Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN
Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.
Weight loss surgery is a life-changing procedure that can help individuals overcome obesity and lead a healthier, happier life. However, following the surgery, caloric intake is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Individuals must consume the appropriate amount of calories after surgery to ensure that they stay healthy, lose weight, and get all the necessary nutrients. In this blog, we will discuss how many calories you need after WLS surgery and how to ensure you’re getting enough (and not over indulging).
1) How many calories do you need? The first thing to consider after WLS is your overall health and nutritional needs. Depending on the type of WLS one undergoes, the amount of calories they require will vary. Typically, individuals who undergo gastric bypass surgery will require fewer calories than those who undergo a gastric sleeve or adjustable gastric banding procedure.
As a general rule, it’s recommended that individuals consume between 800-1200 calories per day after undergoing WLS (after post-op diet phases are completed). This is because consuming too few calories can lead to malnourishment and complications, while consuming too many calories can impede weight loss. However, the exact number of calories required will depend on several factors such as age, gender, weight, body type, and activity level.
2) How to gradually increase your calories. It’s hard work getting in the calories you need after WLS, and you’ll have to make it a point to increase your calories gradually as you progress through your post-op diet phases. As a bariatric dietitian, I follow up with my patients at regular intervals post-op, ensuring they are able to increase calories as they should and when they should.
We start with reviewing protein intake, making sure protein needs are being met first and then adding in calories throughout the day to support healing, maintaining muscle mass, and feeding the body what it needs. By two weeks post-op, I have patients aim for 600-800 calories per day. By one month post-op, I like to see my patients at 800-1000 calories per day. This helps them to have plenty of energy for regular exercise and optimal energy levels throughout the day. After three months post-op, we assess their current weight status, energy level, activity level, diet, etc. to determine if any adjustments in calories or activity need to be made to support continued weight loss and prevent any major weight loss stalls.
3) Remember – not all calories are created equal. It is important to note that not all calories are created equal. After WLS, individuals should prioritize consuming lean, protein-rich foods (including plant-based proteins) to ensure they get enough of the essential amino acids needed for muscle building and repair. Preserving muscle mass by exercising and eating plenty of protein helps the body to carry out processes that aid in a healthy metabolism and overall nutrition status. Additionally, individuals should aim for a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients.
4) Tracking is key! One way to ensure you consume enough calories is to keep track of everything you eat and drink. I recommend using a food tracking app like Baritastic or one you are already comfortable using. Being accountable by tracking can help you identify areas where you may need to change your diet, such as consuming more protein or cutting back on unhealthy snacks. Logs are also very useful and oftentimes necessary when meeting with your dietitian for post-op visits should any challenges arise in your weight loss process.
5) Consult with your team of professionals. Finally, it is always a good idea to discuss your caloric needs with a weight loss surgery specialist or a registered bariatric dietitian. These healthcare professionals can work with you to develop a customized nutrition plan that takes into account your unique needs, preferences, and weight loss goals.
Weight loss surgery is a major life event that requires a significant commitment to physical and mental health. By ensuring you consume the right amount of calories after surgery, you can promote healthy weight loss, prevent complications, and improve your overall well-being. By working with healthcare professionals to create a personalized nutrition plan and tracking what you consume, you can ensure you’re on the right track to success with WLS and are doing it the healthy way!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.