PROTEIN for Gastric Sleeve and Lap-band patients in bars, shakes and natural sources

Dr Terry Simpson weight loss surgeon

Today a lot of people will be watching football but before we get ahead of ourselves I have to get my second cup of Peet’s coffee – so grab your favorite drink and lets see if we can make some sense out of the entire world of protein drinks and bars.

The other day a friend of mine gave me a protein bar and told me it was his new favorite. I looked over the label and took a bite. I asked him if he knew the difference between this protein bar and a Snicker’s bar – and the answer was about 20 calories and a couple of bucks. There was protein in the bar was less than 2 ounces of tuna, and the tuna would taste better (and so would the Snickers bar).

As a part of what I do I prescribe shakes to my Gastric Sleeve and Lap-band weight loss surgery patients. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do protein shakes. Protein shakes are a great thing for people who just get done with surgery, they allow a person to get some protein so they maintain muscle mass, and can keep away some hunger. For others who have to be on a liquid diet for a while having protein is essential. And for people who need to get away from the junk they eat and change their diet this offers a reset.

The first protein shakes we use to prescribe for patients cost almost $25.00 per shake – it was expensive, they tasted almost as good as wet sawdust, but they were the best thing we had at the time. It was only available by prescription, you couldn’t go to Costco and pick up protein powder. That has changed, as the manufacture of protein powders has become easy. Today most protein shakes cost less than $2 per shake and come from a variety of sources and flavors (or unflavored), and can be bought in any grocery store or pharmacy. If you go on the internet you will find lots of talk about which protein source is better, or more bio-available. Like most things from the good Dr. Google, there is more anecdote than science.

Protein shakes are fine for weight loss surgery patients who want to reset what they eat. For a limited time, they are fine.

Four ounces of salmon has 22 grams of protein, not to mention a lot of B12, B6, and omega 3 fatty acids. Eat salmon twice a week and the risk of heart failure goes down by 100 fold – take protein powder and fish oil capsules and the risk of heat failure doesn’t change one bit.

Athletes who work out a lot find supplemental protein may help with muscle mass, but while gyms love to sell protein powders, a person could just have some meat, or fish, or poultry – have a better quality of protein and more nutrients than packed into a drink. The high amounts of proteins most people think they need are way above what science says a person would need. For those of you who like numbers here is a key: there are a lot of research papers out there that show less protein is needed than what is recommended to people.

Then there is the whole volume issue. The stomach empties differently for solids than liquids, and part of “satiety” or “feeling full” that is sustaining is with solid food not liquid. The guts are more efficient at breaking down the protein you get in food, and what you get in a protein powder.

Proteins are broken down by your guts into amino acids, and some amino acids our body doesn’t make so we rely on our diet to get them. One of the protein “shots” advertised has a lot of protein in it, but very little of the amino acids that your body needs- so it is a waste of money – you get little from it that your body cannot make. Further, some amino acid configurations in some proteins are such that our body cannot break those protein powders down to use them.

So be kind to your guts – they are the ultimate place to recycle food and get the good stuff out of it. If you can take real food, then do it. Protein powders and bars are not a long-term solution with some very limited exceptions.

Real food – trust me, your guts like that better. Think of your guts like your dog- your dog loves going for a walk, they love to work. So do your guts, they just do much better with real food (remember the fish oil, doesn’t help with heart issues, but fish does).

Check yourself- did you make your weight loss goal this week? Did what you ate, and how much lead you to lose or gain weight? If not- look it over, and decide what you may or may not need — and perhaps that protein drink for breakfast can be replaced with a good cup of Peet’s coffee and you can save those calories.

Ok- I have a long walk and if I don’t finish my coffee I will need to break up that routine. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to send me your favorite recipe this week.

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Have a good week -and go Seahawks!

—Terry