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9 Signs that shows you are eating little Protein than you should

According to WebMD – Proteins do much more for the body than just maintain and build muscle. Made up of chains of amino acids, they are known as the building blocks of life.

And this is no exaggeration. After all, proteins are present in all the cells of the human body and are necessary to help the organism repair these cells and produce new ones. The nutrient is also very important for the growth and development of children, adolescents and pregnant women.

Required for structure, function and regulation of tissues and organs in the body, proteins perform functions related to the construction and maintenance of bones and skin, act as antibodies, work as enzymes, transmit signals to coordinate biological processes between different cells, tissues and organs and transport atoms and small molecules within cells and throughout the body.

As the body does not store proteins in the same way it stores carbohydrates and fats, they need to be consumed on a daily basis. The nutrient can be found in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy products and in plant products such as soy, beans and other legumes, nuts and some grains such as quinoa and wheat germ.

The exact amount of protein a person needs to consume daily depends on factors such as age, gender, health and level of physical activity. But how do I know if I am consuming enough protein? Well, the symptoms presented in the list below are indicative that the intake of the nutrient has been insufficient:

1. Propensity to stress fractures

Research from the year 2018, which synthesised systematic reviews and meta-analyses regarding the benefits and risks of protein intake for adult bone health, indicated that the nutrient helps protect bones, provided the intake of the mineral calcium is also adequate.

In addition, when a person does not ingest a sufficient amount of protein to supply the organs and the brain, the body ends up borrowing protein from other regions of the body, which includes the stocks of skeletal muscle tissue. The result: the bones become more vulnerable to injuries such as fractures.

2. Nails, hair and skin problems

Nails, skin and hair are made up of proteins such as keratin, elastin and collagen. When the body cannot produce these proteins, the skin can become dry and flaky and nails can develop deep ridges (vertical lines).

In the same vein, nutritionists warned that because protein is an essential component of nails and hair, over time nails can become softer and hair can become more brittle, lose some of its shine and no longer be as thick as usual when the body’s supply of protein is inadequate.

In a more extreme situation, in which a few months go by without a sufficient amount of protein, hair loss can also be observed, as pointed out by the American Academy of Dermatology. This happens partly because the organism deactivates hair growth in order to preserve its protein stocks.

3. Weight loss in the form of muscle

A person who consumes little protein may see their scale numbers decrease – but that’s not necessarily a positive thing or cause for celebration. That’s because the weight loss experienced may have been in the form of muscle rather than fat.

Nutritionists clarified that generally what happens when a person doesn’t consume a sufficient amount of protein is that their body starts to degrade their muscles to get more protein. This makes a lot of sense when we remember that it is protein that is part of the makeup of muscles.

But that’s not the only problem: when a person loses muscle, their body also retains fat stores, which causes their body composition to be transformed in an unfavourable way.

4. Weakness and fatigue

According to experts, this is not an instantaneous fatigue, however, over time, those who do not provide a sufficient amount of protein to the body may feel more lethargic or tired than normal.

This is associated with the importance of protein in relation to muscles: research has already pointed out that just one week without consuming enough protein can already affect the muscles responsible for posture and movement, especially from 55 years of age.

Over time, the loss of muscle mass that can be caused by a lack of protein results not only in a decrease in strength, but also makes it more difficult to maintain balance and slows down the metabolism.

But that’s not all, protein is also a component of haemoglobin, an integral of red blood cells, which acts to transport oxygen throughout the body. When oxygen levels are too low, a person can suffer from weakness and difficulty breathing.

Another problem that can arise is anaemia – and weakness and fatigue are on the list of anaemia symptoms.

5. Getting sick often

Remember at the beginning of this article that proteins act as antibodies? Well, antibodies are responsible for helping to fight off external invaders. They activate white blood cells to fight bacteria, viruses and toxins.

When a person does not have enough protein in their body, this can compromise their immune system and they can catch diseases more often than other people.

Not to mention that the body needs protein to digest and absorb other important nutrients for health. As if that wasn’t enough, there is evidence that protein can change the levels of good bacteria in the gut, which also help fight disease.

6. Swelling (oedema)

Swelling is considered one of the most common symptoms of insufficient protein supply to the body, especially when it comes to swelling in the abdomen, legs, feet and hands. It is believed that this is because the proteins circulating in the blood, especially albumin (a protein found in eggs), help prevent the accumulation of fluid in the tissues.

But beware: as swelling can be caused by several other problems, including some more serious ones, it is important to seek medical help to check what is really behind the swelling.

7. Mood swings

Neurotransmitters are used by the brain to relay information between cells. And guess what? Many of these neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.

In other words, an insufficient intake of protein can make the body unable to make an adequate production of these neurotransmitters. But where does humour come into all this? Low levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin can make a person depressed or very aggressive.

8. Hunger

Alongside carbohydrates and fats, protein is one of three nutrients that provide calories to the body. In other words, they help supply the organism with energy. So much so that studies have already pointed out that meals rich in proteins help the body to be more satiated throughout the day.

9. Delays in the cicatrization of wounds and in the healing of injuries

Those who lack protein take longer to see their cuts and scrapes heal. Similarly, insufficiency of the nutrient slows recovery from sprains and other injuries associated with physical activities.

The explanation is that this is an effect of insufficient production of the protein collagen, which is found not only in the skin but also in connective tissue. In addition, the protein is needed for blood clotting.

Can you identify with some of the symptoms?

Although protein insufficiency or deficiency is not something common, people on a poor-quality diet, the elderly and cancer patients may have difficulty obtaining the nutrient in adequate proportions.

Similarly, those who are switching from a traditional diet to vegetarianism or veganism may have trouble getting protein in optimal amounts or obtaining complete proteins because they do not know how to replace animal protein with plant protein properly.

This is because although complete plant proteins exist, most plant sources of protein are incomplete proteins, making it necessary to consume different plant sources of protein daily to obtain all the amino acids the body needs.

If you have identified yourself with one or more of the signs listed above, seek medical attention and report all your symptoms to your doctor to confirm that your protein intake is not low and learn how to reverse the problem before it becomes more dangerous.

If protein insufficiency is associated with a switch to a diet without meat or animal products, ask a dietician to help you put together a menu that includes all the plant sources of protein your body needs.

Even if your symptoms are not due to lack of protein, your doctor will be able to identify what is causing them and treat the problem appropriately before complications arise.

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