How do you know if you are getting enough protein?
This can be a tricky question to answer. There are so many lifestyle factors that affect your daily intake. Various things like activity level, age, height, & weight influence where your daily consumption should fall.
Diet is also something to consider. If you are a vegetarian or an individual that tends to skip meals, you may find yourself not getting enough protein on a daily basis.
Don’t worry. Your body is very smart. Learning to listen to your body is the first step to becoming more aware of what your body needs. Here are a few signs that may indicate you may need to increase your protein intake:
1. You feel weak: Protein is essential for building muscles. If you don’t get enough, your muscles may start to shrink. You may start to feel weak and you may struggle to recover after exercise or strenuous activity.
2. You crave sweets: Do you feel like you are never quite full? Do you find yourself craving sweets? These are one of the FIRST signs that you are low on protein. Proteins most critical function is keeping your blood sugar steady. When you are low on protein, your glucose levels will be all over the place causing you to seek out “sweets” or high carb foods as a quick fix.
3. Your recovery is slow from injuries: Protein is essential to help heal and rebuild new cells, tissue and skin, and for immunity.
4. You have muscle and joint pain: Muscle weakness, pain, or being flabby where you used to be muscular may be a sign of your muscles or joint fluid breaking down to supplement calories instead of using the protein you eat to build muscles, tissues, and cells.
5. You get sick regularly: Protein is needed to build all the compounds in our immune system. If you notice where you are in good health but you are getting more colds or infections, a protein deficiency may be to blame. Remember, immune cells are made from proteins.
6. You have fluid retention: Fluid retention can be tricky. It can be a result of too much sodium in your diet or it can be a deficiency in protein. Protein plays a part in keeping fluid from accumulating in tissues, especially feet and ankles. They help to hold salt and water in blood vessels. Without enough protein, these fluids seep into surrounding tissues. (Harvard Health Publications)
7. You have hair loss or skin & nail troubles: Thin hair, hair falling out, peeling skin and brittle nails, and ridges in nails are some of the first signs your body may not have enough protein. Hair is made primarily of protein. When the body is deprived of protein, it will try to conserve protein levels as much as it can and shift hair growth into a “resting phase.”
8. You experience foggy brain: Balance blood sugar is essential for staying focused. When you are not getting enough protein, you may feel a little foggy like you can’t quite get it together. This may occur when you don’t have a steady stream of carbs to fuel your brain. Remember, carbs are your main energy source. Protein helps to time-release the carbs for steady energy instead of quick spikes & crashes.
If you are eating a well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of whole foods, you should not find yourself with a deficiency in protein. On the other hand, if you are following an unhealthy diet, not eating enough calories, or you have some digestive imbalances, you may begin experiencing some of the side effects mentioned above due to low protein consumption.
Remember, if you are eating TOO FEW CALORIES, your body will use the protein you do consume for energy instead of building muscles, immunity, healthy hair, skin, nails, etc. #CreateNutritionalBalance #HealthFocused
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-Eric & Maleka Beal
Eric and Maleka Beal are health coaches and co-founders of BetterChoices, a health & wellness company and social community focused on educating, advocating, and promoting better health and wellness through lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness education.