Evidence suggests a correlation between the gut microbiota composition and weight loss caused by caloric restriction. Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG), a surgical intervention for obesity, is classified as predominantly restrictive procedure. In this study we investigated functional weight loss mechanisms with regard to gut microbial changes and energy harvest induced by LSG and a very low calorie diet in ten obese subjects (n = 5 per group) demonstrating identical weight loss during a follow-up period of six months. For gut microbiome analysis next generation sequencing was performed and faeces were analyzed for targeted metabolomics. The energy-reabsorbing potential of the gut microbiota decreased following LSG, indicated by the Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio, but increased during diet. Changes in butyrate-producing bacterial species were responsible for the Firmicutes changes in both groups. No alteration of faecal butyrate was observed, but the microbial capacity for butyrate fermentation decreased following LSG and increased following dietetic intervention. LSG resulted in enhanced faecal excretion of nonesterified fatty acids and bile acids. LSG, but not dietetic restriction, improved the obesity-associated gut microbiota composition towards a lean microbiome phenotype. Moreover, LSG increased malabsorption due to loss in energy-rich faecal substrates and impairment of bile acid circulation. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01344525.