Should you Take Whey Protein Powder After Surgery?

If you are planning on having surgery you may be preoccupied with thoughts about making changes to your routine, pain management, or getting rest, but you should not forget about nutrition. A major key to faster recovery from surgery is getting enough high-quality protein in your diet, especially from sources like whey protein.

In this article we cover why your protein needs increase after surgery and how taking whey protein after surgery can be beneficial for surgery recovery.

Why Are Protein Needs Increased After Surgery?

Surgery of any kind can put stress on the body and increase your protein needs. Not only does your body need extra protein to support wound healing, but it also needs protein to handle increases in metabolism and the changes in your immune response during recovery. Not having enough protein in your diet can lead to muscle loss, slower recovery times, and increased risk of infection.

You may be asking yourself, how much protein after surgery is best? That answer depends on many biological factors and the type of surgery you have. Normally your body needs about 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight for everyday functioning, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes recommendations. When you are recovering from surgery, you may need to have anywhere from 1.2 to over 2g protein/kg depending on the type of surgery you undergo.

Why Choose Whey Protein After Surgery?

To meet your increased protein needs after surgery, health professionals recommend choosing high-quality protein sources that contain all of the amino acids needed for recovery. Protein sources such as lean meat, fish, poultry, soy, and dairy should be included because of their rich amino acid content.

Whey is a protein naturally found in dairy and may have several advantages over other types of proteins when it comes to your recovery after surgery. Whey protein has a high bioavailability, meaning that your body can break it down easily and use its amino acids more efficiently for tasks like muscle healing and rebuilding.

Whey protein is also a great source of cysteine which is our body’s most naturally abundant antioxidant and needed for the production of glutathione. Increased glutathione production can reduce post-surgical oxidative stress

Ingesting whey protein after surgery is shown in multiple studies to be beneficial for recovery.

One 2016 study of older adults with hip fractures found that post-surgery whey protein intake in combination with rehabilitation sessions had greater improvements in knee extension strength activities in comparison to those who had rehab sessions without the additional whey supplementation.

Another study looked at the impact of whey protein supplementation on people recovering from posterior spine fusion surgery. The intervention group supplemented with whey protein shakes 48 hours before surgery to 1 month after surgery as opposed to the counter group that did not supplement with whey. Researchers found that the people who had whey protein shakes had improved healing, decreased rates of pain, reduced instances of infection, and decreased inflammation.

Drinking protein shakes after surgery is one of the most common and easiest ways to meet your body’s increased protein needs for healing. The best protein shakes for surgery recovery focus on providing high-quality whey protein that is minimally processed to retain all of its active components.

Vital Whey natural protein powders are made with Proserum whey, which is minimally processed and provides essential amino acids for recovery. It’s minimal processing also allows for the natural immune-modulating and regenerative components in whey protein to remain biologically active so that you can get the most benefits.

Always speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian about your nutrition and protein needs as well as whether you should drink protein shakes after surgery.


How does whey protein help with recovery after surgery?

Whey is a bioavailable, high-quality protein source that contains the amino acids needed for healing. It supports both antioxidant function and wound recovery due to its unique amino acid makeup.

How much whey protein should I take after surgery?

Your individual protein needs can differ based on your age, gender, body type, and the type of surgery you have. Typically, individuals need between 1.2-2g protein/kg for optimal healing after surgery from a variety of protein sources. Having 25 to 50 grams of whey protein daily after surgery is a generally recommended dose of protein during recovery.

Are there side effects in taking whey protein after surgery?

While taking whey protein after surgery is generally safe, some people may experience side effects, especially at chronically high doses. Side effects from excess whey protein intake may include excessive calorie intake, weight gain, and constipation. People with lactose intolerance may experience digestive symptoms with certain types of whey protein.




Jaime Rangel, RD
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