July 2022
Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

6 Ways to Boost Your Energy After Weight Loss Surgery

It is common for patients to experience low energy levels and fatigue after Bariatric Surgery.
Your body is used to consuming an excess amount of calories,
and now the amount you can consume has been strictly limited.

This restriction, coupled with the change to your digestive anatomy,
means your body cannot naturally absorb certain critical nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Some fatigue is expected in the early stages, given you are recovering from
surgery and limited to liquid, puree and limited foods.

However, if you experience excessively long periods of fatigue and low energy,
make an appointment with your Bariatric team.

The following are the six major causes of fatigue that occur in life
after Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) and how to combat them.

1. Protein Deficiency

When you are deficient in protein, there is a negative impact on hormone production and other vital bodily functions like making neurotransmitters to maintain mental health.

Not only does this make you feel as though all the energy was zapped from your system, but it can also cause other complexities like temporary hair loss, muscle wasting and fatigue.

Takeaway: Protein is your friend!
The rule of thumb:
Per meal: About 25g of protein
Per snack: 10-15g of protein

2. Alcohol Consumption

While deciding to have that glass of wine (or two) might seem fantastic at the moment, it contributes to more than just a morning-after headache. It causes sneaky side effects we may not piece together: 

Poor food choices: Do you ever notice how increasingly innocent looking those French fries get as happy hour progresses? That is due to alcohol lowering your inhibitions, making poorer food choices more likely.

Poor sleep: Although known to cause people to "pass out" as a depressant, alcohol disrupts your normal REM cycles. This causes poor sleep quality, which is why you don't feel refreshed the morning after drinking. In addition to low energy (a huge deterrent from exercising), alcohol consumption has been linked to weight gain

Consuming higher calorie foods and not getting enough quality shut-eye due to alcohol use puts you behind the eight ball in achieving your weight loss goals.

On a nutritional level, alcohol contains no nutritional value, which means it only has empty calories. The effects of alcohol consumption are numerous in terms of nutrient and vitamin absorption: 

  • Alcohol robs us of B group vitamins, which are key players in our energy levels. Vitamin B12 is essential in producing brain chemicals that affect our mood and other crucial brain functions.

    Low levels of B12 and B6 have been linked to depression, which can be persistent past hangover anxiety. Drinking alcohol regularly for more than two weeks decreases vitamin B12 absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Alcohol inhibits protein absorption by up to 70%. When your whole metabolism is set up on getting enough protein, jeopardizing absorption is detrimental to our bodies.
  • Alcohol stimulates cravings for sugar and carbs by interfering with our blood glucose regulation. This is a "double whammy" since you are not only consuming empty calories from alcohol but are much more likely to make poorer food choices (we're looking at you, french fries).

Takeaway: The highly caloric, non nutritional margaritas are not your friend!

3. Malnutrition / Malabsorption

Malnutrition after Bariatric Surgery occurs because the body cannot absorb nutrients. This is why taking vitamins designed for Bariatric Patients is essential to your daily routine.

For optimal energy production, nutrients including B12, iron, magnesium, and B6 Folate must be included in your daily diet and vitamin supplements.

These are found in nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods such as vegetables and fruits. In addition to taking your daily vitamin supplements, a good rule of thumb is to have as “colorful" a plate of food as possible. 

As an example of your exaggerated nutritional needs, let's use iron and B12. Before surgery, the average person needs 1-3mcg of B12 daily to encourage a healthy blood nervous system and maintain a good level of energy and vitality.

Gastric Sleeve and Bypass Surgery permanently reduce your ability to absorb B12.
After surgery, you need a supplement that provides more B12 than a standard vitamin. 

Iron absorption is similar: Before surgery, about 23% of iron from food or supplements is absorbed and converted to storage. This mineral is required for healthy blood, clear thinking and adding that little spring in your step. It is also impacted by WLS, bringing the amount absorbed down to 6.2% from animal sources and even lower, at 4.7% from plant sources.

Before surgery, we absorb 10% of dietary iron. So you can see the need for supplements after surgery. 

Takeaway: Bariatric vitamin supplements, such as BN Healthy, are your friend!

4. Lack of Exercise

When we have that low energy, "bleh" feeling, exercise is usually the first thing we cross off the "to do" list - whether you are a Bariatric Patient or not.

Ironically, when you feel too tired, the exact medicine you need is exercise after WLS. This helps maintain energy production and vitality. You don't need to spend three hours on the treadmill; a simple 20-minute brisk walk is a great start!

The research shows that the goal of reaching 10,000 steps every day not only improves your mental health but has far-reaching effects on your sympathetic nervous system - making "rest and digest" or relaxation, digestion and elimination much more efficient. The ability to rest and digest reflects your health, resilience, and vitality.

Takeaway: Your body will never regret a workout.

5. Stress

Life after Weight Loss Surgery needs to be filled with new habits and routines that will provide you with long-term health success.

On top of the other areas in your life, these changes may trigger stress, manifesting in fatigue and feeling generally overwhelmed. States of low-grade stress do come and go, and your body is geared to manage these. 

However, long-term stress can become the foundation of many mental and physical health issues such as depression, muscle wasting, anxiety and burnout. Psychological support is key to gaining insight into how we deal with stress. Mental health professionals can then provide practical tools to support you to a happier and emotionally stable state.

Guess what one of the top stress reducers is? Your good friend, exercise!

Takeaway: Always seek support when stress levels feel out of control.

6. Poor Sleep

Poor and interrupted sleep and nutrition affect the quality of our rest. Without enough quality, "shut-eye" will start the day behind the eight ball. Lack of sleep is classed as an "inflammatory state" and means we are stretching most systems in the body as a result.

Tie it together: If you're feeling fatigued and lack the energy to get through the day, examine your lifestyle to see what changes you can make. To sum it up:

  • Eat your protein
  • Put down the booze
  • Take your BN Healthy multivitamins daily
  • Embrace exercise
  • Quality Zzz's

Remember, it takes time to change our habits. Although there's no waving a magic wand, you can set attainable goals to modify your behaviors. You will be motivated to keep going when you feel your energy levels increase. Life after Bariatric Surgery will be challenging at first, but the rewards of regaining your health will always be worth it!

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