Proteins are essential nutrients that keep your body going. They are polymers made up of amino acids, which are important molecules needed for different biochemical process in the body.
Protein is an integral part of every cell in your body. The body uses this nutrient to build, repair and replace worn out tissues; produce enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals; and also help build bones, muscles, skin, cartilage and even blood.
Unlike other nutrients like fat and carbohydrates, your body does not store protein. So, you need to consume protein-rich foods from time to time in order to give your body a good supply of this essential nutrient.
It is worthy of note that, protein can be gotten from a variety of sources, including eggs, meat, fish, soy, beans, legumes and nut butter etc. Upon digestion, proteins are broken down into amino acids.
It is recommended that you get about 10 to 30 percent of your daily calories from protein. Also, the recommended dietary allowance for grams of protein that an adult needs daily is as follows:
Women (ages 19 to 70+) = 46 grams.
Men (ages 19 to 70+) – 56 grams
If your daily dietary intake of protein does not meet the recommended amount, it can affect all our body chemical processes as well as your body parts.
This article highlights the 10 common signs you are not eating enough protein.
1. Muscle Weakness
If you experience a sudden muscle weakness or pain, it could be a sign that you are not eating enough protein.
Protein can be used as a fuel for your muscle, so your muscle will suffer when you lack enough protein.
Lack of protein can be a concern, especially in aged men. Men typically may experience loss of muscle mass due to aging and they lose even more protein if they are not eating enough protein via their diet on a daily basis.
If you don’t have sufficient protein, your body breaks down protein-rich tissues for muscle usage.
The initial effect of low protein intake is muscle wasting, which is accompanied by increasing weakness.
What’s more, protein also plays a vital role in how your body absorbs other essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron. These nutrients are essential for overall muscle and joint health.
2. Frequent Food Cravings
Another common sign of insufficient protein is frequent food cravings.
Sweet craving is especially more common in people who are not getting the recommended amount of protein.
You may also experience sweet cravings even after eating something sweet. This occurs because you are taking in less protein and you are probably eating a diet high in carbohydrates and/or sugar in return.
This may lead to a sudden spike in your blood sugar level and make you feel hungry more frequently.
Also, protein takes a longer time to digest, which makes you feel full longer. This, in turn, regulates your blood sugar levels and helps you control your food cravings.
It is worthy of note that protein-rich foods are sometimes higher in calories than carbohydrates, but they are better at increasing satiety.
This implies that protein-rich foods help prevent snacking between meals.
3. Lowered Immune Functioning
A low protein level may also make susceptible to diseases and sickness.
Since the immune cells are mostly made from proteins, they help keep your immune system functioning properly.
Proteins make up white blood cells (WBC), antibodies, blood proteins and a host of immune molecules, including cytokines and interleukins.
All these molecules work together to combat invading foreign particles, both biological and chemical.
So, if you don’t eat sufficient protein, it can compromise your body’s ability to produce enough immune molecules and weaken your immunity.
This is often seen in frequent and severe infections or illness.
4. Poor Hair Health
Your hair is made mostly of a protein known as keratin, and this makes protein essential for hair health.
Protein is the building block of all cells and tissues; in fact, your hair follicle is made up of protein. Each and every of your hair strand requires an adequate dose of protein to grow.
So, when your body does not have sufficient protein, it starts conserving the little one and thus limiting protein output. The resulting effect is uncontrolled hair loss.
Apart from that, your hair also becomes dry and brittle.
5. Weak and Brittle Nails
Weak and brittle nails are one of the first common signs of lack of proteins.
Just like the hair, nails are also made up of keratins protein. So, to have a strong and healthy nail, you need to up your protein intake.
When your body doesn’t have sufficient protein, it does not have enough protein to grow strong nails. In addition, inadequate protein intake can cause white spots on your nails.
Furthermore, lack of protein may lead to more frequent hangnails as well as cracks and tears in the nails. This can make your nails susceptible to infections such as nail fungus.
6. Fluid Retention
Abnormal accumulation of fluid also known as edema is another sign of low protein intake.
Protein is crucial in preventing fluid accumulation in tissues, especially in the feet and ankles, by retaining salt and water in the blood vessels.
Without enough protein, these fluids can escape into the surrounding tissues and lead to swelling of the lower legs and feet.
If your skin retains a fingerprint after being pressed for a moment, it could be a sign of fluid retention.
7. Poor Sleep
Your brain cells regulate all the hormones necessary for a good night’s sleep. When your body lacks protein to keep the brain functioning properly, it can lead to a hormonal imbalance that will have a serious impact on your sleep.
What’s more, when you experience muscle aches as a result of inadequate protein, you will have a difficult time sleeping.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that consumption of a greater proportion of energy from protein-rich meal may improve sleep quality in overweight and obese adults.
Also, poor sleep quality is also linked to unstable blood glucose levels, which can occur due to inadequate protein intake.
8. Brain Fog or Fatigue
Brain fatigue may be related to fluctuating blood sugar levels and lack of protein.
Protein is essential for brain function. In fact, brain fog, fatigue, poor concentration, lack of motivation, poor learning can be an indication of poor protein level in the body.
Lack of protein can lead to an imbalance of brain neurotransmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
These neurotransmitters are synthesized in the brain using amino acids (building block of protein).
When you take enough protein from your diet, it can boost your work rate as well as learning and motor skills. In fact, amino acid deficiency can cause a variety of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.
9. Mood Swings
Moodiness is one of the most common signs that you are not eating enough protein.
Protein does this by making you feel full longer thereby stabilizing blood sugar level which prevents energy fluctuations.
This is crucial because unstable blood sugar level makes you experience highs and lows in your mood, depending on your sugar levels.
What’s more, the chemicals produced by your brains (dopamine and norepinephrine) to make you feel happy are made from protein.
Protein-rich foods can help your brain to produce sufficient quantities of these mood-boosting brain chemicals.
10. Irregular Menstrual Cycles
A well-balanced diet is very important in maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle. And as such, any nutritional deficiency, including a low protein level can cause irregular menstrual cycles.
Also, a low-protein and high carbohydrate diet can contribute to inflammation, fatigue and weight gain.
All these can subsequently lead to a disruption in hormonal balance like estrogen, progesterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
Any imbalance in female hormones can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle.
And as such you ensure you take a well-balanced diet.