All About Counting Macros After Bariatric Surgery

All About Counting Macros After Bariatric Surgery

Alex Brecher

A strict diet is critical for successful weight loss after bariatric surgery, but what is your strategy? Counting macros is one way to approach your diet instead of counting calories obsessively. With macros, you can track carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to reach your goals. Here is some information on how to count macros after weight loss surgery.

What Are Macros?

Macros are macronutrients. They refer to carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These are the nutrients that provide your body with calories. They are called macronutrients, or “big” nutrients, because they are bigger than micronutrients, or “small” nutrients, which are vitamins and minerals. 

Each gram of protein has 4 calories. Each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories. Each gram of fat has 9 calories.

Getting Started: Macros and Calories

Calories are a unit of energy, and your body needs energy to function and exercise. However, too many calories causes your body to store extra energy as fat. To lose weight, you need to reduce your calorie consumption so that it is lower than the amount of calories you burn, or expend. 

Because of the direct link between calories and weight loss, lots of people count calories when they are trying to lose weight, including after bariatric surgery. It seems to make sense, but there is a difference when counting macros. 

When you count macros, you can focus on the foods you eat instead of on the calorie count. The idea is to choose the amounts of each macro that add up to the right number of calories for you to lose weight, and offer the right nutritional balance for your body.

Breaking Down Macros: Protein, Carbs, and Fats

Now we know a bit about how macros relate to calories, but let us go a bit deeper into each type of macro. 

Proteins are chains of amino acids that are building blocks of tissues and enzymes in your body. You need adequate protein to maintain lean muscle mass and strength, to support normal immune function, and for your body to function normally. Protein is a slow-digesting macro, so it can help decrease hunger while you are losing weight.

Carbohydrates are the greatest source of calories in the typical diet, but that may not be true on some low-carb diets, such as keto diets, or for many bariatric surgery patients. Types of carbohydrates include sugars and starches, which raise blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates also include dietary fiber, but your body does not fully digest fiber and it does not raise blood sugar levels. 

Fats have the most calories per gram when compared to carbohydrates and proteins. The serving size for fats is usually small because they are so high in calories. Some fats are healthier for your heart than others. 

Determining Macros: How Much Protein, Fat, and Carbs After Bariatric Surgery?

Now let us move to the nuts and bolts of counting macros. How many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates should you have after weight loss surgery? 

Start by knowing your approximate calorie goals. We will assume that your post-op daily calorie goal is about 1200 calories. If you are unsure, ask a healthcare provider about calorie goals and any other guidelines.

Protein Macro Goal

For many bariatric surgery patients, the daily goal for protein might be about 35% of total calories, or 420 calories on a 1200-calorie diet. Since each gram of protein has 4 calories, the daily protein goal would be 105 grams.

Carbohydrate Macro Goal

Your carbohydrate macro goal depends on individual factors, including what type of diet you are on and what your healthcare provider recommends. If your goal is to keep carbs under 25% of total calories, and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, that would give you a daily carb goal of 75 grams.

When counting carbs, there are a few things to consider. One is that some healthcare providers use a method of counting called net carbs. In this method, you subtract grams of fiber from total carbs to get net carbs. Your daily carb goal may be based on net carbs.

Another consideration with carbohydrates is that this may be the most important macronutrient to track in some cases. For example, if you are on a keto diet, your carb intake needs to be very limited to stay in ketosis. 

Fat Macro Goal

Your fat goal will be determined based on your calorie goal and how many grams of carbs and protein you are allotted. Continuing with the above example, your fat goal would be 40% of total calories, or 480 calories per day. Fat has 9 calories per gram, so your daily goal would be to get 53 grams of fat per day. 

Best Foods for Counting Macros After Bariatric Surgery

Now that you know your goals for protein, fat, and carbohydrates, which foods should you eat to be able to achieve them and lose weight? In general, more nutritious foods are best. They will keep you fuller and give your body necessary nutrients for optimal health.

Strategies for Hitting Protein Goals

There are a variety of high-protein foods that are suitable for post-op bariatric surgery patients. Fish, eggs, chicken, cottage cheese, cheese, ground turkey, and meat are all high in protein. Beans, lentils, tofu, and nuts are plant-based sources.

Some bariatric surgery patients struggle to get enough protein. It is recommended to eat protein at each meal and snack, and to eat it first, before eating other foods, so you can get in your protein before feeling full. 

The BariatricPal Store has a variety of protein supplements and high-protein foods that can help you get more protein. We have products that are suitable for patients from the full liquid post-op diet to the long-term solid foods diet. These are some examples.

BariatricPal Protein foods and supplements are bariatric-friendly. They do not have excessive amounts of sugar and carbs that could throw you off of your diet. Many of them are portion controlled and completely convenient.

Strategies for Hitting Carbohydrate Goals

Carbohydrates are likely to be low after weight loss surgery. When choosing carbohydrates, you can get more nutrients and more dietary fiber if you opt for the following types of foods.

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and lentils

On the other hand, you may want to limit these types of foods.

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice
  • Candy and sweets
  • Refined crackers, bread, and pasta
  • Potatoes

Reducing carbohydrates by so much can be tough, especially if you love foods that are starchy or have sugar. BariatricPal has all kinds of low-carb swaps for high-carb favorites. These are some examples of substitutions that can help you hit your macro goals and stay satisfied.

If you exercise a lot, your carbohydrate goals may be higher. That can even be a motivation for you to get active.

Strategies for Hitting Fat Goals

On a keto diet, you may be on the hunt for fat bombs. On a typical bariatric surgery diet, you may be opting for smaller portions of high-fat foods. Ask your surgeon which is best for you.

These are some foods that are high in healthy fats.

  • Olive oil and olives
  • Avocados
  • Vegetable oils, such as sesame, corn, canola, and sunflower
  • Nuts and peanuts
  • Seeds
  • Salad dressings

Some keto diets include fatty meats, cream, and butter, but it is best to ask a dietitian which foods to choose to get your fats.

The BariatricPal Store can help you get more fats with products such as these.

Tips for Counting Macros

These are some tips when counting macros.

  • Use a tracker to log your meals. Most trackers let you count not only calories, but one or more macros. You may be able to set custom goals.
  • Log all of your food, including meals, snacks, beverages, and little bites, so your tracking is accurate.
  • Consider tracking just one macro to start. For many people, it may be easiest to track protein or carbs to start with before tracking all three macros. This is simpler.

Be aware that many foods have more than one type of macro in them. These are some examples of foods that have all three macros.

  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Pizza
  • Mac and cheese
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Trail mix

Counting macros after bariatric surgery is one way to reach your goals. It gives you a food focus instead of a calorie focus. The BariatricPal Store can help you hit goals for carbs, proteins, and fat by supplying you with great-tasting and convenient foods that fit into a bariatric diet. Talk to your healthcare provider about your goals, and then stop by our store to stock up on what you need. We’re with you on your weight loss journey!

Counting macrosPost-op diet