Gastric Bypass Diet: The Importance of Protein First - My Bariatric Life

Patient Expert

You will hear it from the surgeon who performed your gastric bypass surgery when he advises you on bariatric diet success factors: Eat your protein first.

You will hear it from your nutritionist when you discuss what foods you should have to best promote optimal health after weight-loss surgery: Eat your protein first.

You will hear it from your primary physician when you inquire about what is the most important nutrient for your body after obesity surgery: Eat your protein first.

Protein First After Gastric Bypass

Protein is the most plentiful substance in your body except for water. One of the areas that is bypassed during gastric bypass surgery is the duodenum. Most protein digestion takes place in the duodenum.

Your body needs about 80-100 grams of protein per day. This becomes more difficult because the size of your stomach was reduced during gastric bypass. Your body will do what is necessary to get the amount of protein it requires. If you are not getting enough protein in your diet, your body will break down muscle to fill the deficiency. This can lead to feeling weak, tired, and nauseous.

In addition, a protein deficiency can compromise your immune system and increase your risk for infection as the wounds from weight-loss surgery heal.

Prioritizing protein in your diet will prevent these potential problems. It is recommended that you eat the protein first to insure that you get the amount you need for the day. If you eat protein first and find yourself full, you are assured to have eaten what you need most.

Benefits of Protein to the Bariatric Patient

Protein allows your body to burn fat instead of muscle for a more effective weight loss. Protein also helps sustain your metabolism and promotes faster weight loss. Finally, protein helps control your hunger.

Given the importance of protein for the bariatric patient and the consistency of the recommendations to put protein first, why did I not do that?

Protein First: Maybe It's Just Me

I do not know if not always being able to eat my protein first is a personal struggle or if it is a problem that others experience, too. The bottom line is that I do not always eat the protein first despite my understanding of how  important it is. Perhaps you identify with this, perhaps not.

The ideal bariatric meal is a division of food where ½ the plate is a protein food, ¼ of the plate is fruit, and the remaining ¼ is a raw or lightly cooked vegetable. Then, simply enough, eat the protein first...or not.

Sometimes I might favor a particular vegetable or fruit medley over the protein portion of the meal. When this happens, protein quickly becomes second. I am also habitual about eating a bit of each food on my plate as opposed to eating all of a single portion first. Whatever the reasons, the time for extra discipline is immediate.

Simple Resolutions for Protein First

A monthly planner of meals can be drafted, calculating a specified amount of protein for each meal. A division of grams can be calculated between   breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. The protein foods will be allotted in smaller portions. Finishing lesser amounts of protein first is a bit easier.

Perhaps take some weekend time or spare evening time to devise your planner for the month. Keep a copy on your computer or hang one from the refrigerator for easy access.  It is worth it.

Bringing the protein portion of the meal to the table first and by itself may also help. When you have finished your protein first, bring out the balance of the meal.

On those hopefully rare occasions when you do not finish the protein portion of your meal, save that bit to snack on later.

Bon appetite.

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You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003 and my journey to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management since that time. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.