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10 Signs You Are Not Eating Enough Protein

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Proteins are essentials to keep the body going. They are long chains of amino acids, which are important molecules needed for different body functions.

Protein is a component of every cell in your body. The body uses it to build and repair tissue; make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals; and help build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and even blood.

Unlike carbohydrates and fat, your body does not store protein. So, you need to eat protein-rich foods regularly to give your body a good supply of this vital nutrient.

Protein comes from a variety of sources, including meat, milk, fish, soy and eggs, as well as beans, legumes and nut butters. Upon digestion, proteins leave behind amino acids that the body uses.

Health experts recommend getting about 10 to 30 percent of your daily calories from protein. The recommended dietary allowance for grams of protein that an adult needs each day is as follows:

  • Women (ages 19 to 70+): 46 grams.
  • Men (ages 19 to 70+): 56 grams.

If you’re not eating the recommended amount of protein, it can affect all your body parts, from your hair to your nails.

signs and symptoms of protein deficiency

Here are the top 10 signs that you are not eating enough protein.

1. Muscle Weakness

Sudden muscle weakness or pain can be a sign that your diet lacks the recommended amount of protein.

muscle weakness

Protein is the fuel for your muscles, so your muscles suffer a lot when your body lacks protein. This can be a concern especially for men as they get older. Men may experience a natural loss of muscle mass due to aging, and they may lose even more muscle if they are not eating enough protein on a daily basis.

Your body breaks down protein-rich tissues for your muscles to use them. So, the initial effect of low protein intake is muscle wasting, accompanied by increasing weakness. Gradually, a diet that is low in protein can cause your body to lose lean muscle mass.

Plus, protein plays a critical role in how your body absorbs other vital nutrients, such as iron and calcium. Both these nutrients are important for overall muscle and joint health.

2. Poor Hair Health

Your hair is comprised mostly of a protein known as keratin, and this mineral is important for hair health.

Protein is the building block of all of your cells—your hair follicles included. In fact, each and every strand of hair requires an adequate dose of protein to grow.

poor hair due to protein deficiency

So, when you don’t get enough protein, your body starts conserving what little protein it has by limiting protein output. This in turn leads to hair loss.

Apart from hair loss, your hair is also likely to become dry and brittle.

3. Frequent Food Cravings

Another sign that your body lacks protein is frequent food cravings.

Craving sweets is especially common in people who are not eating the recommended amount of protein. The cravings may suddenly occur more frequently, and even after eating something sweet, you’re never quite satisfied.

sugar craving due to low protein

This happens as less protein intake means you are probably eating a diet high in carbohydrates and/or sugar. Both carbohydrates and sugar can cause your blood sugar level to spike and make you feel hungry more frequently.

On the other hand, protein takes longer to digest, which makes you feel full and energized. This in turn evens out blood sugar highs and lows and thus helps regulate hunger.

Even though high-protein foods are sometimes higher in calories than carbohydrates, they are better at increasing satiety. This means protein-rich foods help prevent snacking and overeating, while also helping stabilize blood sugar.

4. Fluid Retention

Edema or fluid accumulation, especially in the lower body, is another sign of poor protein intake.

Protein plays an important role in keeping fluid from accumulating in tissues, especially in the feet and ankles, by holding salt and water in the blood vessels.

edema due to low protein

Without enough protein, these fluids can seep into surrounding tissues and lead to swelling on the lower legs and feet, which can be very uncomfortable.

You can tell you’re experiencing swelling due to fluid retention if the stretched or shiny skin retains a fingerprint after being pressed for a moment.

5. Lowered Immune Functioning

A low protein level in your diet may make you more susceptible to illnesses.

Protein helps keep your immune system functioning properly, as the immune cells are mostly made from proteins.

low immunity

Protein makes up white blood cells, antibodies, blood proteins and a variety of immune molecules, including interleukins and cytokines. They all work together to attack foreign invaders, both biological and chemical.

Insufficient dietary protein can compromise your body’s ability to produce enough immune molecules and weaken your immunity. This may lead to more frequent and severe infections or illnesses.

6. Weak and Brittle Nails

Weak and brittle nails, as well as ridges in the nails, are some of the first signs that your body lacks protein.

brittle nails due to lack of protein

Nails are comprised of laminated layers of a protein called keratin. So, for strong and healthy nails, proper protein intake is a must.

When your body lacks protein, it does not have the building blocks for growing strong nails. Plus, poor protein intake can cause white spots on your nails.

In addition, a shortage of protein may lead to more frequent hangnails as well as cracks and tears in the nails. This can make your nails more vulnerable to infections.

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3 thoughts on “10 Signs You Are Not Eating Enough Protein”

  1. So glad that I read this. As I scanned down I could see that I’m doing the right things for my 84 body. Keep up the good work.

  2. I’m glad you gave this report. Having a Chronic illness my diet is very poor. Many of the symptoms you list I thought were just symptoms of illness. Now I find with this article many of my problems can be fixed just by taking in more Protein. Thanks!

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