Should you Take Whey Protein Powder After Surgery?

Often, before the day of any surgery, your doctor will hand you a list of to-dos and not-to-dos. This may seem a little nitpicky and may create more stress on top of the anxiety you are already facing from the impending surgery.  However, your doctor is not doing this to create more butterflies in your stomach; the guidelines given are meant to improve the outcome of the surgery and decrease risk of complications. The instructions the doctor will usually give will include directions for what to do before surgery, but also how best to recover. This may include what to consume (or not consume) before and after, including the best types of protein drinks after surgery.


Pre-surgery Procedures to Follow

Specific instructions will be provided by your doctor. Generally, about three weeks before the day of your operation, you will be asked to discontinue any dietary supplements you may be currently taking, such as vitamin E, Gingko biloba and plant extract-based medicines. Around the 10-day mark, you may be asked to refrain from taking any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

According to a 1994 study published in the British Medical Journal, 40 percent of surgery patients are malnourished at the time of their admission and undergo further depletion of nutrition in the days that follow after surgery.

The risk that malnutrition poses to pre-surgery patients is why your doctor wants to be sure you are well-nourished before surgery. Therefore, a doctor may also recommend starting a protein supplement or a multivitamin a few days before surgery, to make sure you are well-nourished and have the protein you need to heal. This is not the time to try to restrict your calories, unless recommended by your doctor.

The night before surgery, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight, including water. Not being able to take even a small sip of water may seem harsh but is a necessary safety precaution that reduces the risk of involuntary reflexes, such as vomiting during surgery.

Fasting for a minimum of eight hours before surgery is also necessary to prevent complications stemmed from pulmonary aspiration. This occurs when partially digested food, liquid, bile, and other stomach contents leak into the lungs, which puts the patient at risk for pneumonia and other infections.


Postoperative Care

The surgery is usually just the first stage of treatment. What follows a surgery is usually a lengthy recovery process followed by another extensive list of to-dos and not-to-dos. Immediately after surgery, you will likely experience pain once the anesthesia wears off. You may be asked to rate your pain level on a 1-10 scale and be given the proper pain medicine that corresponds to your level of discomfort.

Your doctor will also monitor you for other potential surgery-related complications such as digestive issues that can arise or how your surgical wound is healing. Be patient with yourself as your body heals.


The Vital Role of Whey Protein Powder for Patients After Surgery

Nutrition is also a vital part of recovery, and most patients will be asked to make diet modifications to improve immunity and boost the body’s ability to heal itself. It is not unusual for patients to lose around 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in the days following surgery, since the diet is frequently restricted to liquids or soft foods.

According to a 2018 study, malnutrition significantly increases the risk of complications after surgery.  Researchers found that patients with malnutrition tended to have longer hospital stays and used more medication as they were recovering.

Furthermore, surgery also causes the skeletal muscle tissue to break down and release amino acids, which are then shuttled to the site of injury to aid in the recovery process. This process, although necessary to heal the body, depletes protein in muscle tissue weakening patients and putting them at further risk of post-surgical complications. 

For weeks after the operation, the body continues to produce new cells to replace damaged ones and to promote development of blood vessels and skin tissue. These activities all require protein; without it, patients may experience a prolonged recovery time.

As you can see, your body really needs more protein after surgery. Therefore, most doctors will recommend a diet high in protein especially in the form of whey, which can be obtained from protein powder after surgery.

But, how much protein after surgery do you need? It may depend on the type of surgery you have. Always speak to your doctor for specific recommendations. Most doctors recommend between 1.2-2 g/kg . For those having a minor elective surgery, 1.2 g/kg will be adequate, for major surgery a patient might need more. For example, after bariatric surgery most doctors recommend between 60-80 grams per day or around 1.5 g/kg of ideal body weight.


How To Incorporate Protein Powder After Surgery

How can you meet the recommended protein intake by your doctor? Protein should come from food sources like lean meats, soy, and dairy, which contain proteins that consist of all the necessary amino acids that the body is unable to produce on its own.

Your doctor may also recommend whey protein powder after surgery, which is recognized for its high bioavailability, meaning your body can absorb and utilize the amino acids in whey easily. However, be sure your doctor recommends it first as the ideal protein drink after surgery, so don’t immediately order our Vital Whey product without your doctor giving you the thumbs up.

Yes, the laundry list of things you have to do and cannot do both before and after surgery may seem burdensome. However, the inconveniences are a small price to pay for a speedy and healthy recovery.

Latest posts by Kade Brittain (see all)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This