Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays many vital roles in the body. From building and repairing muscle tissue to making enzymes and hormones, protein is involved in nearly all body functions. Though requirements vary by individual, most adults need around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
Symptoms Of Protein Deficiency
Fail to consume adequate protein over time and you may experience some telltale symptoms indicating deficiency. This article will cover 6 potential signs and symptoms that you may need more high-quality protein sources in your diet.
1. Muscle Loss And Weakness
Protein is fundamental for building and maintaining muscle mass. Without sufficient protein intake, the small tears and damage done to muscle fibers during exercise cannot be fully repaired. Over time, this leads to gradual muscle breakdown and loss known as muscle wasting or atrophy.
You’re likely not getting enough protein if you notice unexplained muscle loss, shrinking muscle tone and size, or feeling weakness while performing usual activities and workouts. Boosting protein can help rebuild muscle tissues.
2. More Infections and Illnesses
Various proteins play key roles in immune function. Amino acids like glutamine fuel white blood cells while antibodies themselves are made of protein. Diets consistently lacking adequate protein may impair immune response and increase the risk of falling ill.
If you seem to catch every bug going around and have trouble kicking common colds or respiratory infections, upping protein intake may help bolster immunity.
3. Slow Healing Injuries and Wounds
Collagen, an important structural protein throughout the body, is necessary for wound healing. Without sufficient protein, wound repair and recovery slows down.
Notice wounds, cuts, or burns taking longer than expected to heal? Insufficient protein could be the culprit. Getting adequate daily protein provides the amino acids needed for collagen production and quicker healing.
4. Bone Loss
Half of bone volume comprises a protein matrix. When protein intake drops chronically, the body will break down bone to harvest amino acids as needed. This bone loss leads to higher fracture risk and conditions like osteoporosis over time.
Unexpected bone fractures, shrinking height, or osteoporosis diagnosis may indicate the need for more protein to protect bone health and density, along with calcium and vitamin D.
5. Fatigue and Low Energy
Protein provides needed amino acids that help produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key source of cellular energy production. Without enough protein, ATP is made less efficiently and energy levels drop.
Constant tiredness, needing daytime naps, lack of motivation, and feeling run down are possible signs you need more protein for an energy boost.
6. Fluid Accumulation and Swelling
Low protein levels can cause fluid retention and generalized swelling in the limbs or trunk. This is due to a decline in albumin, a protein that keeps fluid in the bloodstream rather than diffusing into tissues.
Noticeable swelling in the legs, feet, hands, or abdomen may indicate insufficient protein intake to maintain healthy albumin levels and normal fluid distribution.
Getting Enough High-Quality Protein
If you recognize multiple symptoms of protein deficiency, focus on intentionally increasing high-quality protein sources in your diet, such as:
➜ Lean meat, poultry, and seafood
➜ Eggs and dairy products
➜Beans, peas, and lentils
➜ Nuts, seeds, and soy foods
➜ Whey or pea protein powders
Aim for at least 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily from these whole food sources. Spread intake throughout meals and snacks for optimal protein synthesis. Pay attention to any symptoms resolving as protein intake increases.
For some, concentrated protein supplements taken at strategic times may also help meet higher needs more easily. Speak to your healthcare provider if concerns arise about your individual protein status.
Protein is indispensable for nearly all functions of the human body. Skimping on this key macronutrient can lead to issues like muscle wasting, frequent illness, poor wound healing, bone loss, fluid retention, and fatigue.
Noticing these possible signs of protein deficiency should prompt an evaluation of diet and protein intake. Consuming adequate high-quality protein sources daily from whole foods or strategic supplementation helps maintain optimal health.