Proteins are long chains of amino acids that play an important role in many functions within your body. Protein helps you build muscle, burn fat, feel satisfied after eating and it even helps you build strong bones. Your body uses protein each and every day to function. It’s constantly being broken down and used, so it must constantly be replaced. If you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet, your health can begin to suffer.
Signs Of A Protein Deficiency
1. Your Workouts Are Suffering
Your body needs protein in order to build new muscle mass. It’s also important for keeping energy and motivation. If you aren’t getting enough protein, the result can be muscle loss, fatigue and even fat gain. Without adequate protein, you can work out more but see less results because your diet doesn’t support tissue repair or your energy needs.
2. You Aren’t Sleeping Well
Insomnia and trouble sleeping can be linked to unstable blood sugar levels, a rise in cortisol and a decrease in serotonin. Proteins from the food you eat act as the building blocks of tryptophan, an amino acid that causes drowsiness. Eating foods that contain protein before bed can help stimulate tryptophan and serotonin production to help you sleep.
3. You Have High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can be the result of increased inflammation, hormonal imbalances and high sugar diets. If you replace protein foods with sugary snacks or processed meals on a regular basis, your cholesterol will start to rise. Without enough protein in your diet, you won’t feel satisfied. This can lead to constant snacking and making poor food choices.
4. You Feel Like You’re In A Brain Fog
Your body needs protein to support healthy neurological functioning. Poor concentration, lack of motivation and trouble learning new information can be signs that you’re low in protein. Dopamine, epinephrine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that your body needs in order to focus. Neurotransmitters are synthesized in the brain using amino acids. You might feel like you’re in a brain fog if you’re not getting enough protein.
5. Your Injuries Are Slow To Heal
Your body needs protein to absorb calcium and help with bone metabolism. A diet low in protein can increase your risk for muscle loss, bone weakness, fractures and even osteoporosis. Research has shown that a diet high in amino acids can help treat muscle loss due to aging.
6. You’ve Gained Some Weight
High-protein foods can sometimes contain more calories than carbohydrates, but they help satisfy you. Increased satiety can help prevent overeating. If you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet, you might find yourself hungry on a regular basis and constantly reaching for a snack, which can lead to weight gain.
7. You’ve Been Feeling More Anxious And Moody
Amino acids make up the neurotransmitters that control your mood. Protein is needed to help the brain synthesize hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, which help bring about positive feelings. If your body is low in protein, your dopamine and serotonin production may suffer.
8. You Have Trouble Going To The Bathroom
Many digestive system functions rely on amino acid intake. If your body feels tired and run down due to a protein deficiency, you might start having problems with your digestive system. Without enough protein, enzyme production and muscle contractions in your GI tract will suffer.
How To Get More Protein In Your Diet
According to the USDA, the recommended minimum daily intake of protein for adults is 56 grams per day for mean and 46 grams per day for women. These numbers are for adults who are at an average weight and activity level, and they’re considered minimum amounts. If you’re active, pregnant or ill, the amount of protein you need may be higher.
There are many animal-based and plant-based options for protein. Meat-eaters can consume grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey and wild-caught salmon to boost their protein intake. Vegetarian and vegan options include beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and unprocessed grains such as oats, buckwheat and quinoa. Vegetables that contain protein include spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and mushrooms. You can also buy protein in a powder form for daily protein shakes to help boost your intake.
Oregon State University
National Sleep Foundation
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
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