Weight loss after bariatric surgery is centered around eating a healthy diet, yet many patients wonder if they should be tracking calories or macros to optimize their journey. Nutrition after bariatric surgery is a key component to achieving long-term weight loss success. With all kinds of diet fads emerging, one of the most fundamental concepts still remains true — if you want to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories than you burn.
Yet, you may be unsure how to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle, and counting calories is just not feasible for everyone long term. Depending on your health goals, counting your macros may be another beneficial option to help you achieve weight loss after bariatric surgery.
Although there is no scientific evidence as to whether tracking calories or macros is better for patients after bariatric surgery, defining your health goals will determine which method of eating is best for you.
Calories vs. Macro Counting after Bariatric Surgery
Calories are a unit of energy. On a nutrition label, calories tell us how much energy we consume. Therefore, when you count calories, you measure how much energy you are gaining from the food you eat.
Macronutrients ("macros" for short) are the components of the food we consume in large quantities that provide energy in the form of calories—fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Macros offer most of our body the energy it needs to perform daily tasks. When counting macros, you measure the percentage breakdown of each nutrient you are consuming throughout the day.
Benefits of Calorie Counting for Weight Loss after Bariatric Surgery
There is a complex science behind calorie consumption and how it is impacted by your metabolism, hormone levels, and energy burn. Depending on age, sex, and activity level, the recommended amount of calories will vary from one individual to another.
In general, taller, younger, and more active men need to consume more calories. Whereas women who are shorter, older, and live a more sedentary life, need to consume less.
If your goal is to achieve weight loss after bariatric surgery, you will want to consume fewer calories than you burn throughout the day. Several calorie calculators take into account your height, weight, age, and sex to calculate your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body burns when you are at rest. However, they are not always completely accurate, especially if you are trying to lose weight or maintain your weight loss after bariatric surgery.
In general, we recommend bariatric patients consume anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, which will vary based on the factors mentioned above and how far out you are from surgery.
Although counting calories is a useful method of tracking weight loss, it does not consider the nutritional value of food like counting macros does. You could eat 1,000 calories of bread and stay within your calorie budget for the day, but not lose any weight because there is no nutritional value.
Benefits of Macro Counting for Weight Loss after Bariatric Surgery
When you count macros, you control the types of foods you eat and the amount of food you eat. You can better ensure you meet your calorie and macro percentage needs for optimal nutrition after bariatric surgery.
Similarly, macro counting provides insight into your eating patterns. Jade Dinsdale, a health coach, says that “macros highlight the balance of your diet and give you a look into what you’re eating. Calories don’t give you balance; they just give you a number.”
One of the best ways to achieve weight loss after bariatric surgery is to increase your protein intake and decrease your carb consumption. Tracking macros provides mindfulness around the balance of your protein, fat, and carb intake. You may recognize that you are eating too many carbs and not getting enough protein, contributing to a weight plateau or weight regain.
Macro Breakdown after Bariatric Surgery
Depending on your health goals, your macro percentage will vary. Someone who is following a keto diet will be eating a high fat, moderate protein diet. If your caloric intake were 1,000 calories a day, your macro breakdown on a keto diet would be around 13g carbs (5%), 75g protein (30%), and 72g fats (65%).
If you are interested in building muscle mass while losing fat, you will want to follow a high protein, moderate fat diet. Your macro breakdown will be around 50% protein, 35% fat, and 15% carbohydrates.
And if you are looking to lose weight, you will want your macro breakdown to look something like this: 40% protein, 40% fat, and 20% carbohydrates.
If you’re one-year post-op and eating 1,000 calories, you will eat 100 grams of protein, 44 grams of fat, and 50 grams of carbs.
Determining the Best Method of Tracking to Achieve Weight Loss after Bariatric Surgery
If you want to achieve weight loss after bariatric surgery, tracking your calories or macros may help you make informed, healthy food choices. However, you will want to keep in mind that food quality is essential to your health goals. Our bodies react differently to 100 calories of oatmeal vs. 100 calories of potato chips.
If you are looking to switch up your diet after surgery, you will want to reach out to your bariatric dietitian to gain more insight into how many calories and macros you should consume at each post-surgery stage.