You may already be aware that protein helps you grow muscle. It also plays a crucial role in keeping hunger at bay during the day. The benefits of protein go further than what most people realize, though.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, protein is found in every cell in your body. Therefore, it keeps you going on all levels, from your bones to your skin. This implies that a shortage of protein in your diet might have far-reaching consequences.
How can you tell if you have the right amount of this critical macronutrient in your diet? Consider five ways you can see you are not getting enough protein.
Protein deficiency means your body has inadequate protein intake. That can either mean you are not eating enough or your body can’t process it normally. Generally, people in developed countries get protein, but they may not eat enough.
Protein deficiency can impact everything from your fingernails to your muscle mass. It can lead to fatty liver disease, an increased risk of fractures, and a struggling immune system. Protein is a critical component in your muscles, skin, hair, bones, and blood.
Protein’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is a modest 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the quantity of a nutrient required to fulfill your basic nutritional needs. In a way, it’s the bare minimum you need to avoid being ill — not the exact quantity you should consume every day.
RDA is a guideline. How much protein your body needs depends on many factors such as activity level, weight, and even age. So instead of focusing on a number, it is better to look for warning signs that indicate you need more protein in your diet.
Protein is essential, but what should you look for if you think you might need more of it?
Swelling (edema) is one of the most critical indicators of not getting enough protein, especially when it is in your belly, legs, feet, and hands. One probable explanation is that the proteins circulating in your blood, mainly albumin, help keep fluid from accumulating in your tissues.
However, edema may be caused by a variety of factors, so consult your doctor if you experience it.
Because protein is a necessary component of your hair and nails, your nails may get softer, and your hair may become brittle over time. The hair may lose some of its sheen and may not be as thick as it once was. It might also begin to split.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you may notice some hair loss after a few months of not consuming enough protein because the body shuts down hair development to protect its protein resources.
Your body has a way of telling you what it is lacking – cravings. If you are not getting enough protein, you may start to crave it. So you will fixate on things like meat, eggs, and plant proteins.
You may also crave sugar. This is because protein takes a long time to digest, longer than carbohydrates. So if you are not getting enough protein, you are probably going through your fuel reserves fast, so your blood sugar spikes and then drop.
Less protein means your stomach empties a lot faster. With mild forms of protein deficiency, you may feel hungry more often. This is because protein takes time to digest, giving you that feeling of fullness longer.
In this way, eating less protein can lead to weight gain. If you get hungry a lot, you will likely eat the wrong foods. You may hit the drive-through on the way home instead of cooking for yourself.
In cases of severe protein deficiency, the opposite is true, though. The appetite tends to decrease in excessive instances, such as during a famine.
Fatigue is a classic sign that you need more protein. Your body needs protein to repair itself. Even a week of not consuming enough protein can affect the muscles responsible for your posture and mobility, especially if you’re 55 or older.
Over time, a lack of protein can cause you to lose muscle mass, reducing your strength, making it challenging to maintain your balance, and slowing your metabolism. It can also cause anemia when your cells do not receive enough oxygen, making you tired.
Protein only comes from one place – diet. Even if you are not a meat-eater, there are ways to increase your protein intake.
Nuts like almonds are full of goodness, including fiber, healthy fats, and protein. They also don’t have a strong taste and can add a bit of crunch to most foods.
Build every meal around your protein. Then, when your plate is full, eat the protein first. That way, you won’t fill up on starchy foods and not eat the star of the meal.
Even the smallest of changes can help, like switching to high-protein breakfast cereal. Magic Spoon Cereal includes 13-14g of high-quality protein per serving. This is ten times the amount seen in other popular cereal products. That is a boost that can help get you through the day.
It is not advisable to altogether avoid fats and carbohydrates. Instead, select a diet that works for you and your lifestyle and ensure there are no nutrient gaps like too little protein.