The average person needs about 55 grams of protein per day. Most people are able to get that easily from their diet. For instance, one cup of milk has about eight grams of protein. One ounce of meat has about seven grams of protein – and if you eat a piece of chicken, it probably weighs three or four ounces. It doesn’t take long for it to all to add up.
After a gastric bypass, patients are usually advised to get extra protein. Because part of the small intestine is bypassed, we don’t absorb protein as well after a gastric bypass. A high protein diet may also help with weight loss.
Gastric bypass patients who do not get enough protein will feel tired and weak. They may experience nausea or vomiting. They risk muscle breakdown and damage, and remember, the heart is a muscle, too. They will heal more slowly from surgery than patients who get adequate amounts of protein. They will be more susceptible to infection. They will also experience significant hair loss.
Different doctors and dieticians recommend different amounts of protein for gastric bypass patients, but 60 – 80 grams is the typical recommendation. However, this is just a general recommendation; your individual needs may vary.
There is a formula that is often used to determine how much protein a person should eat. This formula requires you to figure out your weight in kilograms, not pounds. The formula states that you need one gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. That means a 200-pound person would need about 91 grams of protein per day. However, some people suggest you use your ideal body weight, not your actual body weight, to calculate your protein needs. In that case, you might need far less than 91 grams, even if you do weight 200 pounds.
That formula, though, is designed for “normal” people, not those with a surgically-altered digestive tract. A person who has had a gastric bypass may need more protein than that. Be aware that people who exercise hard on a regular basis may need more protein than the average person, as well. Talk to your bariatric doctor or a registered dietician about the proper amount of protein for you to eat.
After a gastric bypass you will not absorb protein as well as a “normal” person. But some people experience greater malabsorption than others. In order to make sure you are taking in enough protein, you should have regular blood tests done. (You should be having regular blood tests done to check for lots of other things, too.) Some important tests to have are total protein, albumin, and prealbumin. Most doctors will order a Comprehensive Metabolic Profile regularly after a gastric bypass, which will include total protein and albumin. Prealbumin must be ordered separately. When your doctor orders labs, look at the order to make sure all these things are being drawn. If something is missing, ask the doctor to include it. If your numbers come back low, no matter how much protein you are eating at the moment, you will need to increase it. Then you should have the tests repeated in two or three months to see if you are now getting enough.
American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. http://www.asbs.org/Newsite07/resources/bgs_final.pdf. ASMBS Guidelines.