Protein is of critical importance for everyone, even more so for bariatric patients. Protein helps build lean muscle, and it fuels the body with essential amino acids. These amino acids perform several important bodily functions, including providing the body with energy, bolstering the immune system, supporting a healthy metabolism, and transporting nutrients through the body.
Proteins are the building blocks to sustain and develop lean muscle. Animal sources are complete proteins, as they provide all nine essential amino acids. Proteins sourced from plants aren’t complete, but vegetarians and vegans can combine protein sources to ensure they have all the amino acids their body needs. The body can’t synthesize these amino acids, so they have to come from food.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The general rule of thumb is 0.8g/kg of body weight. However, bariatric patients have different nutritional needs. Bariatric patients need a lot of protein to develop lean muscle, but a high protein intake is also critical to prevent muscle wasting. You will lose a significant amount of weight in a relatively short period of time after bariatric surgery, and the body doesn’t discriminate between fat and muscle tissue during weight loss.
In the early stages of recovery, bariatric patients aim to consume 40g of protein per day. Once they’re able to eat a variety of solid foods, this increases to 60g-80g per day. Many people overestimate how much protein they’re eating and may fall short of their nutritional needs. If you’re experiencing the signs below after weight loss surgery, you likely need to add more protein to your diet.
- Loss of muscle. Rapid weight loss isn’t the only thing that affects muscle mass. The body also loses muscle tone and definition with age. If you feel like you’re losing some of your strength, your muscles may not have enough protein to sustain themselves.
- Frequent injuries. Bones need more than calcium to remain strong and healthy. Protein supports bone strength. If you don’t consume enough protein, the body will pull it from muscle tissue. If bone health is too compromised, you may experience stress fractures.
- Longer heal times. The body needs a sufficient supply of protein to repair wounds and tend to injuries. Following an injury, the body needs more protein than usual to facilitate recovery. If your injuries are taking too long to heal, you may need to increase your protein.
- Diminished immune system. The immune system uses protein to build the antibodies that defend the body against bacteria and viruses. If you notice you’re sick more often than usual, insufficient protein may be the cause.
- Nail and hair issues. When the body is in a protein-deficient state, it shifts its focus to conserve as much protein as possible. Once this happens, nails can become brittle and break often. Hair may lose its shine and stop growing.
- Fatigue. Protein helps regulate the release of glucose, which helps prevent sugar spikes after eating. Without enough protein, your blood sugar may spike early in the day and leave you feeling fatigued by mid-afternoon. Bariatric patients should always eat their protein first to avoid insufficient protein fatigue.
- Constant hunger and snacking. Proteins digest much slower than carbohydrates, which helps you feel full for longer. Adding protein to every meal and snack can help cut down on hunger cravings and improve satiety.
Protein is a significant component of the bariatric diet, and it’s easy to fall short of your protein needs. Tracking your food with a nutrition app can give you better insight into your typical protein consumption. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your questions about weight loss surgery.