In a world obsessed with carbs, protein deficiency is unsurprisingly common. But if you don’t eat enough protein to fuel your body with the necessary amount of amino acids, it will have no other choice but to start breaking down your muscles and supplying those amino acids from their fibers. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood, and it’s crucial for many body functions like repairing any internal or external damage, supporting the immune system and muscle growth and repair. And when it comes to active lifestyles and dieting, its role is irreplaceable.
When you exercise, you’re tearing muscle fibers apart, which then have to be repaired by the body with the help of protein. And when you’re on a diet, high-protein foods support the fat burning process in many ways – from taking the most energy to be digested and absorbed in the metabolic process, to making you full sooner and for a longer amount of time. One study published in the journal Nutrition Metabolism found that dieters whose protein intake made up 30% of their total daily calories ate 450 fewer calories each day, compared to dieters who had a lower intake of this vital nutrient.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if your intake of protein is optimal, but the body always has its ways of telling you that you’re not getting enough protein to fuel your muscles and maintain your overall health and well-being, and all you have to do is listen to its messages. Read the rest of this article to learn the 5 most important signs that your body needs more protein.
#1. Lack of muscle growth
Are you training hard and heavy but not seeing any substantial progress? The reason might be protein deficiency. When it comes to optimizing an athlete’s diet, nothing is more important than adequate protein consumption. Since this is the fuel that supports your body in building healthy tissues and cells, as well as repairing the damaged fibers, not getting enough of it will leave your body incapable of building muscle, as well as increasing your risk of muscle loss. And the less muscle you have, the less calories the body requires to function, so one of the major signs of protein deficiency in athletes is an increased body fat level, regardless of the amount of physical exercise and the strictness of dieting.
#2. Slow healing of wounds
Slow-healing wounds are one of the best indicators of a lack of protein, together with certain vitamin deficiencies. Protein is the building material that enables the formation of new tissues, while vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc and silicon, are vital contributors to the maintenance of the newly formed tissue. In the case of slow-healing wounds, protein deficiency rings especially true if you’re not making sure to eat some lean protein at every meal.
#3. Frequent injuries
Since protein is needed for calcium absorption and supporting bone metabolism, a diet low in protein will not only raise your risk of muscle loss, but it can also cause bone weakness, slow bone healing and fractures, apart from the muscle loss. In addition, protein is crucial for the post-workout repair and recovery process, so if you’re not getting enough of it, injuries will take longer to heal which will ultimately result with more frequent injuries.
#4. Increased susceptibility to illness
Medical science has established that besides antioxidants and fatty acids, one of the most important factors in supporting a healthy immune system is adequate protein consumption. In fact, protein malnutrition can result in depletion of immune cells and a reduced ability of the body to make antibodies, both of which severely compromise the effectiveness of the immune system. So if your protein consumption is less than optimal, your body won’t be able to defend itself against bacteria and viruses and will become more susceptible to illnesses.
#5. Hair loss
Although many different factors such as genetics and hormonal imbalances can contribute to hair loss, nutritional deficiencies are thought to have the most significant impact on hair health. And since hair is around 91% protein, an adequate protein intake is a crucial requirement for maintaining healthy hair. A diet lacking in protein can shut down hair growth, reduce its quality and result with abnormal hair loss. Besides impaired hair health, you might also notice that your nails are weak, soft and prone to breaking.
How to increase your protein intake?
Here are the most important steps to ensure your intake of protein is optimal.
- Get your blood tested to find out if you’re suffering from any serious nutritional deficiencies.
- Include a high-quality protein source at every major meal in your day – think lean meats, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy products, legumes and beans.
- Make sure to vary your protein sources so that you don’t rely too heavily on only one of them – this will help you receive the full spectrum of amino acids available in different high-protein foods.
- If you don’t have the time to cook your own food or consume a full meal consisting of whole foods, make sure to meet your body’s demand of protein by supplementing with protein powders.
- Snack on nuts and seeds all throughout the day.
- For the purpose of maintaining optimal health, muscle strength and a healthy weight, the average adult needs to get 15-35% of their daily calories from protein.
- On average, bodybuilders require between 1.4 and 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for building muscle mass.