Overview of Pre-Op Bariatric Diet

Bariatric Surgery Pre-Op Diet
The bariatric surgery pre-op diet is necessary to reduce fat in the liver and prepare the body for surgery.

Weight loss surgery will require you to make many life-changing adjustments both before and after surgery, especially in the areas of diet and nutrition. Bariatric patients will need to learn about the nutritional requirements and dietary changes that are necessary both before and after weight loss surgery. Talking to your bariatric surgeon or dietitian about dietary changes and nutritional guidelines is a very important part of the bariatric process.

Weight loss surgery will affect what foods you eat, the amount of food you eat, and how you will eat that food. Even before you undergo surgery, your diet will be changing in order to prepare your body for surgery, improve recovery, and increase the rate of weight loss. The time leading up to weight loss surgery is not the time to splurge on your diet and let your health worsen, but it's the time to start making changes and preparing for the upcoming surgery.

Purpose of Pre-Surgery Bariatric Diet

  • Reduce body fat: reducing body fat in the abdomen and liver increases patient safety
  • Preserve and protect muscle tissue: increasing protein keeps the body from using muscle tissue as an energy source on a reduced calorie diet, and burn fat instead
  • Prepare the body for surgery and recovery: eating healthy, increasing protein intake, and taking vitamin and mineral supplements will help the body heal and recover after surgery
  • Prepare the patient for post-surgery diet: the pre-op diet is very similar to the post-surgery diet (reduced calorie, high-protein, low-fat, low-carbohydrate) and will prepare patients for the new way they will be eating after weight loss surgery

Starting a Bariatric Surgery Pre-Op Diet

Diet changes are necessary for all types of weight loss surgery, although the time frame for the pre-op diet will vary for each patient based on his or her weight and the type of procedure. For LAP BAND patients, the pre-op diet may start only two to three weeks before surgery, while for the more involved gastric bypass or duodenal switch surgery, the pre-op diet may start two to three months before surgery. Based on your situation and how much weight you need to lose before surgery, your bariatric surgeon will provide the time frame for your pre-surgery diet.

Pre-Surgery Weight Loss Increases Safety

Losing weight before surgery will lower the risk of complications and make weight loss surgery safer. For the super obese patients, losing sufficient weight before surgery will allow the surgery to be performed laparoscopically, rather than as open surgery. The main purpose of losing weight before weight loss surgery is to reduce body fat in the abdomen region, especially in and around the liver. By reducing the size of the liver, the operating time for laparoscopic surgery is shortened and the procedure is safer. In some instances, a bariatric surgeon may postpone surgery if the patient's liver is too large.

Amount of Pre-Surgery Weight Loss

The amount of weight loss necessary before weight loss surgery can only be determined by your bariatric surgeon based on your health, weight, and bariatric procedure. Some patients are required to lose ten percent of their weight before weight loss surgery is performed. For other patients, losing just 15 to 20 pounds right before surgery is enough to reduce the risk of complications.

Pre-Surgery Nutrition - High Protein, Low Calorie

You can expect you pre-surgery weight loss diet to be high in protein, but low in calories, fats, and carbohydrates, especially refined sugars and saturated fat. The pre-surgery diet generally ranges from 800 to 1200 calories per day with about 70 to 120 grams of protein each day. Many surgeons require a full liquid protein diet for two weeks before surgery. You will also be asked to start vitamin supplements to ensure your body has the nutrients necessary for recovery and health.

Weight Loss Surgery Pre-Op Diet

Before undergoing weight loss surgery, your bariatric surgeon or dietician will explain your pre-surgery diet. Although specific diet suggestions can vary from patient to patient, procedure to procedure, and surgeon to surgeon, there are many dietary and nutritional guidelines common to most weight loss surgery patients. The following guidelines should not take the place of your surgeon's directions, which are based on your health, weight, and type of weight loss surgery.

General pre-surgery dietary guidelines for weight loss surgery include:

  • Begin protein supplements (protein powder)
  • Decrease all fats (fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk products, and others)
  • Decrease sugary foods (sweets and soda)
  • Decrease high carbohydrate foods (bread and pasta)
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid binge eating
  • Don't use certain over-the-counter medications and prescription medications (ask your doctor for specifics, but may include Aspirin, Motrin, Aleve, Excedrin)

It is important to follow your surgeon's pre-surgery dietary and nutritional guidelines. Not only will your pre-surgery diet help prepare your body for surgery and improve the outcome, but it will help you adjust to the changes you will be expected to make about food following weight loss surgery and for the rest of your life.