Everyone needs protein, whether you’re an athlete or simply trying to lose weight. But why is protein so important? Protein works as the fuel that supports your body in building healthy tissues and cells. It is present in foods that help boost metabolism and aid in fat-burning. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that can be found in several different foods, like vegetables, beans, and seeds, but the highest sources of protein come from animals, such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish.
Proteins are incredibly beneficial to the body, from our skin and hair to our digestive enzymes and immune system antibodies. Vital organs, muscles, tissues, and even some hormones in the body are made from proteins. They are involved in nearly every aspect of the body’s functions, from controlling blood sugar levels to healing wounds and fighting off bacteria.
Do You Have a Protein Deficiency?
The average person needs to eat 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, and by consuming the proper amounts of protein daily, you can burn fat and build muscle the right way. If you’re not eating enough protein, you may experience the following symptoms:
- A sluggish metabolism
- Trouble losing weight
- Trouble building muscle mass
- Low energy levels and fatigue
- Poor concentration and trouble learning
- Moodiness and mood swings
- Muscle, bone and joint pain
- Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes
- Slow wound healing
- Low immunity
Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein
- You Have High Cholesterol
High cholesterol and triglycerides are not just caused by eating food high in fat, but can also be a result of increased inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and high-sugar diets. If you are likely to replace foods rich in protein with sugary snacks, refined carbs, and packaged convenience goods, your cholesterol can start to rise, as your liver and cells process fats less efficiently.
- You’re Feeling Increased Anxiety and Moodiness
Amino acid is the foundation for neurotransmitters, which control your mood. Proteins help the brain synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that help bring positive feelings.
- Your Workouts Are Suffering
You might already be aware that protein is instrumental when building new muscle mass, but it’s also important for sustaining your energy and motivation. A diet low in protein can result in muscle wasting or muscle atrophy, fatigue, and even fat gain. No matter how frequently you work out, if your diet isn’t adequate to support tissue repair, you might not see the results you hoped for.
- You Aren’t Sleeping Well
Poor sleep and insomnia can, at times, be linked to unstable blood sugar levels, a rise in cortisol, and a decreased production of serotonin. Eating foods with protein as the last meal of the day can help with tryptophan and serotonin production, and they have a minimal effect on blood glucose levels; in fact, protein can slow down the absorption of sugar during a meal.
- You Have “Fog Brain”
Brain fog, poor concentration, lack of motivation and trouble learning new information can be signs of low levels of neurotransmitters that help you focus, including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Neurotransmitters are synthesized in the brain using amino acids, and studies have shown that balanced diets with adequate protein can boost work performance, learning, and motor skills.
- You’re Gassy and Can’t Go to the Bathroom
There are many metabolic and digestive functions that depend on amino acid intake. If you begin to feel fatigued due to protein deficiency, your enzyme production, GI tract muscle contractions, and digestion will suffer.
- Your Pants Feel Tighter
Although they may be higher in calories at times, foods high in protein can cause satiety, so they prevent overeating and snacking. They can also help stabilize your blood sugar to allow you to retain and gain more muscle, which burns more calories all day.
- Your Menstrual Cycle Is Irregular
One of the most common reasons women experience irregular periods and infertility is due to a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The two major risk factors for PCOS are obesity and pre-diabetes or diabetes. In fact, insulin resistance affects 50-70 percent of all women with PCOS. Low protein, high sugar, or high carb diets can contribute to insulin resistance, fatigue, inflammation, and weight gain that can disrupt the balance of hormones for women.
- You’ve Been Getting Injured Frequently and Heal Slowly
A low protein diet can put you at a higher risk for muscle loss, slow bone healing, bone weakness, fractures, and even osteoporosis. Protein is required for calcium absorption and helps with bone metabolism. Research has shown that a diet high in amino acids can help treat muscle loss brought on by aging.