Priority: Protein

From a weight loss surgery patient’s first visit in our office through every pre and post op visit, one of the main topics of discussion is protein. Are you getting adequate protein? What types of protein are you consuming? Are you spreading out protein consumption throughout the day? These are all important questions for us to assess with our patients.

Why the emphasis on protein? Protein is a vital nutrient, essential for a wide array of functions in the body. Protein:

  • Makes up every cell in the body
  • Helps transport oxygen throughout the bloodstream
  • Helps transport waste
  • Is needed to make certain hormones
  • Is necessary for would healing
  • Is the building block for the immune system (antibodies).
  • Is a major component of enzymes.
  • Helps maintain fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base balance

When food intake is restricted, as it is after weight loss surgery, protein takes priority. Inadequate consumption can lead to a variety of complications, including a stall in weight loss.

Where do patients get their protein? Lean sources of protein are recommended, as too much saturated fat intake (found in fatty meats and dairy) can contribute to heart disease. Good protein sources include:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Turkey – white meat, 93/7 or leaner ground
  • Pork loin, pork chops
  • Beef – sirloin, round, 93/7 or leaner ground
  • Game – deer, bison
  • Fish, Seafood
  • Eggs, egg whites
  • Dairy - reduced-fat cheeses, skim milk, fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Plant-based – soy products, beans

To ensure that patients reach their protein goals, they are instructed to consume a good source of lean protein at all 3 meals of the day. Spacing out protein intake ensures adequate utilization while promoting hunger control, as protein is slow to digest and contributes to satiety. The first step to success after bariatric surgery is to make protein the priority.

Jennifer Tveitnes, RD, LD

Functions of Protein. (2021, June 23). Retrieved September 29, 2021, from