Protein is used in the body for muscle building, growth and structure. It aids the synthesis of hormones and enzymes while also improving metabolic processes. Protein is involved in fluid balance and acid-base regulation. Protein contributes to satiety or that feeling of fullness. Importantly for surgery, antibodies are made of protein and protein provides energy and supports your immune function.

What is Protein?

One of three Macronutrients in your diet is Protein, the others being Carbohydrate and Fat. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino blocks. There are 20 amino acids, 8 being essential amino acids with the others being non-essential, meaning you cannot produce them from other substrates so therefore you need food to supply them.

Animal sources are complete proteins (contain all essential amino acids) and are found in meat, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.

Plant proteins have a more incomplete protein and therefore have limited amounts of one essential amino acid. Protein is found in legumes (beans), grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, soy beans and quinoa.

Note: Combine sources of plant protein across your diet to ensure all essential amino acids are in your diet.


  • Carbohydrates: 45-65%
  • Sugar: reduce daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake, 5% (25g or 6tsp) for further benefit
  • Fibre: 25g for females, 30g for males
  • Protein: 15-25% total energy intake
  • Fat: 20-35% total energy intake.
Sources of FoodGrams of Protein
Large egg7
Yellow cheese (40g)11
100g lean beef/chicken30
250ml Full Fat milk8.8
100g fish28
100 g Tofu8
Almonds ¼ cup8
Broccoli 1 cup4
Kidney beans 1 cup16
Bread 2 slices7


Pre – Op Nutrition Guidelines

Your pre-surgery diet should include as many nutrients as possible before surgery. Here are some tips:

  • Eat enough protein. At least 1 – 2 weeks before surgery, make sure to eat enough protein every day. Protein needs are based on the amount of muscle that you have, but research has shown that 65 – 100 grams per day are proving to be optimal. Protein provides building blocks for our muscles, bones, and our immune system. You want to be as strong as possible going into surgery.
  • Stock up on fruit and vegetables. Include fruit and vegetables at most meals and snacks. More specifically, greens. Greens are great for your skin and repair muscles, bones, and cartilage because they contain loads of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, K and magnesium.
  • Include whole grains. Be sure to include good sources of whole grains to give your body all the B vitamins it needs to combat stress.
  • Eat less of these. Consider reducing or eliminating additional sugars, caffeine, and alcohol from your diet. These create more stress on the body and actually remove nutrients from the body to metabolize properly.

protein and surgery

Post-op nutrition guidelines

Great post-op nutrition makes it possible for a speedier recovery and help you return to doing the things you love as soon as possible. Maintaining a proper post-op diet is essential. Some people lose their appetite after surgery and while taking pain medications. However, surgery increases the body’s need for calories, and you need more calories to heal.

  • Eat smaller meals more often if your appetite has decreased.
  • Include fibre. Add fibre at each meal and snack from fruits, vegetables, cooked beans, and whole grains. Fibre helps maintain normal bowel movements.
  • Eat enough protein. Have protein at each meal for your muscles and bones. It is found in meat, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts, dairy products, soy products, and cooked dried beans.
  • Calcium is an important component of bone. Drink milk or calcium-fortified juices and eat yoghurt or cheese. Your doctor may recommend a calcium pill and vitamin D if you don’t get enough from your food.
  • Vitamin C helps the body heal wounds and form bone. Get vitamin C from citrus fruits, green and red peppers, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, and potatoes.
  • Remember to drink plenty of water. To avoid constipation, drink at least six to eight cups of fluid a day.

By Carol Armitage PreKure certified health coach and physiotherapist.