Most diets nowadays encourage high protein consumption, but some folks still don’t eat enough proteins. Or maybe you’re not sure how much protein you should eat per day.
The amount of protein you need may vary depending on your age, the level of activity, muscle mass and your health. But according to Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) you need to consume 0.8 grams per kilogram of your body weight per day– that’s equivalent to 0.36 grams per pound.
Well, this amount is enough to prevent protein deficiency, but studies show that a higher protein intake is better for optimal health and body composition. And if you’re an athlete or a highly active person – your body needs more protein.
10 Signs You Need More Protein In Your Diet
If you’re not sure whether you’re eating enough protein or not – here are 10 signs you need more protein in your diet.
1. Slow Muscle Recovery
It’s normal for muscles to get sore after an intense workout. But if you’re still sore 3 or 4 days later, it could be an indicator you’re not eating enough protein. Naturally, slow muscle recovery will slow down muscle growth.
The body uses protein to repair and rebuild muscle. This study2 and many others show that proteins are the most important nutrient for improving recovery.
According to this study3, athletes need 1.8 -3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for optimal results. So keep your protein intake high if your workouts are intense. Consuming proteins right after the workout doesn’t improve recovery – just make sure you meet your daily protein intake goals no matter what time you eat.
It’s worth noting that animal protein is better than plant protein because it contains all essential amino acids for the body. Here are some healthy animal proteins you should add to your diet: beef, fish, chicken, eggs, and so on.
2. Getting Sick Frequently
Protein strengthens the immune system and activates bacteria and white blood cells, which fight diseases. A low protein intake reduces the functionality of these cells and consequently weakens the immune system.
A weak immune system makes you more prone to allergies and common illnesses like cold and flu. If you keep getting sick and you’re in good health – low protein intake might be the cause of it.
Note that there are other factors that affect your immune system. So other than increasing protein intake, you should also – exercise regularly, eat fruits, avoid smoking and so on. In short, adopt healthy habits.
3. Loss Of Muscle And Strength
This study4 conducted on older men and postmenopausal women found that subjects who were on a low-protein diet lost more lean muscle, despite maintaining a similar calorie deficit as the subjects on a high-protein diet.
Another study5 where subjects were divided into two groups – a high-protein group (1.6g per kg) and a low-protein group (0.8g per kg). They both maintained a deficit of 500 calories. Even though the weight lost didn’t differ, the high-protein group lost more fat and maintained lean muscle mass.
These two studies clearly show that high-protein diet will help retain more muscle. And low protein intake will lead to loss of both fat and muscles. And as you would expect, loss of muscle will lead to loss of strength.
Eating adequate protein may not be enough to retain muscle mass if you’re on a deficit, do strength training to prevent loss of muscle.
4. Feeling Weak And Fatigued
Generally, a low-calorie intake will make you feel weak and tired. The same is true with a low protein diet, especially if you’re an active person. You need more protein if you do strength training or cardio.
When you exercise, protein synthesis increases in the muscles; therefore, you need more protein to fuel the protein synthesis. But when the body doesn’t get enough amino acids it becomes weak and fatigued.
I may also note that low protein makes blood sugar levels unstable. The body needs proteins to stabilize blood sugar, so when it doesn’t get enough we experience highs and lows in energy and moods.
Before you conclude your fatigue is due to low protein intake, make sure you’re getting enough sleep6 and you’re not overtraining.
5. Hair Loss
Did you know that hair is made of protein? So a low protein intake may lead to hair loss.
If you don’t eat enough protein, the body will use the available protein for important functions and reduce supply to less important parts like hair.
Animal protein is the best for improving hair health. Once you increase protein intake, your hair health will be back to normal. Note that dry hair is an early sign of poor hair health.
6. Increased Cravings
I mentioned that protein is important for keeping blood sugar levels stable. Eating enough protein will reduce insulin spikes which are known to cause sugar and sweet cravings.
You would think that low protein intake triggers protein cravings, but it doesn’t work like that. It’s highly unlikely to crave proteins even when you’re eating enough.
Consuming adequate protein will stabilize blood sugar levels7, boost metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity and much more.
7. You’re Always Hungry
Protein is the most filling out of all macronutrients. It’s rich in fiber and low in calories – this makes it the perfect nutrient for weight loss. In fact, this study8 shows that a high protein intake can reduce overall calorie intake.
A study9 conducted among women who got 30% of their daily calories from proteins leads to a 440 decrease in their total daily calorie intake. Increasing protein intake also made them lose 11lbs in 12 weeks.
Another study10 in obese men found that they reduced late night snacking, felt fuller, and reduced cravings by 60% when they increased protein intake to 25%.
Protein doesn’t just control hunger, but it also prevents overeating. If you’re always hungry – increase your protein intake up to 30%.
8. Weak Bones
You probably know that calcium is responsible for maintaining bone health. Well, the amount of protein you consume affects the calcium levels in the body. A low protein intake will reduce absorption of minerals in the intestines, which means the body will absorb less calcium.
A study published in 2003 in The Journal of Nutrition found that people who consume little protein had lower bone densities and an increased loss of skeletal mass.
It’s natural for bones to weaken as we age, but eating enough proteins and doing strength training will keep them strong.
9. Brain Fog
If you think carbs are the only foods responsible for keeping you energized, think again. Proteins keep the body and brain fueled as well.
If you eat enough carbs but still have difficulty concentrating, you might not be eating enough proteins. Consume enough proteins and carbs to stay energized and avoid brain fogs.
10. Always Getting Injured
Amino acids from proteins are used to build muscles, ligaments and tendons. If protein supply reduces, these tissues become weak and chances of getting injured increase. Additionally, inadequate protein makes injuries heal slowly.
Not warming up or doing too advanced exercises can also cause injuries. Warm up for at least 5 minutes before you start a workout and make sure you perform all exercises properly.
Protein is a very important macronutrient so it’s necessary you eat the right amount each day. Now, some of these signs could be indicators of other health problems so, it would be wise to see a doctor when you experience them.
There are arguments that high-protein diets cause kidney disease. Well, research shows that a high protein intake (35% daily intake) is safe for folks without prior kidney problems.
If you don’t know the best protein sources read this article11.
Is there anything I’ve left out that you would like to see added to this article?
|↑1||Will A Low Carb Diet Work For You? Find Out, Focus Fitness|
|↑2||Reidy, Paul T., Dillon K. Walker, Jared M. Dickinson, David M. Gundermann, Micah J. Drummond, Kyle L. Timmerman, Christopher S. Fry et al. “Protein blend ingestion following resistance exercise promotes human muscle protein synthesis.” The Journal of nutrition 143, no. 4 (2013): 410-416.|
|↑3||Phillips, Stuart M., and Luc JC Van Loon. “Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation.” Journal of sports sciences 29, no. sup1 (2011): S29-S38.|
|↑4||Bopp, Melanie J., Denise K. Houston, Leon Lenchik, Linda Easter, Stephen B. Kritchevsky, and Barbara J. Nicklas. “Lean mass loss is associated with low protein intake during dietary-induced weight loss in postmenopausal women.”Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108, no. 7 (2008): 1216-1220.|
|↑5||Evans, Ellen M., Mina C. Mojtahedi, Matthew P. Thorpe, Rudy J. Valentine, Penny M. Kris-Etherton, and Donald K. Layman. “Effects of protein intake and gender on body composition changes: a randomized clinical weight loss trial.”Nutrition & metabolism 9, no. 1 (2012): 1.|
|↑6||20 Tips On How To Get The Best Sleep Every Night, Focus Fitness|
|↑7||Dong, Jia-Yi, Zeng-Li Zhang, Pei-Yu Wang, and Li-Qiang Qin. “Effects of high-protein diets on body weight, glycaemic control, blood lipids and blood pressure in type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” British Journal of Nutrition 110, no. 05 (2013): 781-789.|
|↑8||Paddon-Jones, Douglas, Eric Westman, Richard D. Mattes, Robert R. Wolfe, Arne Astrup, and Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga. “Protein, weight management, and satiety.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 87, no. 5 (2008): 1558S-1561S.|
|↑9||A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition|
|↑10||Leidy, Heather J., Minghua Tang, Cheryl LH Armstrong, Carmen B. Martin, and Wayne W. Campbell. “The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men.” Obesity 19, no. 4 (2011): 818-824.|
|↑11||39 Nutrition Experts Share Their Favourite Healthy Protein Sources, Focus Fitness|