7 Surprising Signs You're Not Getting Enough Protein
And How To Fix It
Protein is essential for living organisms. It gives us energy, helps our bodies recover, and keeps our tummies satisfied. Protein is composed of long-chain amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle. Your body produces 11 amino acids and the others—the 9 so-called —you must consume from food.
How would you know if you're deficient? Below are some symptoms that can be related to inadequate protein. Keep in mind that as with any nutrient deficiency, symptoms can have other causes, so this is a general list and not to be used to self-diagnose.
1. Food cravings
Constant food cravings and needing snacks often between meals may be the consequence of a high-carb/sugar, low-protein diet. Protein's effect on your body will balance out your blood sugar highs and lows.
2. Muscle and joint pain
Muscle weakness, pain, or being flabby where you used to be muscular may be a sign of your muscles or joint fluid breaking down to supplement calories instead of using the protein you eat to build muscles, tissues, and cells.
3. Slow recovery from injuries
To heal and rebuild new cells, tissue, and skin and for immunity we need a sufficient amount of protein.
4. Hair, skin, and nail troubles
Thin hair, hair falling out, peeling skin and nails, and ridges in nails are some of the first signs your body may not have enough protein or be absorbing it.
5. Fluid retention
Edema, or fluid accumulation: protein plays a part internally in keeping fluid from accumulating in tissues, especially in feet and ankles.
6. Getting sick regularly
Frequent illness means you have a poor immune system and immune cells are made from protein.
7. Brain fog
Foggy brain, short bursts of mental energy, followed by the fog may be related to fluctuating blood sugar and lack of protein.
How much protein should you eat?
It's pretty difficult to become protein deficient if you eat a diet with a variety of whole foods. If you aren’t getting enough protein, that probably means you either aren’t eating enough calories, are following an unhealthy diet, or you have some digestive imbalances.
- If you eat too few calories, your body will use the protein you do eat for energy instead of building muscles, immunity, and healthy hair, skin and nails, etc.
- At a minimum, the average person needs to consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For a person who weighs 150 pounds, that would be about 55 grams of protein per day.
But the “right” amount of protein depends on many factors, including exercise and activity levels, age, muscle mass, and current state of health.
What can you do if you think you're lacking in protein?
- If you're eating processed foods and lots of carbs and sugars, start replacing those with whole foods like three or four servings of fresh meat, fish, chicken, dairy, eggs, plus whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. There's great protein in plant foods as well as in animal products.
- If you're vegan, great protein sources include whole grains, lentils, soy, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
- If you don’t like protein foods or don’t want to eat them, consider a protein powder supplement made from soy, egg, rice, peas, or whey.
- If you think you may have low stomach acid, check with your physician or dietitian to get a good supplement.
- If you have too much stress in your life, look into learning to meditate or do yoga, or find whatever activities work best for you to reduce stress.
Work with a personal trainer or instructor to figure out what's right for you!
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