Whether you’re new to the idea of gastric sleeve surgery or have been part of the Endobariatric family for years, there’s one thing you’ve probably learned: I recommend a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet to my post-op patients in order to maximize their sleeve results. With all of the protein bars, shakes, and supplements available today, it should be a breeze, right? Not so fast. Allow me to make the case for protein from real food sources.
Are protein shakes ever a good idea?
Not to contradict myself right off the bat, but there is a time when I recommend protein supplements in the form of shakes: right after surgery. During the liquid and even into the soft food phase, there’s really no other way to get as much protein as you need. So what’s the problem with using them after those phases? They do pack in a lot of protein, but they’re often laced with too much sugar and other questionable ingredients, too. That’s why I advise that once you’re able to eat solid food, toss your shakes and eat protein from whole sources. The only exception to that is if you aren’t a fan of breakfast but willchow down on a protein bar or shake. Having something for breakfast is an essential way to kickstart your metabolism, so if less-than-ideal protein is the only way you’ll eat, then I grudgingly approve.
Don’t fat burners and energy drinks help me at the gym?
If you’re getting enough calories, you don’t need the artificial stuff to help you maintain energy levels through a workout. Or to help you lose weight, for that matter. Your sleeve, a high-quality diet, and a consistent exercise regimen are the most important tools in your weight-loss arsenal. I don’t like the fat burners and energy drinks for a couple of reasons—most importantly, because they’re usually made with chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavorings, and sugars. Plus, some contain carbonation, which adds unnecessary gas to your sleeve. Cue the gas pain. Staying hydrated with plain water will help you power through your workouts, and you’ll skip the crash that often accompanies energy drinks.
What if I get sick of chicken?
If you’re getting most of your protein from the same two or three sources, you’re going to get sick of those foods. No question. And while chicken, lean beef, fish, and eggs are all popular sources of protein for my patients, there are many more options if you’re open to them. It’s even possible to live a high-protein lifestyle as a vegan. Outside of meat and animal products, tofu is a stellar choice, as are nuts, quinoa, and even vegetables like kale and mushrooms.
How am I supposed to get all my protein if I don’t do supplements?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not difficult for most people to meet their protein requirements. A high-protein diet doesn’t mean you should be eating as much protein as possible. In fact, your recommended intake is 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of your ideal weight. More than that isn’t advisable. Not a fan of math? Let me make it easy for you. Your body can’t absorb more than 30 grams of protein at once, and you’re looking at a maximum per-day intake of 50-70 grams. So spread your consumption over the day, with about 16-23 grams included with each of your three meals.
The bottom line is that you need a substantial amount of protein in your diet after gastric sleeve surgery, but it’s easily achieved with whole food sources. Real food is your best medicine, your best supplement—your best everything! So step away from the bars and supplements and embrace the wide world of protein-rich nourishment.
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