How Long Do I Stay On the Protein Shake?

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    Are you currently doing a protein shake? Did your surgeon tell you to? For how long? How often? Which one did you choose?

    This is one of the questions I get most often – and most people hear a variety of answers even within their clinic…depending on which person they ask. Has this happened to you?

    Let’s debunk this question today! First, remember why you need a protein shake. In the beginning, one of the reasons is because it’s one of the only forms of nutrition you can get while your new stomach is healing. Everything needs to either be liquid or completely pureed. Depending on which surgery you have, your stomach can take up to a few weeks to completely heal.

    The second reason you need a protein shake should be completely obvious…it helps you obtain your protein goal. So why is protein such a big deal after surgery? One of the main reason is because you are rapidly losing weight. Well, we want that to be a certain kind of weight – we want that to be body fat, not muscle! Getting the right amount of protein in daily will help you preserve your muscle mass as you’re losing weight.

    So when exactly do you stop this protein shake?

    Well, that depends: first, on the recommendations given by your surgeon or dietitian who are following you. It is important that they are seeing your regularly so they can give recommendations specifically meant for you. You are unlike anyone else, so you need advice from someone who knows whats going on with you.

    Second: it depends on if you’re able to get your protein in through food. Many Bariatric Centers recommend 60 – 80 grams of protein daily for their patients. When you’re only able to eat so little, the shake will help you obtain this number. However, when you’re finally able to get the recommended amount of protein in through what you eat….then it’s time to stop the protein shake. If you don’t, the shake can just become extra calories that you don’t need. And we all know extra calories combine to make one thing…body fat.

    Third: I’ve had many patients that treat protein shakes almost like a “security blanket”….this can be okay or not okay, depending on your circumstances. Let me give you an example: I have a woman who had surgery 5 years ago, and she still does her daily protein shake. She is exactly where she wants to be weight-wise and health-wise. She noticed that if she stops the shake, she struggles terribly. The shake provides her focus, and reminds her of what her life is about. She carefully watches the scale weekly and still keeps a nutrition journal. Perfect example of someone who can still do a shake. There are also some people who continue to use a protein shake because they get into a rigorous workout schedule, or because they are a constant traveler, and a shake offers them proper nourishment in places where there are no good choices for that person. HOWEVER, that shake should not become a meal-replacer! Remember, you are not on a “liquid diet” – this is not Slimfast! You are to eat REAL FOOD.

    Many people are ready to stop the protein shake at 1 year – 18 months. That’s typically the time the body has lost the most weight the quickest. If you’ve had band surgery, usually you no longer need a shake after the first six months.
    Remember to drink that shake in-between meals (or when your surgeon or dietitian direct you to). As in, you shouldn’t be eating and drinking together anymore, remember? This is a REALLY crucial point!

    And remember, since this isn’t a “meal replacement” – make sure you aren’t drinking a meal-replacement shake! It should be high in protein, and relatively low in everything else! (Though you might be drinking it for meals the first two weeks, depending on what your doctor recommends.)

    My final words: it is of SUPREME importance that you focus on protein after surgery. It is important for you to get in other good nutrients to: veggies, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, etc; but, you should be COUNTING that protein!

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