The benefits of protein are many, from helping to build muscle to making meals feel fuller for longer. Protein provides the body with essential amino acids, so it affects the health of every system. Needless to say, it is one of the most important parts of a healthy diet.
However, many people are deficient in protein without realizing it. This deficiency can affect people with different lifestyles and diets, so it’s important to know what signs to look out for if you think you might not be getting enough.
9 symptoms of protein deficiency
1. Increasing or persistent hunger
While hunger pangs can occur throughout the day, especially if you wait a long time between meals, it shouldn’t happen consistently or intermittently. If you notice that you are hungry faster than usual or have more intense hunger pangs, it is likely that your meals did not contain enough protein.
While the amount needed varies based on many individual factors such as gender, weight, and activity level, it’s important to get enough to ensure your body gets the sustained nutrition it needs. Ideally, every meal should include protein instead of getting the recommended daily amount in just one sitting.
Next to hunger comes cravings. Sometimes, yes, you might just really want a chocolate bar. However, if you often crave the same types of foods, such as protein or sugar, there may be an underlying problem.
When you’re protein deficient, your body will crave protein, but sugar cravings are just as likely. This is because sugar provides instant energy that your body may need to fight off a protein deficiency.
3. Slow wound healing
Protein helps the body produce collagen, which is a factor in skin health and elasticity, meaning a deficiency can show on your skin. One way this happens is that wounds like cuts and scrapes can take longer to heal than you think is normal.
4. More frequent colds and illnesses
Amino acids in protein help your immune system make antibodies, making them one of the building blocks of your overall health. When your diet lacks protein, it can mean your body can’t fight off viruses and infections as easily as it should.
5. Lack of muscle growth
Protein, along with exercise, is a key component in building strong and healthy muscles. If you’re adding strength training and exercise without seeing noticeable benefits, you may not be eating enough protein to match the amount of exercise you’re doing. If this deficiency lasts long enough, you may also begin to lose muscle mass.
6. Skin and hair problems
Protein is essential for the production of collagen and amino acids in the body, ensuring the proper functioning of the immune system and other vital functions. When the body doesn’t have the support it needs, it will prioritize those needs over other areas like the skin and hair.
This can lead to increased acne or eczema, brittle hair and even hair loss, as well as brittle nails that are more prone to breakage. Having healthy skin and hair is sometimes as simple as changing your diet.
7. Fatigue or weakness
Skipping meals or skipping protein can deprive your body of the nutrients and calories it needs for energy, and you can tire more quickly.
Furthermore, protein deficiency can lead to increased fatigue and weakness over time. When the body experiences prolonged deficiency, it can eventually begin to break down muscle mass as a source of protein and energy to keep vital organs functioning.
8. Mood instability
You’ve probably heard or joked about hunger before, but a lack of protein can really cause serious mood swings throughout the day.
When your body doesn’t have enough amino acids, it can affects the neurotransmitters that help deliver serotonin whole body and supports your mood.
9. Poor sleep quality
Tossing and turning at night or not getting enough restorative sleep can affect your entire day. Amino acids do more than support immune system function and mood regulation, they also help deliver tryptophan throughout the body. Tryptophan is key to getting you into deep sleep at night, creating more normal, restful sleep cycles.
How to improve your protein intake
Now that you know what to look out for, it’s important to know how to ensure you’re getting enough protein throughout the day. Solving the problem is easier than you might expect. add a protein source to every meal, get your recommended daily amount, and diversify your sources (yes, you’ll go beyond meat or eggs).
The recommended daily amount of protein is approximately 0.8 grams for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. If you weigh 160 pounds, you should try to consume about 58 grams of protein per day. As a general rule, you should eat more in the first half of the day than at lunch the body has time to process the protein before starting the rest cycle.
Starting the day with protein-rich Greek yogurt is a great option, especially if you’re supplementing with a high protein cereal. Can’t live without a classic bowl of cereal and milk? Try adding a scoop of protein powder to your leftover milk for extra fuel in the morning without the midday crash.
In addition to adding more protein to your diet, talk to your doctor about any protein deficiency symptoms you may be experiencing. They can guide you through meaningful lifestyle changes that keep you feeling fulfilled and healthy.