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.
If you’re like most weight loss surgery patients, you’ve probably been told to “up your protein intake!” Whether it comes from food or supplements, your body needs plenty of protein to stay healthy. But what exactly are you putting into your body when you drink or eat a protein supplement? Let’s take a closer look at the hidden ingredients lurking in your protein supplements that you may want to ditch for good!
1) The good stuff. First, let’s talk about the good stuff — the stuff that is essential for muscle growth and repair... Protein! The protein sources typically used in supplements include whey, casein, egg whites, and soy proteins. You may also find things like BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids), which help with muscle recovery and can even help reduce fatigue. Some companies will add creatine to their supplements as it helps with energy levels and further aids in muscle growth and recovery. Long story short, we need protein in some form for the body to perform various functions.
2) The not-so-good stuff. Now let’s talk about the not-so-good stuff — those pesky hidden ingredients that can sabotage your health goals or make you feel poorly after WLS due to intolerance. Most protein powders and ready-to-drink shakes contain sugar or artificial sweeteners to make them taste better, so watch out for those if you’re trying to keep your sugar intake low. Artificial sweeteners are not recognized by the body and can cause side effects like headaches, inflammatory responses, and can trigger or fuel sugar addictions.
Preservatives such as sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate are also commonly used; these have been linked to kidney problems and other health issues if consumed in large quantities. Many brands also use fillers such as maltodextrin or corn syrup solids; these can be added simply for bulk without any nutritional benefit. Am I saying ditch all the products that contain these ingredients? Absolutely not. But certainly survey whether you feel a certain way after consuming these products, especially if you consume them on a daily or fairly regular basis.
3) The best of both worlds. So how do you get the best of both worlds? Look for companies that use natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar alcohols can also be a good alternative as they are natural and provide very little caloric value or effect on blood sugar. Also, check labels carefully to make sure there aren't any preservatives or fillers added — many brands now offer "clean label" products specifically designed with no additives or preservatives. Finally, since many people have allergies or sensitivities to dairy proteins, look for brands that offer vegan alternatives made from plant proteins such as pea protein powder or hemp protein powder.
Protein supplements can be a great way for weight loss surgery patients to increase their daily intake of protein, but it pays to read labels carefully! While there are some great products out there that contain only essential ingredients needed for muscle growth and recovery, many brands add preservatives, fillers, and lots of sugar which can sabotage your health goals or cause GI issues and sensitivities. To ensure you're getting only the good stuff, look for natural sweeteners instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners; check labels carefully for any additives; and opt for vegan options if necessary due to allergies or dietary preferences. With a bit of research, you'll be sure to find a product that meets all of your needs!
In addition to protein, it's important to make sure you're taking bariatric vitamins each day to prevent deficiencies... Did you know you can SAVE 15% on the BariMelts WLS Essential Starter Pack, a bundle containing the 3 key vitamins you need after surgery?
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.