The Best Bariatric Surgery Protein Shakes for Before and After Surgery

When most people think about protein shakes, they usually think of shakes to support muscle gain at the gum. While this is why many people drink protein shakes, it isn’t the full story. Bariatric surgery protein shakes are an extremely important part of the bariatric diet.

If you are planning for, or have already had, a bariatric surgery, you probably want to know which bariatric protein shakes are the best and which to avoid - which is exactly what we will cover today.

Not all protein shakes are created equal, and it’s crucial to know exactly what you’re looking for when shopping for your surgery-supporting shakes. In this article, we’ll discuss the best protein shakes for post bariatric surgery AND the best protein shakes for pre bariatric surgery.

But before diving into the best protein shakes for bariatric surgery, let’s first make sure you understand why protein shakes are so crucial if you are preparing for, or have already gone through, bariatric surgery.

Reasons to drink protein shakes for bariatric surgery

There are just some of the numerous reasons why drinking protein shakes can help you both before and after bariatric surgery. 

Protein shakes may reduce liver size

One of the most important things to do before bariatric surgery is reduce the size of your liver. That’s because a large liver can block the surgeon's view and make it difficult to operate. A pre-bariatric surgery diet made from liquid helps you to shrink your liver to a safe size.

Protein shakes can cleanse your digestive system

Drinking protein shakes as part of a bariatric liquid diet helps to clean out your digestive system. This also makes it easier for the surgeon to perform the operation.

Protein shakes can keep you satiated

Supplementing with bariatric surgery protein shakes keeps you feeling fuller, as getting enough protein helps reduce hunger levels. This will help you cut back on calories both before and after your surgery.

Protein shakes help you burn more calories

Bariatric surgery protein shakes not only help you feel full, but they can also help you burn more calories - which is an absolute win when you are working toward weight loss. 

Protein shakes may assist with healing

Bariatric surgery can take it out of you, and it will probably take you between 4 to 6 weeks to get back to your normal activities. Drinking bariatric surgery protein shakes may help to reduce your healing time since our body uses protein to build and repair tissues.

So now that you understand why bariatric surgery protein shakes are so beneficial, let’s examine what type of protein you should have in your shake.

Collagen vs whey protein - which is best for bariatric patients?

Most protein powders sold in the United States use whey protein. But is whey protein the best for bariatric surgery protein shakes?

Not really. 

There are a few reasons why whey protein is not a great protein source for bariatric surgery. The first reason is that whey is made from dairy products. This means it contains lactose, which is a big bariatric no-no. 

Many people who have bariatric surgery report that they become lactose intolerant, consuming a protein powder with lactose could cause your gut distress. 

Whey protein also causes gastrointestinal problems in many people, even those who have not had bariatric surgery. Exactly what you don’t want after your surgery!

So what are the best bariatric surgery protein shakes? Our opinion is that the best protein shakes for pre bariatric surgery AND the best protein shakes for post bariatric surgery are undoubtedly collagen protein shakes for these reasons:

Collagen is packed full of protein

Collagen IS a protein, so most collagen powders are almost all protein. This compares favorably with whey protein, which can vary from 30% to 90% protein depending on how much it has been processed.

Collagen is anti-inflammatory

Countless studies have shown that collagen reduces inflammation in your body, which promotes healing following your bariatric surgery, and also helps the rest of the systems in your body work well.

Collagen is deeply healing

Collagen to heal plays an active role in healing your body. It’s what your body uses in the final two stages of a healing wound. This applies to the areas affected by surgery but also other parts of your body. 

Collagen has been shown to be incredibly effective at healing the gut, which has often been damaged by people who have bariatric surgery.

Collagen is hypoallergenic

While whey protein has lactose, which is likely to cause problems with people who have had bariatric surgery, collagen is naturally made by your body already! This means that you will be able to take collagen without the risk of a reaction.

Collagen is a clear winner due to its healing potential, but not even collagen proteins are created equally. Let’s look into some tips for choosing the right protein powder for your shakes. 

Other factors to consider for bariatric surgery protein shakes

To ensure you are getting a high-quality and beneficial protein powder for your bariatric surgery protein shakes, here are some things to keep in mind:

Make sure your protein is hydrolyzed

Hydrolyzed protein is a type of protein that has been broken down into smaller pieces, or peptides, using a chemical process known as hydrolysis. This makes it easier for the body to absorb and use the protein.

This is especially important after a bariatric surgery, because you don’t want your body to have to work hard to digest your supplement! Using a hydrolyzed collagen protein, or better - a nano-hydrolyzed collagen protein, will make your supplement more gentle and bioavailable.

Look for complete proteins

Another important thing to consider for your bariatric surgery protein shakes?: complete and incomplete proteins.

Complete proteins are those that contain all nine of the essential amino acids (EAAs), which the body cannot produce on its own and must obtain from food sources. Incomplete proteins lack one or more of these EAAs. 

If you use incomplete proteins, your body will need to borrow the missing EAAs from its own stores in order to use that protein supplement well for energy or healing. This means it can take longer to process and utilize, and can also exhaust your body post-surgery. 

It is preferable to get complete proteins for your bariatric surgery protein shakes. Complete proteins are more effective than incomplete proteins at preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss, making them the smart choice for your bariatric surgery protein shakes.

Complete proteins are also more effective than incomplete proteins when it comes to recovering from physical activity. In general - they are all-around more useful for your body! 

So you may be wondering: Is collagen a complete protein? Actually, it’s not! Luckily, some companies add the missing amino acid, tryptophan, to their collagen supplement to make it a complete protein. These are the collagen supplements you want! 

Now that you know exactly what to look for when choosing a protein for your shakes, let’s examine some ingredients you should avoid. 

Ingredients to avoid in your bariatric protein shakes

There are certain ingredients that should be avoided when making bariatric surgery protein shakes. Some of these ingredients can cause digestive problems, while others can impede weight loss or lead to weight gain. 

If you see any of these ingredients on the label of your bariatric surgery protein shakes, it’s time to start looking for a different formulation!

Lactose

Lactose intolerance is very common in bariatric patients. Lactose intolerance is caused by the inability to digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy products, and it can create stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea. 

Some people with lactose intolerance can still eat small amounts of lactose-containing foods without experiencing symptoms, while others cannot tolerate even a trace amount of lactose.

Often, people who go through bariatric surgery become intolerant to lactose, even if they didn’t have issues before. If you are one of these people, you should avoid eating or drinking any lactose - and that means no milk, yogurt, or whey in your shake (unless they are lactose-free).

Sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener that is commonly used in sugar-free and low-sugar products. They can adversely affect your health, especially after bariatric surgery.

Sugar alcohols can cause gastric distress and diarrhea in some people. They can also contribute to weight gain, as they add extra calories to your diet. Additionally, sugar alcohols can interfere with blood sugar control, which can be problematic for some people. 

Even if you don’t have diabetes, bariatric surgery can sometimes cause blood sugar problems due to dumping syndrome. As such, you should make sure to avoid any of these in your bariatric surgery protein shakes:

  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol
  • Lactitol
  • Isomalt
  • Maltitol
  • Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates

Sugar

Sugar should not be consumed before bariatric surgery, because it can increase the size of the liver, which can lead to problems during the bariatric surgery itself. If the liver is too large, the surgeon may decide not to go ahead with the surgery.

Sugar should also not be consumed following the surgery, as dumping syndrome often occurs post-surgery. Dumping syndrome is also known as rapid gastric emptying. If you experience dumping syndrome following your surgery, be sure to limit sugary foods and eat smaller meals.

Now you know what protein powder for bariatric patients to use and why, it's time to find out how you can make a health-conscious yet delicious protein shake.

How to make delicious bariatric shakes

Here are some simple tips for making your bariatric surgery protein shakes. 

1. Start with the basics

Collagen powder is a great base for making bariatric surgery protein shakes. Add 1-2 scoops of collagen powder to your shaker cup, along with 8 ounces of cold liquid (try almond milk or soy milk - remember no cow milk). Shake or blend it up until there are no clumps left in the mixture.

2. Experiment with flavors

If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding in different flavors to make bariatric surgery protein shakes that are unique and tasty! Consider adding sugar-free cocoa powder, matcha powder, or canned pumpkin (no sugar added) to your shake for an added boost of flavor.

3. Get your greens

To give your bariatric surgery protein shakes an extra health boost, try adding a scoop of greens powder. Greens powders are a great way to ensure you’re getting your daily dose of the best bariatric vitamins and minerals. They can also add a delicious taste to your shake.

4. Use natural sweeteners

To give your shake a touch of sweetness without adding sugar, try using a natural zero-calorie sweetener like stevia. Your body will thank you for ditching refined sugar post-surgery.

5. Opt for liquid protein shots instead!

The best protein shakes for pre bariatric surgery and best protein shakes for post bariatric surgery are great…until you get tired of drinking them. At some point, you’ll probably start to look for alternatives to protein shakes after bariatric surgery - and protein shots are a great option!

Liquid collagen protein shots, like the ones from ProT Gold, are perfect for bariatric patients. They are lactose-free, contain added tryptophan that makes them a complete protein, and are made from nano-hydrolyzed collagen for easy absorption.

Even better? They come in single serve packages so you can take them on the go. This makes them easy to toss back when you’re hungry for a healthy, protein-filled snack during the day. 

There is also absolutely no added sugar, which helps prepare you for surgery, moves you toward your weight goals, and makes sure you don’t fall victim to dumping syndrome after surgery!

Even after you have stopped your liquid diet, it is still recommended to continue taking bariatric surgery protein shakes, as they allow you to get enough protein, even with a reduced stomach size.

Remember, the liquid diet won’t last forever. You should be able to eat most solid foods within three months of your surgery. In the meantime, it’s important to follow a liquid diet to ensure a successful outcome from your bariatric surgery - and shakes and protein shots can help you do just that.