Water After Weight Loss Surgery: Water for Vitality

by | Jan 4, 2020 | Nutrition and Hydration

The “liquid of life” is really not an exaggeration. The reason there is life on Earth is due to the presence of water (and a breathable atmosphere of course!). Many people today are so busy that they literally forget to stay hydrated. Here on the Sunshine Coast it is absolutely imperative that we maintain good hydration. Daytime temperatures often soar beyond the mid-30s in summer, and we dehydrate easily. This is even more important for patients who have had weight loss surgery. After surgery, your capacity to ‘guzzle’ fluids down is very much restricted. Particularly, in the early months following the procedure.

Article Updated: 17 February, 2023

What happens if I don’t drink enough water?

Inadequate water intake can result in a few consequences. These range from unpleasant to critical, including:

  • dehydration
  • constipation
  • kidney stones
  • headache
  • malaise
  • halitosis (bad breath)
  • dental caries (cavities)
  • gum disease
  • dry skin and wrinkles
  • impaired mental agility and coordination
  • and in some circumstances kidney injury

So make drinking water a habit for life.

How much water are we looking at here?

Depending on your activity and the ambient environmental conditions you generally need at least 2 litres of water per day. In some circumstances this may be up to 5 or 6 litres and sometimes more!!! For example working a physical job outside in the heat results in significant insensible loss (sweating/ breathing). This loss needs to be replaced, in addition to baseline requirements.

glass of water hydration after bariatric surgery

Is any type of water better?

No, just drink water. Tap water is absolutely fine. Bottled water in this country is unnecessary and a scourge on the environment! Filtered water is also good. Keep it cool in a glass vessel in your fridge. Throw a slice of lemon or lime or other fruit in to infuse a subtle flavour.

How do I stay hydrated after weight loss surgery?

It seems like a simple solution to stay hydrated after bariatric surgery – just drink more water – right? But it isn’t always an easy task for patients. Due to the depleted size of your stomach, it can be a little more difficult to consume enough fluids to keep hydrated. You can no longer gulp a big glass of water like you used to. On top of this, some patients find they go off the taste of water, which can also make hydration a little more challenging.

Despite this, hydration is a critical task for every person, and particularly after bariatric surgery. In fact, dehydration is the principal cause of hospital readmission after your procedure. To avoid dehydration, planning to drink water is key.

5 key tips for bariatric hydration:

1. Sip water through the day

Sip slowly and often throughout the day to stay hydrated instead of drinking all at once. Sipping can prevent pain and allow you more room for nutrient-rich food when it’s time to eat. Drinking too much too soon after food can also cause food to empty from the stomach rapidly. Sipping a little and often is the best habit to get into and try to avoid drinking 30 minutes after meals.

2. Plan for water intake.

Don’t leave it until you’re thirsty. Carry a bottle (glass or stainless steel ideally) with you ALWAYS. Constantly sipping is better than trying to play catch up at the end of the day. It’s a great idea to have some gauge as to how much you’re drinking so that you can stay on track. You can set yourself a goal to reach a certain amount by a certain time of day, which will encourage you to sip more often. Grab a water bottle which has a counter on the side to keep a tally.

3. Avoid sugary drinks.

Even better is to replace soft drinks (bad) and fruit drinks (just as bad) with water. Also tea and coffee (these are in fact diuretics and make you pee, so drink only in moderation). If you really want a fruit juice choose the squeezed variety but WATER it down 50-50

4. Protein water is a great alternative.

After surgery, your protein requirements are also high, and some days it may be a struggle to add in enough of both elements- water and protein. In this case, you can try adding in some protein water. Usually made from whey isolate, protein water can supplement the protein in your diet. So you can see drinking it as an opportunity to increase both necessary elements on those days when you need it. Make sure the type you select is low in sugar and made from a good quality protein which is easily absorbed by the body.

5. Change up the flavour or temperature if you need to, but make water a priority.

If water is making you nauseous you may find that changing the temperature can help. Try icy cold, room temp or warm with some lemon. A little flavour might also help. However, don’t go for anything sugary. A little fruit or even herbs will change the flavour and hopefully make it more palatable for you. Experiment until you find your favourite. If you’re adding it to your travel bottle, ensure you only use a glass or stainless steel bottle. Try lemon or lime and mint; cucumber and dill; ,mixed berries or fresh ginger.

Some benefits of increasing your H20

There are numerous studies published showing significant (4-5 kg or more) weight loss in people who simply took soft drinks out of their diet (incidentally soft drinks are also appalling for your teeth…).

  • Water is also an appetite suppressant. If you get the urge to snack, instead of snacking drink a glass of water and you will find the urge subsides.
  • If you are using protein shakes and meal replacement shakes then water is a great alternative to milk, particularly if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Drinking water at meal times with your family is a great way to encourage everyone to drink more water (small sips for WLS patients). This is especially important for children who are often more active and prone to wanting fruit drinks and soft drinks. Teaching them by example in their early formative years or even when they are older to drink water as their primary fluid is only going to benefit them in the long run. Show them how water can still be fun with lightly sparkling mineral water infused with fruit. A healthy alternative to sugar laden, teeth rotting, thirst promoting soft drinks!

The health benefits of drinking water are immeasurable. And that’s no surprise given the average human body is 60% water. So sip, sip, sip your way to better health. WATER. Make it your habit today.

Feature Image by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Water with fruit image by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash 


Disclaimer: This article is of a general nature for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice. A 1:1 consultation with a medical professional is always the best approach in order to receive accurate information which is tailored to your individual situation. 

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About Dr Garth McLeod

Dr Garth McLeod is a Sunshine Coast General and Bariatric Surgeon. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in general surgery, with subspecialty training in obesity and metabolic surgery. Dr McLeod adopts a whole-patient approach to bariatric care with a multidisciplinary team