Protein consists of long chains of amino acids. Of course, most recognize these as essential elements for the body’s development, growth, and maintenance. Amino acids are found in several food sources, particularly in eggs, dairy, fish, and meat. Certain plant foods, nuts, and seeds are good sources of fuel, as well.
Our muscles, organs, and tissues are all structured from assembled proteins. Functionally, these macronutrients play a role in nearly every way. Protein helps to heal wounds, control blood sugar levels, and neutralize bacteria.
Some nutritionists recommend that most people eat about fifty percent of their body weight in protein daily. For example, someone who weighs 120 pounds should aim for sixty grams.
Protein is a priority helps to aid with fat-burning and building and maintaining healthy muscles. As a general rule, the more active one is the more protein their body demands. This is because proteins must be replenished as they quickly dissipate.
Most people are protein deficient to some degree. As protein is involved in every bodily function, symptoms will arise that signal a shortage of these vital biomolecules.
In this article, we’ll discuss nine signs of protein deficiency – and how you can replenish your protein levels.
First, here are potential signs that you’re protein-deficient:
“Protein is the building block of yourself. It’s the building block of your muscles and also is present in the foods that are going to boost your metabolism and fat-burning potential. Nothing is more important than protein. It really is the fuel that motivates and really supports your body in building healthy tissues and cells.” – Dr. Josh Axe
1. Anxiety and moodiness
As mentioned, amino acids are the building blocks of just about everything in the body. This includes the chemical messengers within the brain or neurotransmitters. The synthesizing of amino acids produces dopamine and serotonin, the two brain chemicals responsible for drive, memory, and happiness.
2. Protein-deficient people suffer injuries more frequently
Protein is a precursor to calcium absorption; the latter is responsible for strengthening our bones. It is unsurprising that insufficiencies can lead to bone and muscle injury. We’re more likely to develop bone fractures, weakness, and osteoporosis.
3. “Brain fog”
Brain fog is an umbrella term that encompasses several symptoms: fatigue, confusion, lack of focus, trouble concentrating, memory problems, and diminished mental acuity. Almost always, the problem is some chemical imbalance within the brain. Dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are all chemicals that the brain needs for better focus. Low protein levels can throw these chemicals off.
4. High cholesterol
Lack of protein in the body is often supplemented with carb-laden or fatty foods. As blood sugar levels are discombobulated from low protein levels, we’re more likely to crave a sugary snack. The result is inflammation and hormonal imbalances, which contribute to higher LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
5. Gastrointestinal problems
Healthy metabolism and digestion (surprise!) require plenty of amino acids. When this is not the case, our gut throws a fit by producing fewer enzymes and reducing the contractions necessary for digestion and excretion.
6. Irregular menstrual cycles
Dr. Joshua Axe explains, “Low-protein, high-sugar/high-carb diets can contribute to insulin resistance, fatigue, inflammation and weight gain that disrupts the delicate balance of female hormones (including that of estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA) needed to sustain a regular cycle.”
7. Rough workouts
We all know that adequate fuel is necessary to gain muscle mass – but it’s also necessary for muscle function. Furthermore, even if you do work out on the regular, your results will be adversely affected. This is usually because of one or two reasons: (1) you don’t have the energy needed to go “all out,” or (2) your muscles can not properly recover because of protein deficiencies.
8. Sleep irregularities
Many things can cause bad sleep, but it’s easy to overlook a lack of protein. The effects of low protein levels on sleep are systematic and usually follow one of two courses of action. First, carbs take the place of protein, and carbs reduce the amount of insulin necessary to balance blood sugar levels. Or, your protein deficiency is raising the cortisol (“stress hormone”) levels in your system. Neither situation is conducive to a good night’s rest.
9. Weight gain
Many excellent sources (e.g. fish and eggs) have a higher fat and calorie count than other carb- and fat-based foods. The difference is that protein promotes feelings of fullness (“satiety”) better than most foods consisting primarily of fat or carbs. Further, it stabilizes blood sugar levels much better than carbs or fats do. This makes it less likely that you’ll snack or have a sugar craving during the day. The result of adequate protein levels is, oftentimes, a healthier weight.
Final Thoughts: Know the Good Protein Sources
While we’ve mentioned meat, eggs, fish, and dairy as good protein sources, there are also plenty of good vegan and vegetarian options. Besides being a terrific source, some vegan and vegetarian foods are rich in fiber and other nutrients.
Almonds, flax, chia, hemp, adzuki beans, lentils, unprocessed oats, amaranth, farro, oats, and quinoa are all good sources. Regarding vegetable, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, mushrooms, and spinach are great choices.
The best meat types are grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, and organic chicken and turkey. Supplementing your diet with protein powder is a fine idea, assuming you also get plenty from food sources.