Protein is one of the most important nutrients you can eat! It’s what powers your muscles, and it’s critical for the health of your bones, hair, nails, teeth, and even your brain. Without enough protein, your body is going to start suffering—and it will begin to show. Here are the top signs of insufficient protein intake; they’re your body’s way of saying you need to eat more protein:
When you don’t get enough protein in your diet, you’ll eventually start to feel sluggishness or fatigue. This is a common side effect of insufficient protein intake, due to the fact that protein is crucial for the production of hemoglobin, the part of our red blood cells critical for transporting oxygen throughout the human body. Without enough hemoglobin, our bodies can’t get enough oxygen to function properly, and the result is a feeling of tiredness or sluggishness. It doesn’t set in right away, but takes time to manifest. However, you’ll notice it when you move around—you’ll feel tired quickly, you’ll feel short of breath, and your muscles just won’t have the endurance they did when you ate enough protein.
Your bones need calcium to remain healthy, but protein is also critical for the formation of new, healthy bone tissue. A protein-rich diet is critical for healthy bones, so insufficient protein intake can lead to a weakening of the cellular matrix that makes up your bones. A lack of protein also forces our bodies to borrow protein from places it deems non-critical for continued functioning, which means it takes protein from our bones. The result is a higher risk of stress fractures and breakage. If you’ve noticed an inordinate amount of bone injuries in recent weeks or months, it could be a sign you’re just not getting enough protein in your diet and haven’t been for a long time.
Muscle Mass Decrease
Weight loss is a common side effect of insufficient protein intake. However, it won’t be the good kind of weight loss—where you lose weight from your body fat stores. Instead, you’ll be losing muscle mass. When your body doesn’t get enough protein to keep your critical systems functioning, it takes amino acids from your muscles. This can cause muscle wasting, which can lead to a decrease in lean muscle mass. At the same time, you might also see an increase in body fat. Even if you’re not losing weight, the decrease in muscle mass is DEFINITELY a bad thing!
Protein is critical for the production of antibodies, which your body produces in order to fight off invading pathogens. When you don’t get enough protein, your body can’t make enough antibodies to keep bacteria and viruses at bay. You may find you are far more susceptible to infection and disease—especially common colds—when you don’t get enough protein. Increasing your protein intake can help your body produce more antibodies and shore up your defenses against sickness.
Brittle Nails and Hair
Protein is vital for healthy nails and hair—after all, they’re both made of keratin, which is a form of protein our bodies produce. Even just a few months of insufficient protein intake can lead to all kinds of problems with your nails and hair. For example, your nails may become brittle and more prone to breakage. Your hair can lose its thickness and luster, and you’ll likely see an uptick in split ends. Hair loss is definitely a risk if you’re not getting enough protein, too.