After Bariatric Surgery Protein Guide

By Susan Mitchell, PhD, RDN, FAND

This page contains some affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you purchase. However, none of the fees have been increased to compensate me. In fact, often I receive special discounts to pass on to you. 

Does Protein Help Prevent Weight Regain?

After bariatric surgery protein should be at the top of your priority list. It helps you heal wounds, form enzymes and hormones, and works to build and maintain muscles. Fat free mass or muscle mass is the calorie burning machine in the body which improves body composition resulting in more muscle mass and less body fat mass. Think of it this way, protein helps to keep your metabolism stoked. Another bonus: protein keeps you feeling full ultimately helping to prevent that dreaded weight regain. 
Your smartest strategy for success is to make protein THE priority in meals and snacks. By eating nutrient-dense foods packed with protein, you can make sure that your body is getting everything it needs to rock your new lifestyle and help prevent weight regain. 
So what is a nutrient-dense food exactly? Nutrient-dense foods have relatively high amounts of nutrients meaning vitamins and minerals compared to their calories. So something like an apple is nutrient-dense because it provides a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for a low amount of calories while something like chips are calorie-dense because they provide basically zero nutrition for a lot of calories. 
For more information listen to Bariatric Surgery Success EP 31 Does Protein Help Prevent Weight Regain?

Do you know how many grams of protein you need daily?

The recommendation for protein is between 60-120 grams of high quality protein per day depending on your daily activity level and workouts.

What is a complete protein or high quality protein? 

Proteins are made up of amino acids...think of them like LEGO building blocks. There are nine amino acids that your body needs from your diet because the body cannot make them. These nine are called essential amino acids and can be found in what’s called complete, high quality protein sources such as meats, poultry, fish, diary, eggs. Quinoa, and soybeans are complete planted-based protein sources in that they contain all nine essential amino acids in the amounts needed by the body. 

You probably know of amino acids for their role in making and repairing muscle. But these aminos do a lot more in the body from hormone production and the absorption of calcium to roles in immune function, sleep-wake cycles and sexual function.

For more information listen to Bariatric Surgery Success EP 48 Is Pea Protein a Smart Choice after Bariatric Surgery?

How do I choose the best protein powder?

Protein powder is an excellent way to help hit your daily protein target when eating enough protein thru food is just not happening.


For more information listen to Bariatric Surgery Success EP 50 The Best Protein Powder for Bariatric Surgery
Soy, eggs, whey, and casein are all complete proteins with a high PDCAA score. The highest score is 100 which all of these have. If you’ve listened to some of the other podcasts where I’m talking about protein, you may recall that PDCAA means Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid score which measures protein quality. A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids. It isn’t missing, or low in any one of the nine. Essential amino acid means that it cannot be made by your body and must be taken in thru food.
Depending on dietary or religious preferences, soy protein, made from ground soybeans, is a quality complete protein. It’s a good choice if you prefer a plant-based protein. Soy, egg, whey and casein all taste a little different so it comes down to your personal preference.
The protein in milk is 80% casein and 20% whey. Whey is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids and is digested faster than casein. Just like egg or soy protein powder, it isn’t missing or low in any one of the nine essential amino acids.
Whey powder comes in several forms: whey concentrates, whey isolates and whey hydrolysates. In whey concentrate the water has been removed but the remaining product usually still contains lactose, fat and cholesterol which are naturally found in whey. Whey protein isolates usually have a little more protein but less lactose, fat and cholesterol than whey concentrates. Whey hydrolysates are pre-digested and assimilate into the body more quickly. Isolates and hydrolysates are typically more costly. 
Most containers just say whey protein on the front. How do you know what’s what? Look at the ingredient label. The ingredients go in descending order from most to least. The first words should be whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate, the two most common forms. It’s up to you which you purchase. 
Because whey comes from milk, anyone who is truly allergic to milk proteins should avoid whey. A milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance. They’re two different things. Because the lactose level is low in whey concentrate and lower in whey isolate, they often work for lactose intolerance.
Casein is also a complete protein in milk. Studies suggest that since casein is absorbed more slowly than whey and releases amino acids over time, it may be beneficial to consume before bed. This will supply protein through the night. A combination of whey and casein works well too.
Make sure your whey protein doesn’t have a lot of other added ingredients that you probably don’t need like herbs, coffee or guarana, and vitamins and minerals which typically are not added in the amounts specific to bariatric surgery. Generally the fewer ingredients the lower the cost too.
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ProCare Health Whey Isolate Protein Powder

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  • 26g of whey isolate protein per serving
  • two flavors: chocolate and vanilla
  • 30 servings per bag
  • also available in singer serve packets