When it comes to eating after bariatric surgery, weight loss surgery patients are constantly reminded to “eat protein first” and that “protein is the priority.”
Although this recommendation is always at the top of dietary guidelines, there is little research that has examined the association between protein intake and fat free mass loss.
A new study has examined the protein intake goal and confirms that these aren’t merely words, but good and accurate advice for healthy weight loss after bariatric surgery.
What is Fat Free Mass?
The body’s composition can be broken down into two components: fat and then everything else, which is collectively referred to as fat free mass. Fat free mass (FFM), also known as lean body mass, includes internal organs, bone, muscle, water, and connective tissue.
With weight loss, the goal is to reduce body fat while preserving fat free (lean body) mass. One of the most important ways to avoid loss of fat free (lean body) mass, especially muscle tissue, is to provide the body with adequate protein intake even though on a reduced calorie diet.
About the Study
The study was done to evaluate the association between daily protein intake and relative fat free mass loss after laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG).
The research involved 77 patients who underwent LSG surgery with up to 12 months of follow-up. The information gathered included body composition analysis, 3-day food diaries, food intolerance, and habitual physical activity at baseline, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months.
The results showed:
- Protein intake of 60 grams/day or more was achieved by 13.3% of study participants at month 3, 32.5% at month 6, and 39.7% at month 12.
- Fat free mass significantly decreased at month 6 and stabilized at month 12.
- Protein intake of 60 grams/day or more was associated with a significantly lower relative fat free mass loss among women and men.
Researchers said their study supports the currently recommended protein intake goal of 60 grams/day or more as a guideline for helping to preserve fat free (lean body) mass after laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.
Protein Food Sources
When choosing protein food sources, high protein does not always mean low fat. It is important to pay attention to the amount of saturated fat in a particular food protein. Saturated fat is a bad type of fat and should be avoided in the diet.
Some of the preferred sources of protein include: poultry (skinless chicken or turkey), fish, lean meats (pork tenderloin, extra lean ground beef), eggs or egg beaters, low fat cottage cheese, non-fat or 1% milk, plain Greek yogurt, beans (black, kidney, lima, soy) and lentils.
During the first few months after surgery, it is difficult to get enough protein from foods. Most patients use liquid or powder protein supplements to meet protein guidelines during this time.
To keep meals interesting, sharing recipes with other bariatric patients is a good way to get new menu ideas and food combinations to help you meet your daily protein intake after weight loss surgery. (Check out froedtert.com/bariatric-surgery/recipes for some good sounding meals.)
Other Benefits of Dietary Protein
In addition to preserving fat free (lean body) mass, especially muscle tissue, protein also provides many other benefits: it aids in wound recovery after surgery; helps keep hair, nails, skin, and bones healthy; helps form hormones, enzymes, and immune system antibodies to help the body function properly; supports natural metabolism for healthier weight loss; and curbs hunger between meals.
In all cases, bariatric patients need to follow the dietary guidelines of their bariatric provider for healthy weight loss and to provide the body’s nutritional needs.
Study Reference: “Inadequate protein intake following laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery is associated with a greater fat free mass loss,” SOARD, published online June 2, 2016.