Why Protein is Crucially Important for Bariatric Patients

Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.

Protein is an essential macronutrient and an essential part of the bariatric nutrition plan. It is made up of twenty-plus building blocks called amino acids. Just as amino acids are the building blocks of protein, proteins are the building blocks of the body. Protein is found throughout the body: muscles, skin, hair, nails, and almost every other tissue. The human body cannot make or store protein, so it is important to consume enough protein-rich foods daily.

All food made from meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, soy, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the protein food group. In the immediate period after bariatric surgery, patients must rely on protein supplements to meet their needs while allowing their new anatomy to heal. For the average bariatric patient, at least 60-80 grams of protein is needed daily. Patients must prioritize protein for these important reasons.

1) Recovery

Happy overweight women in a couch

By having adequate protein in the diet, the body can create scar tissue that will heal the surgery. It also helps fight infection and carry oxygen through the body, which further supports healing.

2) Muscle

Overweight women exercising

Protein will help with muscle mass. Bariatric surgery reduces excess body fat, but some muscle mass may also be lost. A high-protein diet builds and maintains lean muscle. Furthermore, more muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate and more calories burned.

3) Hair and Nails

A person brushing their hair

One of the proteins the body converts amino acids into is keratin, which helps strengthen hair, skin, and nails. A deficiency of protein may lead to brittle nails and hair and lackluster hair color. Some hair shedding is normal after surgery, but a high-protein diet will ensure stronger hair and nails when the growth restarts.

4) Satiety

Two Women Eating in the Kitchen looking Happy

Research studies show that high-protein diets increase satiety and decrease hunger. This means more fullness, which may help bariatric patients reduce unnecessary snacking or overeating.

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