideas, check out our 6 High-Protein Recipes for Bariatric Surgery Patients.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.