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Exercise and Nutrition Tips For Bariatric Surgery

Are you considering bariatric surgery to kickstart your fitness journey? Whether you’re preparing for or recovering from this transformative procedure, exercise and nutrition play a crucial role in maximizing your results.  

It’s understandable if you find it challenging to exercise before undergoing bariatric surgery. Remember, it’s okay if you can’t establish a consistent exercise routine prior to the procedure. The most important thing is to focus on the overall journey to better health. After surgery, as you start to lose weight, you’ll likely find it easier and more motivating to engage in physical activities. Start with gentle, low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, or light yoga. Gradually increase your activity level as tolerated!

In addition to exercise, fueling your body with the right nutrients is vital for a successful bariatric surgery journey. Adopting a well-balanced, protein-rich diet can help with healing, weight loss, and preserving muscle mass. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates can provide the necessary vitamins and minerals to support your body’s needs. 

By incorporating these pre- and post-op exercise tips and nutritional fueling strategies into your fitness journey, you can optimize your results and enhance your overall well-being. Get ready to take charge of your health and achieve your fitness goals with these valuable insights. 

Pre-operative Exercise Tips 

Before undergoing bariatric surgery, engaging in low-impact activities can help improve your cardiovascular health and overall fitness level. These exercises can also aid in reducing stress and anxiety, which are common emotions before surgery.

Incorporating strength training exercises, such as bodyweight exercises or using light weights, can help build muscle mass and increase your metabolism. Strengthening your muscles before surgery can facilitate a smoother recovery process and improve your overall physical function post-surgery.  

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Listen to your body and make adjustments as needed to prevent injury. By staying active before surgery, you can enhance your body’s resilience and prepare yourself for the upcoming changes. 

Pre-operative Nutritional Fueling Strategies 

In addition to exercise, fueling your body with the right nutrients is vital for a successful bariatric surgery journey. Adopting a well-balanced, protein-rich diet can help with healing, weight loss, and preserving muscle mass. Prioritize lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes to support tissue repair and maintain satiety. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals to increase your intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrient-dense foods can aid in reducing inflammation, supporting your immune system, and promoting overall well-being. When you are able to incorporate them into your diet, whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats can provide sustained energy levels and fiber to support digestive health.

Understanding net carbs is crucial for managing your diet, especially before and after bariatric surgery. Net carbs are calculated by looking at a nutritional label and finding the total carbohydrates. From this number, you subtract the fiber and any sugar alcohols, as these components do not significantly impact blood sugar levels. For effective weight loss, we recommend keeping your net carbs below 50 grams per day. However, this limit might be too restrictive if you are engaging in more vigorous physical activity, which may require a higher intake of carbohydrates for energy. Monitoring and adjusting your net carb intake can help optimize your weight loss efforts while ensuring you have the energy needed for daily activities and exercise. 

Remember, skipping meals is not an effective strategy. Skipping meals is like trying to run a car on fumes—it might get you a little further, but it’s not sustainable and can cause damage in the long run. To keep your body running smoothly, ensure you eat 3 balanced meals throughout the day. Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Proper hydration is essential for optimal bodily functions, nutrient absorption, and detoxification. Limit your intake of sugary beverages and processed foods high in unhealthy fats and sugars. Fueling your body with whole, nutrient-rich foods can enhance your pre-operative health and prepare you for a successful surgery.

Benefits of Exercise After Bariatric Surgery 

Post-operatively, engaging in regular physical activity can accelerate your recovery, boost your mood, and support long-term weight management. Exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass, increasing metabolism, and improving cardiovascular health after bariatric surgery. By incorporating various types of exercises into your routine, you can enhance your physical fitness and overall quality of life. 

Walking is an excellent low-impact exercise that can be gradually increased as you recover. Start with short walks and gradually extend the duration and intensity as your body allows. Strength training exercises using resistance bands or light weights can help build muscle strength and improve your metabolism, aiding in weight loss and body composition changes. 

Consider incorporating flexibility exercises like yoga or stretching to improve your range of motion, reduce stiffness, and prevent injuries. These exercises can also promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance your overall well-being.  

Post-operative Exercise Guidelines 

After bariatric surgery, start with gentle movements and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts as you recover. Listen to your body and avoid overexertion to prevent complications and promote a smooth recovery process. Focus on consistency and gradual progress to improve your physical fitness over time. 

Engage in a combination of cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises to promote overall fitness and support your weight loss goals. Cardiovascular exercises like cycling, swimming, tennis or dancing can help improve your heart health, burn calories, and increase your endurance. Strength training exercises targeting major muscle groups can enhance your metabolism, increase muscle tone, and aid in weight management. 

Incorporate stretching and balance exercises into your routine to improve flexibility, prevent muscle imbalances, and reduce the risk of falls. These exercises can also help alleviate muscle tension, improve posture, and enhance your overall functional capacity. Remember to progress gradually and modify exercises based on your individual needs and abilities. 

Post-operative Nutritional Fueling Strategies 

In the post-operative phase, it’s crucial to focus on nutrient-dense foods that support healing, promote weight loss, and maintain muscle mass. Follow our BodyByBariatrics’ dietary recommendations found on our Bariatric Surgery Success Guide and consume adequate amounts of protein to aid in tissue repair and recovery. Include lean protein sources like poultry, fish, eggs, and Greek yogurt in your meals to support your nutritional needs. 

Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These foods can help reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and support your overall health and well-being. Choose beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes as sources of fiber, healthy fats, and essential nutrients to fuel your body and maintain energy levels.

Taking a bariatric multivitamin and calcium citrate is essential for maintaining optimal health after bariatric surgery. It’s crucial to take your bariatric multivitamin, which includes important nutrients like thiamine (Vitamin B1), folate, and iron. Additionally, calcium citrate with vitamin D is important for bone health, especially after surgery. You should take 500 mg of calcium citrate three times per day, each dose separated by at least two hours from each other and from your iron. This staggered approach maximizes absorption and helps prevent deficiencies, supporting your overall well-being during your weight loss journey. 

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (at least 64 ounces of sugar free clear liquids daily) throughout the day to support digestion, hydration, and detoxification. Limit your intake of sugary beverages, processed foods, and high-calorie snacks that provide empty calories and little nutritional value. By focusing on whole, nutrient-rich foods and staying hydrated, you can optimize your post-operative nutrition and enhance your recovery process. 

Common Challenges and Solutions for Exercise After Bariatric Surgery 

While incorporating exercise into your routine after bariatric surgery is crucial for your overall health and well-being, you may encounter certain challenges along the way. Common challenges include limited mobility, muscle weakness, fatigue, and fear of injury. It’s essential to address these challenges proactively and seek solutions to overcome them. 

If you experience limited mobility or muscle weakness, start with gentle exercises like seated movements, chair yoga, or resistance band exercises to gradually build strength and flexibility. Listen to your body and progress at a pace that feels comfortable for you. Fear of injury can also be a barrier to engaging in physical activity after bariatric surgery. Consider working with a physical therapist or a certified fitness professional to develop a tailored exercise plan that meets your specific needs and abilities. They can also ensure you’re exercising safely and effectively to prevent injuries. 

Fatigue is a common issue after surgery, and it’s essential to prioritize rest and recovery alongside your exercise routine. Ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep (at least 6-7 hours per night – check out our blog on Sleep and DXD podcast!), practicing stress-reducing techniques, and fueling your body with nutritious foods to support your energy levels. Listen to your body’s signals and adjust your exercise intensity and duration accordingly to prevent burnout. 

Recommended Exercise Routines for Different Stages of Recovery 

Depending on your individual progress and the specific type of bariatric surgery you’ve undergone, your exercise routine may vary throughout the stages of recovery. In the early stages post-surgery, focus on gentle movements like deep breathing exercises, ankle pumps, and short walks to promote circulation and prevent blood clots. Gradually increase your activity level as you regain strength and stamina. 

As you progress in your recovery, incorporate light cardiovascular activities like stationary cycling, swimming, or water aerobics to improve your endurance and cardiovascular health. Begin with short sessions and gradually extend the duration as your fitness level improves. Include strength training exercises targeting major muscle groups to maintain muscle mass, increase metabolism, and support your weight loss goals. 

In the later stages of recovery, you can advance to more challenging exercises like hiking, jogging, or group fitness classes to enhance your physical fitness and overall well-being. Focus on a combination of cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises to promote a balanced fitness regimen and support your long-term health goals. Listen to your body, stay consistent with your workouts, and celebrate your progress along the way. 

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle After Surgery 

Maximizing your fitness journey before and after bariatric surgery involves a combination of exercise, nutrition, adequate rest and self-care strategies. By incorporating pre-operative exercise tips like strength training and low-impact activities, fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods, and following post-operative exercise guidelines, you can optimize your recovery and achieve your fitness goals. 

Addressing common challenges like limited mobility, fatigue, and fear of injury with proactive solutions, following recommended exercise routines for different stages of recovery, and prioritizing nutritional supplements can further support your health and well-being post-surgery. Remember to listen to your body, work closely with our BodyByBariatrics team, and celebrate your progress as you embark on this transformative fitness journey! 

Here’s to maximizing your fitness journey and embracing a healthier lifestyle after bariatric surgery!


*BodyByBariatrics blog does not replace medical advice. Seek the help of your health care professional if you have questions related to your condition. We strive for patients to achieve healthier, happier, longer lives through weight loss surgery. 


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