Bariatric Protein Shakes & Alternatives

What protein shakes are good for bariatric surgery?

Protein is essential for your body to function correctly. Getting enough protein affects your organs, your muscles, and protein is an integral part of the body’s immune system to help promote healing. For bariatric patients, protein shakes are important so they don’t feel hungry and have enough energy to workout in order to maintain weight loss.


What Is Protein?

Every cell, organ, and tissue in our body contains proteins that are constantly being utilized and replenished. They are responsible and do most of the work to regulate and monitor our tissues and organs. The protein in our body has many functions including:

  1. Facilitating wound healing such as after surgery;
  2. Promoting the healthy growth of skin cells, hair, bones, and nails;
  3. Aiding in the creation of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies used by the immune system to help the body function properly;
  4. Promoting the burning of fat and not lean muscle mass during weight loss;
  5. Contributing support to the metabolic functions which help you lose weight more efficiently;
  6. Helping individuals feel full longer and curbing hunger pangs.

Protein molecules are composed of amino acids that are linked to one another and look sort of like a long chain. There are several different amino acids that can join together to make a protein.

Our bodies manufacture 13 different amino acids, but there are nine other essential amino acids our bodies need that must come from food sources because our bodies can not manufacture them.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Protein After Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach as well as alters the function of the digestive system. This makes the task of consuming an adequate amount of protein even more challenging than it was before surgery.

We must consume high-quality protein in sufficient amounts because our body does not store protein. If we do not get enough protein in our diet, our bodies will steal it from our muscles. After undergoing weight-loss surgery, the subsequent very-low-calorie diet always causes some loss of some lean muscle mass.

Protein deficiencies adversely affect the immune system, can cause hair loss, and lead to skin and nail problems. A lack of protein can also lead to fatty liver disease, edema, and increase your risk of a bone fracture. Although none of these issues would be something anyone would want to endure, there are two more issues that protein deficiencies cause that directly affect someone who is trying to lose weight.

Lack of protein will cause the loss of muscle mass which helps us burn fat and also creates a greater appetite and most often results in overeating. To prevent protein deficiency complications including loss of muscle we need to supplement our body’s protein intake.

What Protein Is Best after Gastric Sleeve?

This is a good question and the subject of protein is a bit misunderstood. There are two different types of proteins:

  • Complete proteins contain all the amino acids your body needs and are primarily found in animal-based foods such as meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs. Soy and Quinoa are the two plant-based complete proteins.
  • Incomplete proteins are missing or contain very low amounts of one or more of the essential amino acids like foods such as beans, grains, nuts, and veggies. Most plant-based proteins are considered incomplete proteins.

Now that you understand more about what protein is, the importance of protein, and sources of protein, you can appreciate the challenge presented to a bariatric weight loss patient. The good news is that there are many bariatric protein shakes available to help weight loss surgery patients fulfill some of their daily protein requirements, even when they are in their “liquid diet” phase.

What Protein Shakes Are Good For Bariatric Surgery?

This is a great question and if you have ever tried to find a protein powder you already have observed how daunting it can be to know how to choose the right one! To break it down simply, protein shakes come in two basic forms but are available in many textures, flavors, preparation methods, and price points.

The most important thing to concentrate on when choosing one for use after weight-loss surgery is the level and composition of amino acids in the product. There are 9 amino acids that are critical to your body’s needs, these are IAA amino acids. Then, there are 11 more that are non-essential called DAA amino acids.

The IAA amino acids must come from our diet so these are the ones to look for on the label.
The US FDA and the Food and Agriculture Organization (UN/WHO) use a scoring system to determine the quality of amino acid protein and the ability for it to be digested easily by humans.

This scoring system is called “the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score” (PDCAAS). Avoid protein shakes that contain collagen or hydrolyzed gelatin. These are not recommended for weight-loss surgery patients because they do not provide all the necessary amino acids.

How Do I Choose A Good Bariatric Protein Shake: Isolates or Concentrates?

The next thing to consider is the two basic forms that protein supplements are available: isolates and concentrates.

Protein Isolates

Whey protein isolates usually have a higher concentration of protein and have been filtered removing much of the lactose, minerals, and fat. Patients can get more protein in smaller portions which makes these the preferred bariatric protein shakes. Patients also report that isolates tend to mix better, taste better, and are lactose-free so they do not mind drinking them.

Protein Concentrates

Whey protein concentrates contain lower amounts of protein and are higher in lactose concentration. They can also contain different levels of carbohydrates and fat so while the protein quality may be good, the amount of protein contained may be insufficient and other ingredients may be counterproductive. It is important to read the nutritional information on the label to ensure the product is what you need.

Bottom line: look for high amounts of IAA amino acids with scores of 100 or close to 100 on the PDCAAS scale and choose an Isolate. They are a bit more expensive but let’s face it, the digestive challenges faced after bariatric surgery are already enough. Protein is non-negotiable and you need between 60-80 grams a day. Your doctor will provide you with your unique dosage.

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Liven Up Your Bariatric Protein Shakes

You can add other approved ingredients into your protein shakes to help keep things interesting. This will assist you in getting your 64 oz of liquid a day as well as help to meet your daily protein requirements.

  • Try adding pure extracts like almond, vanilla, coconut, or peppermint;
  • Use chocolate protein powder and decaffeinated coffee for a mocha twist;
  • Add unsweetened cocoa powder to chocolate protein powder to make the chocolate flavor richer;
  • Add a splash of yogurt to make your shake creamier and increase protein content;
  • Freeze a prepared protein shake in ice cube trays and then either blend them up for a nice frozen treat or incorporate them when making other protein shakes.

Use your imagination, think outside of the box. As long as the protein content is high, carbohydrates and sugars are low and you are following other dietary restrictions, you can be creative!

What Can I Drink Instead of Protein Shakes?

Consult with your bariatric surgeon or nutritionist if you cannot tolerate protein shakes at all. There are some alternatives to protein shakes after bariatric surgery. Unsweetened soy milk is a good source of protein or If you just want to add some variety, there are clear protein shakes that come in flavors like berry, orange, lemon and there is also protein water.

Unflavored protein powders can be added to your choice of zero-calorie drink and some specialty bariatric vitamin companies also offer soups that are low carb and high protein that mix with hot water for a nice change.

Bariatric surgery is just the beginning of your weight loss journey and dietary restrictions will be part of your new “normal” from now on. Protein shakes and supplements can help you obtain the recommended daily dosage, and avoid muscle loss and complications from deficiencies.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about bariatric surgery or dietary restrictions after weight loss surgery, please set up a consultation with IBI Healthcare Institute today. We are here to answer all your questions and help you make the decision that is right for you and your weight loss journey.

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