Gastric Sleeve and Energy Levels

Ah, energy. Many of my gastric sleeve patients go into surgery hoping they’ll have more of it. And the good news is that the vast majority have more energy than they know what to do with—but not all the time, and usually not right away. The truth is that life, in general, can be draining. So whether your fatigue is connected to you sleeve or just life, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re feeling whipped.

Question: I’m a week out from surgery and have zero energy. What’s up?
So this is when most people notice a big dip in energy. The most obvious answer is that you just had surgery. You wouldn’t expect to be running marathons less than a week after any other surgery, would you? Your body is adjusting, plain and simple, to an invasion. The way I do gastric sleeve surgery is minimally invasive and generally very easy to recover from. But your body is still going, “Hey—what the heck just happened? I’m going to hunker down for a while.” The best advice I have for recent sleevers who are tired is to get more rest. It really might be that simple. Because they generally feel so well otherwise, many patients are tempted to push themselves, physically, too soon after the procedure. Pull back and just rest more. The other thing is that it can be difficult at this stage to get as many calories as you need to feel energetic. This is when things that I don’t recommend later in your weight loss journey—fruit juice, for example—are a good way to increase your caloric intake. My patient, Crystal, summarizes the general feeling well when she says that it took her about a month to feel energetic. She recommends that her sleeve brothers and sisters keep sipping that liquid. “I know I stayed partially dehydrated that first month, and that will knock you out.” Good advice!

Question: I’m back at work but can’t keep my eyes open. Help!
It’s fairly normal for fatigue to set in at some point during the first year of your sleeve journey. This can be either a mindset issue or a physical issue—or both. If you’re back at work before you start solid food (which most are), it can be that calorie shortage thing again. There’s no way around the fact that introducing solids introduces more calories and, hence, more energy. And for quite a few months after being sleeved, your body is adjusting to a lot fewer calories than it’s gotten in years. That’s not an overnight adjustment. And, like Crystal advises above, not getting enough fluids can sap your energy very quickly. I love the My Fitness Pal app because it’s an easy way to track your water and calorie intake so you don’t fall behind (or go overboard). Because getting too few carbs is generally only a problem in the beginning. If you’re hitting fatigue a little farther into your journey, you might be getting too many carbs. They can make you feel sluggish or even dizzy if you’ve retrained your body to run on good protein, fat, and plant-based foods. Again, the app can help you identify problem areas.

So where does the mental game come in? All the way through it. Toughening up mentally in order to sip enough water or pass on the white pasta in favor in quinoa—it’s all in your head. But the more you condition your mind to make positive choices for your body, the better you’ll feel and the more energy you’ll have.

Question: It seems like my energy plummets after meals. Why would that be?
Congratulations, you might be experiencing the rare (for sleevers, that is) side effect of dumping syndrome. Practically a guarantee for patients who undergo other forms of bariatric surgery, dumping syndrome is, thankfully, pretty uncommon for sleevers. That’s good because it’s uncomfortable, right? When the food goes into your sleeve and empties right away into the first portion of your small intestine, it shifts a lot of blood to your gut. Which drains your energy almost immediately. The good news is that this phenomenon resolves on its own for the vast majority of people. And don’t worry, you might feel like dropping into the nearest chair, but you won’t actually pass out.

Question: If my energy is flagging, can I sip an energy drink?
I’m not going to say “absolutely not,” but I’d prefer that you didn’t. To say I’m not a fan is an understatement. There’s nothing dangerous about energy drinks, per se, but they’re simply not helpful for gastric sleeve patients—or anyone, really. Energy drinks are marketed as a way to power through your day, but they’re actually chemical-laden crud. Plus, some energy drinks have carbonation, which doesn’t feel great on a sleeve. Liquid supplements like protein shakes can be an okay stop-gap, especially in the beginning, if you’re having trouble getting enough carbs and calories. But by the time you’re eating solid food (roughly at the month mark) protein shakes generally aren’t necessary to get the calories you need for energy. So: “no” to energy drinks, “maybe” to supplement shakes, and “yes” to water and sugar-free liquids for hydration.

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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.