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Can Breasts Grow Back After FTM Top Surgery?

Posted by Dr. Hugh McLean on 25 August 2020
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FTM surgery is a major life-changing decision. It requires a significant amount of money and courage to go through both the actual operation and top surgery recovery process. Therefore, many patients want to make sure that it’s worth it and that the results are truly long-lasting. When they first come into McLean Clinic for consultation, one of their first questions would be, “Can breasts grow back after FTM surgery?” 

Proud queer individual holding a sign

In this article, we’ll tackle this interesting topic in more detail, explaining why the results of an FTM surgery is definitely permanent, how weight gain impacts chest masculinization, and how different workout and lifestyle strategies can enhance the results of your operation.

Let’s delve right in!

Why Breasts Cannot Grow Back After FTM Surgery

Female to male or FTM top surgery is a mastectomy and gender-affirming procedure that surgically removes breast tissues to achieve a masculine appearance in the chest area. One of the most prevalent FTM surgery myths is that the breasts tend to grow back if you gain weight or stop taking testosterone.

This is not true at all. Whether you had a keyhole or double-incision mastectomy, the breast tissues can never grow back once they’ve been surgically removed. During an FTM surgery, your doctor will take out approximately 95 percent of your breasts. If you notice post-surgery that there’s a little bit of tissue left, do not worry. It was intentionally done, so your chest looks proportionate and easier to contour than looking hollow with a concave appearance. 

How Weight Gain Affects Your Chest

Rest assured that the results of your FTM surgery are permanent and irreversible. Nevertheless, significant weight fluctuations after the procedure can potentially impact how your chest looks. Again, this is not your feminine breasts growing back. It’s a natural consequence of weight gain or loss, which can happen even to men, thus the term “man boobs,” medically known as gynecomastia.

How to Maintain Results of FTM Top Surgery

Check out these tips to maintain and further enhance the effects of FTM surgery. 

Bulk Up for Muscle Mass

Healthy and nutritious meals

Building muscles requires more calorie intake. According to Stonewall Fitness, most physically active men’s bodies demand anywhere between 15 to 17 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their form. Meaning, to gain one pound of muscle mass each week, you’ll have to really bulk up and add 3,500 total calories more into your usual weekly diet. 

While there are many ways to incorporate these calories, they recommend consuming additional calories after each chest workout for optimal results. Eating them after a rigorous workout will help you regain your strength and energy back faster and make sure you won’t go hungry as quickly throughout the day.

Here’s a sample meal plan to give you an idea. It is based on a 180-pound guy’s diet on his workout days to bulk up for chest mass. You may need to tailor this according to your own body weight and workout routines.

  • Breakfast
    3 eggs, 2 egg whites, 1 slice whole-wheat toast, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, and 1 cup of strawberries
  • Mid-Morning Snack (Post-Morning Workout)
    1 Banana, 1 cup Greek yogurt, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Lunch
    1 serving grilled fish and green salad
  • Afternoon Pre-Workout Snack
    Bagel with jelly, 1 scoop whey protein powder drink
  • Dinner
    Roasted chicken, 1 cup asparagus, olive oil
  • Pre-Bedtime Snack
    1 cup cottage cheese
    1 cup blueberries
    2 tablespoon almond butter

Quality Over Quantity 

Bulking up doesn’t necessarily mean going on an eating spree of everything you want. You still have to be cautious about what you eat and focus on what’s healthy. Remember, you want to watch your weight and your overall health as well.

  • Whatever happens, do not go on fad and yoyo diets, which can have side effects in the long run. Stick to a healthy and balanced diet filled with nutritious foods. Check out this previous article to learn more about what to eat after an FTM surgery
  • Fill your diet with sufficient and high-quality sources of protein to boost your body’s muscle development. Go for lean protein sources, such as chicken, beef, fish, eggs, and whey protein.  
  • Choose wholesome over refined carbohydrates. Limit your intake to brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, barley, oatmeal. Always have generous servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. 
  • Incorporate a good amount of healthy fats into your diet regimen by consuming flax seeds, fish oil, avocado, nuts, coconut oil, and homemade natural nut butters. 
  • Stay away from processed and sugar-laden junk foods, which will make you gain a surplus of fat, instead of muscle. They will also do more harm than good for your post-operative health, making you feel sluggish and bloated all the time. 
  • Skip foods that are loaded with trans fats or saturated fats, which does nothing to help you achieve a lean and toned body composition. A little can help increase your testosterone levels, but in excess, they can have adverse reactions.

Work It Out

Healthy and nutritious meals

Once you have fully recovered from your top surgery and received the surgeon’s approval to hit the gym, there are various workouts and weight training exercises that you can do to improve the results of your FTM surgery over time dramatically. 

It’s best if you can hire a professional fitness training coach that can customize workout strategies and routines to meet your desired goals and take into account your safety, given your post-operative condition. 

On the other hand, if you do not have the funds to hire a professional trainer, you can also do your research on YouTube or other places around the Internet for FTM chest workout routines. You’ll be surprised to find exercises that can be done at home without any equipment. An op-ed article on BarBend explains that this stems from experiences from transmasculine individuals and non-binary folks of gyms not being LGBTQ+-friendly, which is why someone who may have gone through an FTM surgery would hesitate to go to the gym and prefer to workout at home, instead. 

If you are taking this route, we recommend that you exercise caution before doing any extreme workouts that can cause injury or impede your current recovery progress. 

If you are in the preparation stage, working out and incorporating chest-focused exercises will wonders for your top surgery. With increased muscle mass or density, your surgeon will have a better experience contouring and achieving aesthetically impressive results. 

Combine Chest Work with Strength Training

Experts suggest putting a special focus on both strength training and chest work to obtain aesthetically pleasing but rewarding results. Strength exercises are proven effective in improving strength and muscle mass in the chest area while also working wonders for your post-FTM surgery healing and recovery. On the other hand, chest-focused workouts improve strength and overall body posture while reducing your risk from injuries.

Here are simple upper-body workouts that you can start doing everyday even at home include:

  • Push-ups (10 repetitions)
  • Chest Fly (10 repetitions)
  • Chair Dips  (10 repetitions)
  • Overhead Lunges  (10 repetitions)
  • Overhead Squats (10 repetitions)
  • Side Planks (15 seconds per each side)
  • Forearm Plank (30 seconds)

You can also incorporate reverse fly, external rotations, bicep curls and tricep extensions to enhance your muscles on the back, shoulders, and arms. This is going to give your chest a more masculine and proportionate appearance.

Do Chest Workouts in Moderation 

Queer person weight lifting

After an FTM top surgery, it’s understandable that you will become so inspired in building up more muscle and jump into an intensive training program filled with chest-focused workouts. But as with anything in life, too much of it can be bad for you, too. It poses risks from potential injuries from bench pressing or lifting more than your post-operative body can handle. It also increases your chances of burning yourself out from excessive training. This is why a professional fitness coach is important because he can prep you with muscle conditioning exercises first and prevent any mishaps.

To err on the side of caution, here are some FTM top surgery workout safety tips to keep in mind.

  • Avoid lifting anything heavier than 5 lbs. for the first few weeks of your FTM surgery recovery.
  • Ideally, upper body workouts should be done twice to three times a week only. 
  • If you are a bodybuilder or are interested in lifting heavy weights, wait for at least three months before resuming your usual workouts.
  • Listen to your body. Everybody’s healing story is different. If it still feels painful to work out, it’s better to wait for a few more weeks rather than risk hurting yourself.

Don’t Take the Lower Body for Granted! 

When you are so focused on building your upper body, it’s easy to completely neglect to do lower body exercises, which is equally important. It plays a huge role in improving your posture and complements your upper body efforts by making it look natural and proportionate to other areas of your body. 

For best results, alternate upper and lower body exercises. Dedicate a leg day to do squats, lunges, and deadlifts, which train a lot of important muscle groups. Depending on your level of conditioning, lower body exercises are usually recommended twice to three times a week at most. 

FTM Surgery at McLean Clinic

Dr. Hugh McLean is a qualified plastic surgeon with specialties in gender-affirming procedures. If you are looking to get your FTM surgery in Canada, we encourage you to book a free consultation with McLean Clinic now!

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