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The importance of protein
For anyone who has had bariatric surgery, there are few nutrients as important as protein. Yet even knowing this is not enough to ensure that you are getting enough with most post surgery patients presenting with inadequate protein intakes due to choosing foods that may be easily tolerated but lacking in this essential nutrient. Protein is a nutrient found predominately in animal based foods including dairy, meat, fish, eggs as well as in smaller amounts in some grains and legumes including kidney beans, wholemeal breads and cereals and nuts and seeds. The protein found in animal foods resembles human protein a lot more closely and as such it a superior protein especially when overall intake is low. Protein is required for new cell generation, to keep the skin and hair healthy and to of course build muscle tissue, which tends to waste away when weight is lost relatively quickly, and especially when dietary intake is far lower than recommended levels.
The recommended protein intake for Australian adults is 1g/ kg per day or roughly 60-100g for the average person. For those who have had weight loss surgery, while we do not prescribe these protein amounts based on starting weight, most patients will need at least 80-100g of protein per day to get their basic nutritional requirements. If you consider though that a few tablespoons of mince meat will contain just 10g of protein, it is easy to see that unless you are including protein powder if your diet, or exceptionally high protein foods such as fish, eggs and meat at every meal you are probably not reaching your requirements.
The most common issue I see in practice is people skipping their protein at breakfast and lunch for example having plain toast or cereal or coffee for breakfast and plain crackers and wraps at lunchtime. On the other hand if you focus on an egg or smoothie with protein powder for breakfast and crackers with tuna or eggs plus a soft meat meal at night will give you at least 40-50g protein each day. If you team that with a protein powder or protein water you will be well on your way to reaching your protein targets.
A low protein intake over time will slow your weight loss and contribute to greater muscle wasting, so it really is the most important thing you can monitor with your diet after you have had weight loss surgery.