What is “Energy Balance” and Why is it Important After Bariatric Surgery?

By Bari Life

What is “Energy Balance” and Why is it Important After Bariatric Surgery?

Nutrition makes up 70% of the results that you see after bariatric surgery. It is one of the most quoted and cliché concepts in the health industry and yet that doesn’t make it any less true. Nutrition is the foundation of every bariatric weight loss goal. If you want to lose weight after your bariatric procedure or if you simply want to maintain your weight after surgery, nutrition is the key.

As daunting as it may seem, basic nutrition is a relatively easy concept to put into practice. Like anything, the more familiar you get with it, the easier it becomes.

Let’s take a look at the bare bones of nutrition and how you can apply it to your daily routine to lose more weight following surgery or maintaining the post-bariatric results.


The calorie is how we measure the energy we intake from our food choices. It is also used to determine how much energy we burn when performing activities. Every time you look at the packaging label of a food, you are reading about the calories that it contains. When it comes to food, calories are further broken down into macronutrients.


There are three macronutrients that make up the food you eat. These nutrients can be altered in order to achieve your weight loss goals:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat

Chances are, you’re familiar with these terms but do you know how they make up the calories you eat? Macronutrients contain a specific number of calories per gram.

  • One gram of protein contains 4 calories
  • One gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories
  • One gram of fat contains 9 calories

An easier way to remember this would be to label the macronutrients like this:

  • Protein – 4
  • Carbohydrates – 4
  • Fat – 9

If you eat something that has 32 grams of protein in it, then you are consuming 128 calories from protein alone.

  • 32 grams of protein
  • 4 calories PER gram of protein
  • 128 calories


Your recommended calorie intake for one day is determined upon a number of factors including the following:

1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): The rate at which energy is used by an organism at complete rest, measured in humans by the heat given off per unit time, and expressed as the calories released per kilogram of body weight or per square meter of body surface per hour.

  • The number of calories your body needs to break even.
  • This does NOT include physical activity.

2. Physical Activity Level: This is simply how active you are throughout the day. When it comes to weight loss following surgery, the more active you are, the better. It is broken down into the following categories:

  • Little or no exercise.
  • Light exercise (1 to 3 days per week)
  • Moderate exercise (3 to 5 days per week)
  • Heavy exercise (6 to 7 days per week)
  • Extreme exercise (daily)

3. Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): This is the total amount of calories you burn in one 24 hour period.

  • TDEE is your physical activity + your basal metabolic rate

That may sound like a lot but don’t worry! There is a much easier way to calculate your calories. There are several online tools to help you figure out just how many calories you should be getting in each day.

Track your calories on your smartphone with one of the following calorie tracking apps:


As we mentioned above, calorie counting is how you achieve success, regardless of your bariatric weight loss goal. In general, weight management goals are broken down into three categories:

Lose weight:

  • You are focused on losing body fat (this can be before and/or after a bariatric surgery)
  • You require a caloric deficit
  • You must burn MORE calories than you consume

Maintain weight:

  • You are happy with your weight and your results following the surgery
  • You want to stay at the same number (give or take a pound)
  • You require caloric maintenance
  • You must burn the SAME number of calories that you consume

Gain weight:

  • You want to add weight (preferably lean muscle mass)
  • You require a caloric surplus
  • You must burn LESS calories than you consume
  • You must be performing regular resistance training (i.e. getting stronger in the gym)


Let’s focus on the first example, lose weight, because the reason you had or are going to have bariatric surgery is because you need to lower your BMI by losing body fat. You will first need to determine how many calories you have to consume based on your current activity level. (You can do this with one of the calculators listed above)

Given this number, you must make dietary choices that add up to no more than the recommended caloric total. Using a calorie tracker makes it exceptionally easy to stay within your goal range.

By staying within the recommended caloric range and continuing at the physical activity level that you entered when you first started, you will begin to lose weight immediately. This isn’t just hearsay; plenty of scientific studies have shown this to be true. What’s more, success is far more likely when you use a tool to track your progress such as the calculators above. Keep in mind that results may vary but you must stick to your caloric range if you want to see results. (1, 2)


Would you believe me if we told you that you could eat nothing but Twinkies and still lose weight?

That’s what one professor did. He lost 27 pounds in 2 months while eating nothing but convenience store junk food with Twinkies making up the bulk of his diet. He placed himself on a restricted calorie diet of 1,800 calories, making sure he burned more calories via physical activity than he consumed. Not only did he lose weight but his cardiovascular health improved.

You can read the full story here.


No, of course not! We wanted to show you this real life example to demonstrate the importance of burning MORE calories than you consume. Focusing on this simple equation will be the cornerstone of ensuring you lose weight or maintain your weight once you reach your goal. This is an extreme example and despite the professor’s success, we would not advocate trying the same thing. Yes, burning more calories than you consume is vitally important but it’s also important to consume quality nutrition.

The average diet following a bariatric procedure should consist of the following:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Lean meats such as chicken or fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Oils

Indulging in an occasional treat is okay but the important thing is you MUST burn more than you consume. With the help of your calorie calculators, you can easily do just that.

You can get the best recommended choices for each by clicking here. This is the USDA website dedicated to helping you make healthy food choices.


There are plenty of other tips and tricks for ensuring success. Here are a few top tips to keep in mind as you continue on your weight loss journey after surgery.

1. Increase Your Activity Level

By boosting your activity level, you are making it easier for yourself to burn more calories each day. Going to the gym is ideal but there are also other things you can do throughout the day to up your activity level. Try one of the following:

  • Park further away when you go shopping, get to work, etc
  • Use a stability ball to sit on at work
  • Take daily walks in the morning, during your lunch break, and in the evening
  • Take a fitness class
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs

2. Mind Your Macronutrients

Remember that fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient. One gram of fat gives you nine calories. While you shouldn’t avoid fat altogether, you should certainly take care to ingest only healthy and necessary fats such as coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. The bulk of your calories should come from protein and complex carbohydrates. Out of these two, protein is going to be more important. A recent study shows that exercising with a caloric deficit diet that is focused on protein can result in both fat loss AND muscle building. (2, 3)

When eating protein, stick with choices like chicken breast, salmon, low-fat yogurt, and protein food supplements like Bari Life’s Natural Whey Protein Powder, Bari Life Protein Bars and Bari Life Pudding Shakes.

If you are not accustomed to eating whole foods and low fat foods then Bari Life Protein Supplements are definitely going to help you transition. Before the creation of delicious Bari Life protein supplements one of the most difficult parts about dieting is cutting out the delicious foods we love (particularly desserts and high fat meals).

Of course, nothing can beat a freshly baked cookie, but Bari Life Chocolate Chip protein cookies are a great alternative and will definitely satisfy that sweet tooth and keep you on your healthy diet. Protein supplements are in no way necessary to achieve lasting weight loss, but they can be a great help.

All of Bari Life’s protein supplements are designed specifically for bariatric patients. Bari Life protein supplements allow you to enjoy some traditionally “unhealthy” desserts that are high in fat that are turned into extremely effective, healthy, high protein and low calorie foods.

Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and quinoa are great choices. If pasta is your thing check out Bari Life’s Creamy Chicken and Alfredo protein pastas.

Macronutrients in Order of Importance Cheat Sheet

1. Protein
2. Complex Carbohydrates
3. Healthy fats

3. Be Wary of “Trendy” Diets and “Fat-Burning” Foods

You follow the rule I’ve mentioned above. You can eat the best fat burning foods BUT if you aren’t burning more calories than you consume, it won’t matter. Each day, you should be expending more calories than you are ingesting. Only then will these trendy supplements and fat burning foods make a difference in your weight loss following the surgery.

The Bottom Line:

Weight loss before and following a bariatric procedure can be a challenging process. As stressful as it may be, you don’t have to place more stress upon yourself by information overload. Stick to the simple equation we have listed above:

  • Burn MORE calories than you consume each day.
  • Get yourself a reliable calorie counter and be consistent with tracking your calories.
  • Try to slowly increase your activity level.
  • Don’t invest in the latest fit foods until you are successful in entering a caloric deficit.

Do you have any weight loss tricks that helped you reach success? Tell us about them in the comments below!

1. Hollis JF, Gullion CM, Stevens VJ, Brantley PJ, Appel LJ, Ard JD, Champagne CM, Dalcin A, Erlinger TP, Funk K, Laferriere D, Lin PH, Loria CM, Samuel-Hodge C, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. Am J Prev Med. 2008 Aug;35(2):118-26. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.04.013.

2. Thomas M Longland, Sara Y Oikawa, Cameron J Mitchell, Michaela C Devries, and Stuart M Phillips. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2016 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115.119339

3. Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham LD, McClung JP, Rood JC, Carbone JW, Combs GF Jr, Young AJ. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013 Sep;27(9):3837-47. doi: 10.1096/fj.13-230227. Epub 2013 Jun 5.


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What are your tips and tricks to post-bariatric success?

Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below – we want to hear from you!

One comment

  1. Diet is the mainstay of a patient who has undergone a Bariatric surgery . In fact healthy eating patterns should ideally begin even before the surgery. Starting on a slightly higher protein diet with lots of fluids before the surgery helps the patient to prepare for the post-surgery diet better. A lower calorie, lower carbohydrate, higher protein diet is useful not only before the surgery but also after the surgery.

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