What is the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

drink wholesome is the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for gastric sleeve patients, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. Order samples to see if our protein powder is right for you. 

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drink wholesome is the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients.

What is gastric sleeve surgery?

What is the best way to get protein after a gastric sleeve?

What is the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients?

Why drink wholesome?

What is gastric sleeve surgery?


Gastric sleeve surgery, also called sleeve gastrectomy, is a bariatric (weight loss) surgery procedure. It removes a large portion of your stomach, leaving behind a narrow “sleeve.” Reducing the size of your stomach helps restrict your calorie intake and reduce your appetite. This surgery is used to help people with severe obesity achieve long-term weight loss.

Pre-op diet. 

The effectiveness of gastric sleeve surgery depends a lot on your pre-op diet. Three weeks before surgery, you should start to make changes to your diet. In particular, you should aim to reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein intake. The goal here is to reduce the amount of fat around the liver, which sits on top of your stomach. This is where the surgeon will be performing the surgery, so the smaller the liver, the easier it is for the surgeon to perform the surgery. During this time, protein supplements are a must-have. Protein supplements are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. They are also very filling (satiating), which is especially important the 2-3 days before surgery, when gastric sleeve patients are required to go on a liquid diet. 

Post-op diet. 

A liquid diet is also required for most gastric sleeve patients about 7 days after surgery. For the first day or so after surgery, you will only be allowed to drink clear liquids. Once you can stomach clear liquids, you can start adding thick liquids to your diet. This includes protein shakes. The “thick liquid” phrase also lasts for about 7 days, and getting lots of protein at this time is important for several reasons. First of all, protein helps with recovery. Not eating enough protein after surgery can compromise your ability to heal and prolong the stages of wound healing. Moreover, research shows that postoperative protein consumption is linked to weight loss. In other words, eating lots of protein after your surgery can also help you lose weight permanently. One of the easiest ways to do so is by adding a protein supplement to your diet.

What is the best way to get protein after a gastric sleeve?


Losing weight is all about achieving and maintaining a calorie deficit – eating fewer calories than you burn. You have to burn 3,500 more calories than you eat to lose a pound, and to lose weight at a safe rate – 0.5 pound per week – you will need to eat 1,750 fewer calories weekly, or 250 calories daily. Replacing a meal or part of a meal with a protein shake can help you eat less. This works because high protein foods are among the most satiating foods. They keep you feeling full for longer, which helps prevent snacking and overeating. In other words, increasing the percentage of your calories that come from high protein foods can help you lose weight.

In the months following gastric sleeve surgery, gastric sleeve patients should aim to eat 60 to 80 grams of protein per day. Getting this much normal food can be hard, or impossible during the liquid diet phase, which is where protein supplements can help. That said, not all protein supplements are created equal.

not all protein powders are created equal

What are the best protein shakes for gastric sleeve patients?


There are two types of protein supplements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make protein shakes for gastric sleeve patients with protein powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people, prioritizing convenience, prefer to buy ready-to-drink protein shakes, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably feel sick to their stomach. 

Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. This is worrisome because more and more research shows that disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food) can impact the success of bariatric surgery. In other words, patients with healthy gut microbiomes have better outcomes; a healthy gut plays an important role in weight loss and helps reduce the likelihood of complications post-bariatric surgery. An overview of existing literature also shows that bariatric surgery itself can damage the gut microbiome, meaning that bariatric patients are at increased risk of developing gut-related diseases.

I therefore recommend that you avoid ready-to-drink protein shakes, and make your own gastric sleeve protein shakes with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal either, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink shakes! 

Why drink wholesome


drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients is that we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are hard to digest, and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), and can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

vegan vanilla protein powder serving suggestion
vanilla protein powder lifestyle image 1

When buying protein powder, one ingredient to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many protein powders are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas and cause stomach pain.

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein powders, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “collagen protein,” “pea protein, and” “whey protein” as opposed to “collagen,” “peas,” and “whey.” I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food. 

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to the gut microbiome. It is therefore in your best interest to avoid protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates. 

vegan chocolate protein powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate protein powder 14 servings serving suggestion

Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients with egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. If you cannot eat eggs, try our almond protein powder. Unlike protein concentrates or isolates, almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients like calcium and vitamin E. We prefer almonds to other minimally-processed plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties and can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.

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easy to digest

“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse

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drink wholesome is the best protein powder for gastric sleeve patients.

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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