Nutrition after Surgery


After surgery, your body needs enough calories and nutrients to recover.

Be sure to increase your fiber intake to avoid constipation. Pain medications commonly result in constipation if fiber intake is not enhanced. Eat lots of fiber including fresh fruits and leafy green vegetables and whole grains.

Protein will enhance wound healing. Ensure you include chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, or tofu to your regular post-operative meals.

Carbohydrates may reduce fatigue symptoms which can be common after surgery. Additionally, carbs in the form of whole grains, healthy fats from coconut, olive oil, seeds and nuts will improve your immunity.

Be sure to avoid processed food, cheese, dairy products, sweets

Starting 7–10 days prior to surgery

  • Emphasis high-quality carbohydrate and protein intake toensure optimal nourishment prior to surgery
  • Preoperative carbohydrate loading is highly recommended for surgical patients
  • Current carbohydrate loading recommendations typically focus on the evening before surgery, however, it may be of greater benefit if initiated days prior to surgery (7–10 days)
  • Using sports nutrition as a model, ingesting ~60% of total energy or 8 g per kg body mass per day of carbohydrate for a minimum of 3–4 days is effective for maximizing glycogen stores
  • Emphasis on complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, will also ensure adequate intakes of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are important in supporting immunity and the microbiome, which may have implications for nutrient absorption, reducing inflammation, and muscle recovery.

During the rehabilitation period 

  • Protein intakes of at least 1.6 g/kg/day and up to 2.0–3.0 g/kg/day is generally recommended
  • Similar to the pre-op period, this amount should be consumed throughout the day, 20–40 g of protein per sitting
  • Consumption of EAAs and/or protein supplements between meals would be advantageous in achieving higher protein intake levels and optimize nutritional intake when appetite is suppressed
  • ~3hrs before PT, patients should eat a small meal, containing complex carbs (50–100 g) and quality protein (30–40 g)
  • ~30 min prior to PT, a carb & protein beverage should be consumed, followed by another protein beverage after PT
  • In addition to protein, supplements such as creatine monohydrate, β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB), omega-3 fatty acid, and probiotic supplementation have demonstrated efficacy in the support of muscle, strength, and functionality.

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