7 Signs You Might Not Be Eating Enough Protein

Your body has ways of telling you that you’re not eating enough eggs, lean meat, fish, nuts, dairy, and protein-rich vegetables to fuel your muscles and overall health.

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You constantly feel weak and hungry

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Terry Hope Romero, author of a number of bestselling cookbooks for health foods, noticed that her vegan diet was leaving her unsatisfied and lacking energy throughout the day. “When you work full time and have a long commute, and you regularly work out or you have a lot of errands to run, it can be easy to fill up on processed carbs,” says Romero. “To feel full every day, especially when you’re working out to build muscle, it’s not really the best approach.” Protein takes longer to digest, which makes you feel full and energized. When Romero started consuming more protein (by adding natural protein powders like hemp protein and brown rice protein to everyday foods, as featured in the recipes of her newest book Protein Ninja), she started feeling stronger and more satisfied. Here’s how to eat more protein without even trying.

Your muscles look MIA

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It takes more than daily gym visits to look and feel strong. If you don’t eat enough protein to fuel your body’s tissues with the necessary amount of amino acids (protein’s small subparts), your body has no choice but to start breaking down your muscles to get amino acids from their fibers, according to SFGate.com. One key body part to watch is the clavicle, says Jessica Bihuniak, PhD, RD, assistant professor of nutrition at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. If your collarbone is becoming especially prominent, it could be time to make sure you’re eating enough protein and enough calories in general.

You’re struggling to lose weight

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Research in the journal Nutrition Metabolism found that dieters who boosted their protein intake to 30 percent of their total calories ate nearly 450 fewer calories each day and lost 11 pounds over a three-month period, Women’s Health reported. Eating enough protein is especially important on a diet because it helps ensure that you lose fat, not metabolism-boosting muscle, as you slim down. “High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them,” the magazine notes. “They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time.”

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You’re losing your hair

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Occasionally nutritionists will test the health of their clients’ diets by asking them to run their hands through their hair to see how much falls out with just a gentle tug. Hair is made primarily of protein; your hair needs adequate protein to grow and stay healthy. If the body is deprived of protein from your diet, it will try to conserve protein levels as much as it can and shift hair growth into a “resting phase,” notes WebMD. This means you may find yourself shedding more hair than usual. Maintain a healthy mane by eating two to three servings of protein a day, like these high-protein lunches. Here are other secrets your hair is trying to tell you about your health.

You’re always getting sick

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Avoiding the sniffles often requires more than just good hygiene and good sleep; good nutrition is key, too. The immune system depends on the right fuel to function correctly. A study published in Progress of Food and Nutrition Science concluded that being deficient in protein results in the loss of T cells, important germ fighters. As a result, the immune system can’t ward off bacteria or viruses as well.

Your lower legs and feet swell up unexpectedly

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If you skimp on protein, you may find yourself prone to fluid retention around your ankles and feet. Proteins help to hold salt and water in blood vessels; without enough protein, these fluids can seep into surrounding tissues, according to Harvard Health Publications. The bloated sensation of one’s swollen lower legs and feet—called edema—is uncomfortable. It usually results in stretched or shiny skin that retains a fingerprint after being pressed for a moment.

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Your skin gets patchy in places

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A protein deficiency can sometimes result in a flaky dermatitis, or irritation of the skin, especially on the back of the thighs and on the buttocks, says Dr. Bihuniak. Lack of a certain protein in the skin’s protective barrier can make skin more vulnerable to allergens and other irritants. In addition to upping your protein intake, these eczema home remedies can help heal your skin too.


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