Why Is Protein After Weight Loss Surgery Important?

Why Is Protein After Weight Loss Surgery Important?

Why Is Protein After Weight Loss Surgery Important?

When you’re thinking about weight loss surgery, you may hear the term floating around ‘protein first.’ What does that mean exactly? Why is protein after weight loss surgery an issue? Questions about your new diet in general are common, and particularly when it comes to protein. We explain how your protein needs may change after weight loss surgery, so that you fully understand this terminology. If you have had surgery, and find yourself not keeping up with your protein needs, this article might be a great reminder as to why you need to be on top of it.

What is the role of protein?

Protein comes from the Greek work proteis, which means ‘of primary importance.’

Protein is second only to water in its use throughout our bodies.

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, linked together by chemicals called peptide bonds. They are found in every cell in the human body. Protein has several vital functions which include providing structure to cells, providing energy, transporting materials like oxygen and waste, and sustaining a healthy immune system. You know, just the basics 🙂

The thing about protein, is that it is used by our bodies, not stored. This means humans need adequate protein intake every day to stay alive and well.

What are the signs of not enough protein?

For the weight loss surgery patient there are a few red flags which may indicate your protein intake is inadequate. These might include the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Excess muscle break down
  • Thinning or fragile hair or loss of hair
  • Swelling of feet and legs (oedema)
  • Changes in appetite (either nausea or increased hunger)
  • Weight loss stall

It is important to check back with your surgeon if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Understanding the focus of protein after weight loss surgery 

After a weight loss procedure your stomach is smaller than it used to be. This means that you have significantly less calories you can consume before you physically feel too full to continue eating. Now that your stomach size is smaller, there is no room for empty calories.

It is important to note, that reducing the size of your stomach does not decrease your protein needs.

In fact, if you have also increased your level of physical activity your protein needs will be higher.

Likewise, being able to consume fewer calories means protein becomes a higher priority.

After your surgery, your surgeon and/or dietitian will confirm your precise protein needs and the right nutrition. Most times, it is important to create a balance to ensure you are consuming the nutrients you need for a healthy vibrant body.

What does “protein first” actually mean?

When we refer to “protein first” we mean making protein a priority. This involves:

  • Building your meals around lean high-quality protein and nutrient dense foods
  • Consuming the protein part of your meal first to ensure that if you do feel full, you have consumed adequate protein in every meal
  • Eating better quality protein – this means you have more room in each meal for vegetables, fruits and other essential nutrients
  • Checking in regularly with your surgeon/dietitian about your protein levels and importantly;
  • Combining your protein intake with sufficient and regular water consumption

Water and protein: the magic combination

While protein is highly important, it is not helpful without adequate hydration. In fact, too much protein when your body is not hydrated can actually stop you from absorbing other vital nutrients. Working on water and protein are therefore both highly important tasks for the bariatric surgery patient. However, hydration takes careful planning after weight loss surgery. It is not advisable to drink and eat together due to your reduced stomach size. 

Staying on top of hydration means drinking small amounts often throughout the day outside of meal times. Your dietitian is a great resource here for helping you plan this part of your new life. Often it comes down to creating new habits purposefully, until it becomes second nature.

Additional benefits for weight loss surgery patients

  • Protein helps maintain and build muscle mass (maintaining protein intake helps prevent your body breaking down your own muscle mass for protein).
  • Higher muscle mass contributes to a better metabolism which helps burn more calories for increased and sustained weight loss
  • Protein takes longer to digest and keeps you feeling full for longer
  • Helps your body function better (better immune system, hormones)
  • Builds strong hair and nails

Follow up is key

The delicate balance of adequate protein, hydration and nutrients is not easy to achieve alone. Good consistent follow up is one of the best ways to stay on top of all of your nutrition requirements after weight loss surgery. Your needs can often change over time, as you lose weight or adopt different lifestyle changes such as more rigorous exercise.

It is always a good idea to check in regularly on your nutrient levels so that you know your current diet and lifestyle is being supported by a strong, healthy body.

Maintaining good levels is most times easier with the help of a great dietitian. They can look at ways to balance all of your nutritional needs. At the same time, they are helping you to personalise a plan which fits in with your lifestyle and diet preferences.

What else do I need to know about weight loss surgery nutrition?

Understand why paying attention to nutrition is incredibly important after weight loss surgery. 

Meal Prep After Gastric Sleeve

Meal Prep After Gastric Sleeve

Meal Prep After Gastric Sleeve

Meal prepping is one of many ways to help sustain weight loss not only after gastric sleeve surgery, but any weight loss procedure. One of the biggest benefits of meal planning and prepping is that it allows you to stay on top of your nutrition intake. After gastric sleeve, the size of your stomach is reduced considerably. This means that getting in the right nutrition is extremely important to ensure optimal health and safe weight loss. 

Meal prepping can also help you to keep to a more regular meal schedule, which is particularly important if you don’t feel hungry as often.

On top of this, having a planned meal schedule, and ready-meals you can utilise, will mean you can work on a less impulsive way of eating, if this is something you have struggled with in the past. It also means you can work more effectively with your dietitian to implement any other specialised eating or dietary changes required in your circumstances.

But just how do you meal prep after gastric sleeve successfully? Is there anything you need to know? In this article, we look at some of the best approaches to meal prep logistics.

Fridge, freezer or pantry?

Pantry

You may find after your procedure you reach for less in your pantry, and more in your fridge, as your need for fresh food and high protein takes priority. However, it’s always a good idea to have a stock of items in the pantry for those days when something goes wrong, and you just don’t have time to prep or haven’t had a chance to get to the shops.

We know that protein is such an important nutrient to stay on top of after weight loss surgery. Canned items like legumes, tomato and tuna or salmon are great to keep on hand in your pantry. A can of tuna can be added to a small pre-prepped salad or vegetables for a tasty and very easy but nutritious meal.

Freezer

Stocking your freezer with frozen fish, frozen vegetables, pre-portioned meats, and of course – meals you have cooked ahead is a great idea. Freezer-friendly meals could include soups, casseroles, baked goods and even complete meals.

When thinking about freezer storage, we can consider freezer size, convenience of defrosting and reducing the chance of ‘freezer burn.’ Light stackable plastic containers or ziplock bags work well as they take up less space and can be defrosted easily. 

Meats can also be stored in containers between layers of freezer paper to prevent freezer burn. Make sure to label all your frozen foods with the name of the meal and date they went in.

Baked goods such as egg cups or high-protein muffins are also great to wrap and store in your freezer for when you need them.

Fridge

When it comes to your fridge, it is not always about storing fully prepared meals. It is quick enough to throw together a salad, or some scrambled eggs or even a curry if you have the basics on hand. However, prepping the whole day’s meals in the morning or night before is a great approach.

You could assemble a couple of salads or an assortment of pre-cooked vegetables in individually portioned containers. Next, prepare and separately store dressing or sauce to throw over. (Those little dressing containers are a great idea for this!). When you’re ready to eat, simply choose your protein and throw it all together. Storing the items separately will mean your food keeps fresher for longer and ensures a tastier result.

It is important to note that all salad and vegetable items keep longer in your fridge stored separately.

When it comes to foods you have cooked as a complete meal and portioned out, in most cases it’s a good idea to only keep enough for one or two days of meals in the fridge. Any more than this, pop in the freezer and get out the morning you need them.

Again, make a habit of labelling your prepped food with the date and the meal.

More fridge ideas:

  • Hard boiled eggs – perfect for salads or snacks
  • Pre-roasted chicken – versatile and economical for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Importantly, freeze any chicken you’re not likely to eat in a couple of days.
  • Unsweetened Yoghurt – add a little fruit or some nuts and you’re good to go!
  • Pre-roasted vegetables – can provide a range of flavour and nutrients to add to your protein.

5 Top Tips for getting started with meal prep after gastric sleeve

  • Try one day first before launching into a week.
  • Find some recipes you’d love to try, write your shopping list and away you go.
  • Choose easy to prepare recipes. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals for the coming week. Get out of the kitchen and look forward to the extra time you’ll have during the week.
  • Use versatile ingredients. Cut down on your shopping list by using the same ingredients across as many meals as possible.
  • Pick a prep day. If you have a day in mind, and plan for this day, you are less likely to move the day or forget about it all together.

Food quality guidelines

While pre-preparing food is fantastic, food safety should always be a high priority.

Proper storage of cooked food is really important to get right when you meal prep to prevent food poisoning as well as loss of nutrients.

According to the CSIRO’s refrigerated foods guidelines, a cooked meal should be placed into the refrigerator as soon as possible, especially if it contains meat. A very hot meal should be left out to cool for up to one hour. When reheating a refrigerated or frozen meal, ensure it is hot – above 75 degree Celcius. Divide large hot meals into smaller containers and cool in the fridge first to avoid condensation. When cool, wrap or cover the food. They also add, that if you don’t intend to eat the meal in the next three or four days, you should freeze it immediately.

Meal prep is really just about being prepared

If the thought of doing ‘meal prep’ has previously scared you, we hope these ideas can show you that it’s not necessarily about cooking and storing a whole week’s worth of food in containers. Mostly, it’s about thinking ahead, and this starts with planning out your week. Once you have your ideas for the week, look to find big and small ways you can make it easier on yourself to eat good food. This might be stocking your freezer full of go-to meals. Or it might be simply cooking enough for both lunch and dinner. Why not try it out, and share your fun with us over on our Facebook or Instagram pages.

Happy prepping sleevers!

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Bariatric Hair Loss: Causes & Treatments

Bariatric Hair Loss: Causes & Treatments

Bariatric Hair Loss: Causes & Treatments

Have you recently had weight loss surgery and now your hair seems to be falling out? Bariatric hair loss is quite a common phenomenon, but we understand it can be a scary thing to deal with, especially for women. While excessive hair loss can be quite traumatic, In most cases, your hair will grow back. We outline why this might be happening and what you can do to help it.

bariatric hair loss

Why am I losing my hair?

There are many causes of hair loss but the most common reason after bariatric surgery is a condition called telogen effluvium, which is abrupt hair loss in adults following a stressor. So why does it happen? To understand this, we first have to explain how hair growth occurs.

Our hair follicles exist in two states, a growth phase (anagen) and a dormant phase (telogen). Usually the dormant stage of the hair follicle lasts for about three to four months, after which the hair falls out. Usually approximately 85-90% of our hair is in anagen stage, which can last for 3-4 years. In cases of telogen effluvium, stressors cause significantly more hair follicles to shift into the dormant stage. The average increase is from 5-10% to around 30%.

This rapid increase in dormant hair follicles leads to rapid hair loss a few months later. Some people describe pulling out chunks of hair at a time. Or seeing clumps in the brush. Other people see a gradual loss which is less noticeable and manageable. Diffuse hair loss persisting more than six months is considered chronic.

What are the risk factors?

Telogen effluvium has a number of risk factors, unrelated to bariatrics, these include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Hormonal disorders including thyroid disease
  • Menopause
  • Underlying health conditions
  • High stress
  • Medication and drug intake

Bariatric risk factors

Not every bariatric patient experiences significant and noticeable hair loss, but there are risk factors which are particular to weight loss surgery which may increase your risk. These include:

  • Major surgery
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Will my hair grow back?

The good news is, in most cases this condition is not permanent and your hair will begin to grow back 3-6 months after the stressor has been removed. So if the condition surfaced simply due to rapid weight loss, or the surgery itself, then there is every chance it will improve in time, often in the following 6 months.

How can I prevent hair loss after surgery?

There may be no specific way to prevent it. One thing you can do, is ensure you are eating a nutritious diet, and taking your bariatric vitamins as prescribed. Getting your bloods monitored regularly works hand in hand with this. Follow up visits with your surgeon is the best way to reduce or prevent health problems after you’ve had weight loss surgery. 

Diet tips

  • A diet rich in protein is not only good for weight loss, it is one of the most important building blocks for our cells, including hair. With your new limited stomach size, prioritising high quality protein at every meal is advisable.
  • Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and include red meat to ensure adequate iron levels. Accompanying these foods with those high in Vitamin C also help the body absorb iron.
  • Zinc-rich foods are also great – oysters, shellfish, poultry, seeds, nuts and eggs can be incorporated into more meals.
  • Your dietitian can recommend certain foods for you, as well as help with planning interesting meals to satisfy your individual nutritional needs.

What can I do to help the condition?

The things which help prevent bariatric hair loss, can also be implemented to help improve an existing condition. We cannot stress enough how important regular blood work and nutritional monitoring is for the bariatric patient, and this includes for cases of telogen effluvium. Poor nutritional status, due to vitamin malapsorption can bring on the condition or prolong it. Chiefly, iron deficiency is a common cause, but also inadequate levels of protein, zinc, B12, fatty acids and other vitamins may also be the cause. Adjustments to your current levels if required could lead to improvement. It is important to note that excessive intake of some vitamins can have detrimental health effects so any supplements should always be prescribed by your surgeon, or dietitan who have access to your individual history and lab results. 

Help for the condition may also be required on a mental and emotional level as well as physical. If you are struggling with the impact of bariatric hair loss, chatting to a Psychologist who has experience with bariatric patients might help. 

Further reading

For more extensive information on the condition, you may find this Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research Article, titled Telogen Effluvium: A Review interesting. 

Please note: this article is of a general nature and intended for information only. It is not intended to be comprehensive and does not constitute medical advice. Any person with a specific medical concern should seek the individual advice of a medical practitioner. 

 

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7 Best Christmas Gifts for Weight Loss Surgery

7 Best Christmas Gifts for Weight Loss Surgery

7 Best Christmas Gifts for Weight Loss Surgery

Has a special someone in your life just had weight loss surgery? You may be looking for a way to give a unique Christmas gift which supports them in their journey to great health. But what to get them? Here are 7 ideas for gifts which complement a weight loss surgery journey.

1. Portion control plate

A portion plate is more than just telling someone who has just had surgery how much they can eat. It is about helping to reinforce the balanced diet which is so necessary. A portion plate helps to shape the type of meals your loved one eats, by showing the correct portions of protein, vegetables and fibre at each meal. This is handy for someone who has recently had surgery. Bear in mind that nutritional requirements may differ with surgery types. We love this portion plate from Portion Perfection available in Queensland and optimised for a gastric sleeve patient.

2. Bariatric recipe book

The unique needs of the bariatric patient mean that most ‘normal’ recipes must be modified to suit. The bariatric patient can no longer eat a large amount of food and must make protein a priority. Therefore, meals should as often as possible be small, high protein and highly nutritious. New bariatric recipes are most times very welcome. Try the book Return to Slender by Bariatric Cookery’s Carol Bowen Ball or The Gastric Sleeve Cookbook by Sarah Kent, available in most bookstores in Australia.

3. Active wear

One of the crucial factors to success for the bariatric patient is to maintain an exercise regime. This ensures there is less muscle loss while losing weight. Unfortunately, it has been difficult in the past to find stylish and comfortable activewear in larger sizes. Thankfully, more manufacturers are realising the growing need for plus sizes and are designing activewear in larger sizes. This is great news for bariatric patients who can feel comfortable and excited about the new exercise regime they are entering. We love Active Truth, who are a Queensland company offering up to size 26.

4. Weights

Maintaining and building muscle is crucial for the weight loss surgery patient. More muscle encourages a faster metabolic output and burns more calories. Weight bearing exercise also helps to promote joint stability and bone strength and tone and firm the body. Hand weights are wonderful to use on walks or a set of dumb bells are a great way to support a gym program.

5. Fitness tracker

Weight loss surgery fitness and health is all about focusing on short term goals continuously for eventual long-term success. Being able to measure and record improvements in heart rate, distance, calories burnt and improvements in sleep can help to keep motivation levels high. Celebrating small changes can be one of the best ways to see significant transformations long term.

6. Music voucher

Walking is great exercise after surgery, and your loved one may appreciate having a soundtrack to get them in the mood for fitness. Giving them something like an Itunes or Spotify voucher is a lovely thought. Our top 10 motivating tracks for smashing those fitness goals?

  1. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  2. Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
  3. Run The World – Beyonce
  4. Harder Better Faster Stronger – Daft Punk
  5. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  6. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
  7. Happy – Pherrel Williams
  8. Diamonds – Rhianna
  9. Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  10. Beautiful Day – U2

7. Fancy water bottle 

Hydration is crucial for everyone, but it can take a bit to get right after weight loss surgery. The restricted stomach size means water can no longer be gulped down in one hit! Water is therefore a constant priority, so anything related to hydration is going to be a great prezzie for your loved one. A fancy bottle with a hydration counter, or stainless ‘keep cool’ bottle is a great gift. Some people also struggle with the taste of plain water, and if your loved one is one of those people, they might like a tea infuser for iced tea or a glass jug for flavouring water with fruit. For adding fruit, stainless steel or glass is best.

It’s the thought that reallly counts

These gift ideas are intended for general advice only. It is important to note, that every patient is different and what is a great recommendation for one person may not suit another. You may need to do a little digging, or be prepared to swap out a gift if it’s not quite right.

What is the bigger gift you are giving? Your support. We thank you for thinking of ways to support your loved one as they take this journey. Post weight loss surgery it is really important to remain focused on mindset and lifestyle changes, and the support of others is a huge piece to this puzzle.

A little something in their Christmas stocking might be just the way to show your encouragement!

 

 

Read more articles about weight loss surgery

Curious about weight management after surgery?

If you would like to know a bit more about the process of maintaining and losing weight after surgery, head to our website for more information.

Can I Drink Alcohol After Weight Loss Surgery?

Can I Drink Alcohol After Weight Loss Surgery?

Can I Drink Alcohol After Weight Loss Surgery?

A common question about life after weight loss surgery, is whether it is okay to drink alcohol. We understand this question. Drinking alcohol is socially acceptable (and often encouraged by friends or family). But is it bad for your health after bariatric surgery? Alcohol can be dangerous, and the bariatric patient needs to tread carefully. Understand why this is so, and whether you need to check your alcohol consumption to realise your health goals after weight loss surgery.

You can no longer metabolise alcohol in the same way

Alcohol absorption is highly variable and unpredictable after weight loss surgery. Before surgery, if you drank alcohol, the presence and digestion of food in the stomach would slow down its route into the small intestine and bloodstream. This would allow a gentler rate of absorption. 

When you have had gastric sleeve or gastric bypass surgery the size of your stomach is much smaller. It generally does not hold great volumes of food for digestion. Now that your stomach is reduced and able to hold less food, alcohol can pass at a faster rate. You also pass greater volumes into your small intestines, where it enters your bloodstream. (Hence, why most people find they get more intoxicated if they drink alcohol on an empty stomach).

Put simply, as a result of a smaller or bypassed stomach, you can potentially get drunk quicker than you used to. Also, your blood-alcohol levels remain higher for longer. A glass of wine may feel more like 2 or 3 with the new changes to your gastrointestinal anatomy and metabolism.

What impact could regular or high alcohol consumption have on my health?

Weight regain

Alcohol is basically sugar, and carbs with no nutritional value. Sugar is something you are trying very hard to eradicate as part of a bariatric diet. You are also on a reduced carb intake. So why would you drink them all back into your body again? Sugar and carbs in high doses will spike your blood sugar levels and can cause you to gain weight.

Poor food choices

On top of the sugar and carbs in the alcohol itself, you may be more likely to make poor food choices after you’re drinking. Let’s face it. When we drink, we often don’t reach for a salad. High or regular alcohol consumption could lead to choosing fatty, fried or sugary foods.  Drinking regularly, or too often can therefore be a slippery slope to weight regain.

Alcohol use disorder

Some people may be at an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). A recent study found that the AUD risk in gastric bypass (RYGB) patients could be as high as one in five people. There is no conclusive explanation as to why increased instances of AUD might occur. Certainly, higher alcohol levels in the bloodstream may be one cause. Some also suggest it has to do with addiction transference. This is where we replace an addiction to food with another, such as alcohol. With RYGB another possibility is to do with changes to the hormones which deal with reward circuits in the brain.

Alcohol-related health issues

Surgery is a tool which is designed to help you lose weight and increase your chances of a healthy and long life. But excessive alcohol consumption can really disrupt that chance. Liver damage, hypoglycemia, reflux, inflammation of the intestinal tract, and vitamin malabsorption are just a few of the resulting health concerns around alcohol in the weight loss surgery patient.

Habits of mind are key

Weight loss surgery can sometimes result in rapid and significant weight loss in the first 6-12 months. However, this is not necessarily a permanent state. You see, surgery is a tool, one which gives you a head start to change some habits around diet, lifestyle and exercise. But in the end, you must keep going yourself to win the race.

This is true also when we talk about alcohol. You may not see any impact to regular or high alcohol consumption at first, but long-term you will see its negative effects on your life. Alcohol is one of those things which we believe should be best left alone, if possible, for the first 12 months after surgery. Give yourself time to develop new habits around eating and socialising without adding alcohol to the mix.

After this time, you are still best to avoid alcohol, but the occasional social drink may be acceptable for some people. Just remember, you won’t be able to drink the same as you did before and will need to monitor this very carefully. At all times, it is important to check in with your alcohol consumption and keep an open dialogue with your surgeon or GP about your alcohol use.

If you are concerned about your alcohol use, now is the time to bring it up with your surgeon or GP, or to seek the help of specialist services in your State. Here is a resource for alcohol and other drugs services in Queensland.

Want to know more about weight loss surgery?

If you have more questions about weight loss surgery, head to our FAQ page. 

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