Nutritional status is a strong predictor of postoperative outcomes and is recognized as an important component of surgical recovery programs. Adequate nutritional consumption is essential for addressing the surgical stress response and mitigating the loss of muscle mass, strength, and functionality. Especially in older patients, inadequate protein can lead to significant muscle atrophy, leading to a loss of independence and increased mortality risk. Current nutritional recommendations for surgery primarily focus on screening and prevention of malnutrition, pre-surgical fasting protocols, and combating post-surgical insulin resistance, while recommendations regarding macronutrient composition and timing around surgery are less established. The goal of this review is to highlight oral nutrition strategies that can be implemented leading up to and following major surgery to minimize atrophy and the resultant loss of functionality. The role of carbohydrate and especially protein/essential amino acids in combating the surgical stress cascade and supporting recovery are discussed. Practical considerations for nutrient timing to maximize oral nutritional intake, especially during the immediate pre- and post- surgical periods, are also be discussed.