Are you bloated after every meal and constipated more often than not? Have you noticed your nails breaking easily, your hair growing in thin and slowly, and a few extra pounds creeping up on your waistline? Not getting enough protein in your diet may be the reason why. Regardless of whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater, it’s possible to have an insufficient amount of protein in your diet.
And when you’re lacking protein, your body will let you know with specific symptoms typically related to your digestive, nervous or endocrine systems. Believe it or not, even the most health-conscious eater can still be protein deficient.
What Protein Does For You
Protein is a macronutrient made from amino acids, often associated with bodybuilding because it helps build lean muscle mass. But protein isn’t just for bodybuilders. We all need protein in our diets to for our bodies to perform specific functions such as digestion, fighting off illness and disease, hormone function, tissue repair and brain function. You are made from protein. From your red blood cells to your brain and muscles, protein makes up all parts of you that isn’t bone or water. For this reason, protein has been described as “the lego of life” by the Memory Foundation, for being the building block of our existence. Without protein, your body wouldn’t be able to digest food you eat, create antibodies to fight off disease, build and repair muscle or grow hair. As you can see, protein is much more than a muscle building tactic: it’s essential to our survival.
Other Signs of Low Protein in Your Diet
We’ve touched on digestive distress and hormone-related functions such as hair growth and midsection weight gain. But there are several other signs your body will give you when you’re not getting enough protein in your diet such as:
Protein helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and provide you with steady energy throughout the day. When you aren’t receiving enough protein in your diet, your blood sugar levels are all over the place and your energy levels can rapidly fluctuate (which often happens with vegetarians or vegans who rely primarily on starchy carbohydrates). To get your energy levels back up, your body will send signal cravings for more sugar or carbs, creating a vicious cycle.
- You Experience Frequent Colds or Flus
Since protein is needed to create the antibodies that help your immune system fight off illness and disease, protein deficiency can be to blame if you’re sick all the time.
- You Have a Hard Time Focusing or Concentrating
Stable blood sugar levels are needed for focus and concentration. If you have a lack of protein in your diet, you’re more likely to get small bursts of energy from carbohydrates that only last an hour or two before the brain fog or exhaustion sets in.
- You Never Feel Full After Eating
If you aren’t feeling full after eating, check in to see how much protein you’ve had throughout the day. Carbohydrates are the quickest food to digest, which can increase your appetite. Protein takes much longer to empty out of the stomach, allowing your appetite to feel satiated for 3-4 hours at a time, if not longer.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The amount of protein you require each day will depend on your age, your gender, body weight, height, activity level and stress levels, so it’s difficult to give a general number for the grams of protein you require. For this reason, we recommend checking in with your nutritionist or qualified healthcare practitioner to find out the amount of protein in grams that’ll work best for your body.
However, if you are experiencing symptoms that suggest you may be low in protein, you can start by adding a high-quality protein powder to your diet each day and note if your symptoms begin to improve after a few weeks.
Which Foods Are Good Protein Sources?
Contrary to popular belief, protein isn’t just found in animal products such as meat, poultry or dairy. All foods contain the amino acids that form proteins including leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. Even starchy carbohydrates contain amino acids. But protein deficiency can still present itself if you’re eating a healthy plant based diet. This is because very few plants contain all of the 8 essential amino acids that are needed by your body to perform its necessary functions. When a food contains all 8 essential amino acids, it’s considered a complete protein.
Animal products such as cheese, greek yogurt, beef, eggs and whey protein are complete proteins. And since most plant foods only contain 4 or 5 amino acids, they are known as incomplete proteins. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater, adding a scoop of protein powder to your diet each day is a great starting point to see if protein deficiency may be a contributing factor to your symptoms._Our recommendation is Vega One, an all-in-one plant-based protein powder that’s been formulated with all 8 essential amino acids from vegetarian sources. It’s packed with extra vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids (EFA’s), greens and digestive enzymes to serve as an all-in-one health booster to help you feel your very best.
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