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Protein Debate: Bariatric Edition

So much information out there.  So much “misinformation” out there also.  So what’s a bariatric patient to do ?  You’ve taken the important decision to improve your health and to lose weight and eat better and the media is telling you to LOAD UP on PROTEIN.  That means that you should start downing protein shakes, and eating huge amounts eggs and chicken and meat.  

What’s the reasoning behind the suggestions to load up on protein ?  How much protein should we really be eating post surgery and do we need to worry breakfast/ lunch and dinner ? We know protein is essential for good health but how much is too much ?   

Balance needs to be achieved for optimal health.  Our bodies are designed to turn macronutrients into energy.  If we eat more protein than our bodies require for supporting healthy skin and hair, producing hormones and building muscles, then it is likely to cause an insulin spike and turn the intake of protein into GLUCOSE.  This process is something called gluconeogenesis.  When we break this down – it means that we are consuming more protein in the effort to reduce refined carbohydrates in our diet but when we eat too much protein it converts into glucose, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid in the first place.  

How do we know how much protein we need to consume to stay healthy and thrive ?  This is the exact calculation to know how much protein you need.  Take a moment and do the calculation so that you know how much you should be getting each day.  This is the TOP range required.

Top Protein Range Required:

  • Take your weight in lbs and multiply this X by 0.36 (protein grams).
  • Example:  If you weigh 130lbs and you are female 
  • 130 x .36 = 46.8 or approximately 48 grams of protein per day.
  • Another example of a women who weighs 180lbs
  • 180 x .36 = 64.8 or approximately 65 grams of protein per day.
  • Remember, this is the TOP protein range required.  The lower range is divided by 2.  

There are some variations to this protein rule such as if you are very physically active or highly athletic.  If you are healing from an injury a little boost of protein can be a good idea also.  

Before you begin trying to pack more protein in your diet, there are some things you need to consider.  When you think “more protein” it doesn’t have to mean “more meat”.  You can also choose food items such as milk, cheese and eggs.  There is also a lot of protein rich foods which include whole grains, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.

Another good point that you need to remember is that if you decide to increase your protein consumption, dietary math demands that you reduce other things in your diet in order to not over-consume calories.  For example, if you eat more protein and less bread and rice, this is a positive change in your diet.

We also need to consider that the protein articles we read online and social media is geared a lot of the time to sales and the sales of a specific product which is high in protein.  Their goal is to get you to believe that you are protein deficient in order to sell their high protein products to you. 

We are all biochemically individual which means we are all different and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for the next person so adjust your protein intake according to how you feel. You need to work out what works for you as an individual.  You may just get a surprise by how much or how little protein you really need to feel your best.

Examples of food items and how many grams of protein they contain:

  • Whole Eggs: 35% of calories. 1 large egg has 6 grams of protein, with 78 calories.
  • Pistachios : 13% of calories. 6 grams of protein per ounce (28 g), with 161 calories
  • Chicken breast: 80% of calories. 1 roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams of protein with only 284 calories.
  • Oats: 15% of calories. Half a cup of raw oats has 13 grams, with 303 calories
  • Cottage Cheese: 59% of calories. A cup (226 g) of cottage cheese with 2% fat contains 27 grams of protein, with 194 calories.
  • Greek Yogurt: Non-fat Greek yogurt has protein at 48% of calories. One 6-ounce (170-gram) container has 17 grams of protein, with only 100 calories
  • Milk:  21% of calories. 1 cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein, with 149 calories.
  • Broccoli: 20% of calories. 1 cup (96 grams) of chopped broccoli has 3 grams of protein, with only 31 calories.
  • Lean Beef: 53% of calories. One 3-ounce (85 g) serving of cooked beef with 10% fat contains 22 grams of protein, with 184 calories.
  • Tuna: 94% of calories, in tuna canned in water. A cup (154 g) contains 39 grams of protein, with only 179 calories.
  • Quinoa:  15% of calories. One cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein, with 222 calories.
  • Whey Protein Supplements: Varies between brands. Can go over 90% of calories, with 20-50 grams of protein per serving.
  • Lentils: 27% of calories. 1 cup (198 g) of boiled lentils contains 18 grams of protein, with 230 calories.
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 14% of calories. 1 ounce (28 g) has 5 grams of protein, with 125 calories.
  • Turkey Breast:  70% of calories. One 3-ounce (85 g) serving contains 24 grams of protein, with 146 calories.
  • Shrimp: 90% of calories. A 3 ounce (85 g) serving contains 18 grams of protein, with only 84 calories
  • Peanuts: 16% of calories. One ounce (28 g) has 7 grams, with 159 calories.

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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