Why do I need protein after WLS?
The main reason that we focus so much on protein after bariatric surgery is that your body needs a certain amount each day to stay healthy. Among other things, protein is used as a main building block in your body. It’s not just your muscles that need it but your organs, hormones, immune systems, connective tissues and more need protein. Before surgery, it’s not an issue to get enough since portions are bigger. After surgery, portions are so small in the beginning that it’s hard for many to get the protein they need. This is partly why people feel so tired in the first few months after surgery.
What has protein?
Animal Based Protein: Animal sources of protein (meats, dairy, eggs) tend to be the highest in protein per volume which matters a lot when portions are small. Good sources of protein from animal sources include:
- Beef and lamb
- Chicken and Turkey
- Fish and Shellfish
- Cottage cheese
- Dairy or egg-based protein bars or drinks
Plant Based Protein: Plant sources of protein (legumes, nuts, veggies) are generally lower in protein than animal-based sources, but often contain a lot of fiber that is also important after surgery WLS. Something to keep in mind with plant-based proteins is that they are almost always considered incomplete. This means that they do not contain all the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that your body needs. To account for this, make sure to eat what are known as complementary proteins. For example, grains (oats, wheat, rice) complement legumes (lentils, beans, peas) to make a complete protein. Plant-based protein sources include:
- Beans, Peas, and Lentils
- Nuts and Seeds
- Plant-based meat alternatives
- Plant-based protein bars and drinks
How do I get enough?
Other than tracking how much protein you eat per day, there are three main standbys to meeting your protein needs:
- Eat protein at every meal and snack
- Make at least half of your meal a source of protein
- Aim for 5g+ of protein per snack and 15g+ of protein per meal.Some tips for this one. The best way to do this is to read labels to familiarize yourself with which that are high in protein. For example, one container of yogurt might only have 5g of protein while another may have 20g.
One extra tip is to include a protein supplement – such as a drink or bar – if you know that you have a hard time getting protein. For example, it can be rather tricky to meet your protein goals in the first 3 to even 6 months after surgery. Boosting your day with something like a protein drink for a snack can make a big difference.
Even with these tips, meeting your protein needs after WLS can be a struggle If you find yourself having a hard time, reach out for support whether that’s from your surgical team, friends, family, or your WLS Community (check out our Instagram 😉) . You’re never alone on this journey!