These 7 Signs Mean You’re Missing a Crucial Part of Your Diet

Did you know our entire bodies are made from various kinds of protein—in your muscles, bones, skin and hair? But that’s not always enough—you need to consume protein as well if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Protein provides us lots of benefits. For one, our bodies use protein to build and repair tissues. Protein also gives us energy, helps our bodies recover from exercise, and keeps us fuller, longer when we eat enough of it. So if you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, these are just some of the reasons you might feel a little out of whack.

But how much protein are you actually supposed to consume a day? About 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound, according to The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). That translates to about 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.

However, one study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found that a whopping 1 billion people worldwide are protein deficient. Holy cow!

Luckily, there are some easy ways to tell. Here are a few signs you might need to incorporate more protein into your diet:

  1. You have major food cravings.

    Protein helps to even out blood sugar highs and lows, according to a study published in The Diabetes Educator. So if you’re constantly craving snacks between meals, that could be a sign you’re eating too many carbs and sugar and not enough protein. Try swapping your morning muffin for eggs instead and see if that makes a difference.

  2. Your hair, skin, and nails don’t look great.

    Being protein deficient can cause some major beauty blunders. Some red flags include thinning hair (think finding a scary amount of strands in your shower drain after each shower), easily-peeling skin, or ridges in your nails.

  3. It takes you forever to recover from injuries.

    Protein actually helps in healing wounds and scar formation, according to a study published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. So if you’re not getting enough of the stuff into your diet, you might notice it takes you a while to recover from injuries like cuts, scrapes, or bruises.

  4. You feel like you’re in a fog.

    Things like feeling unmotivated or trouble remembering or learning new things could be a sign of blood sugar fluctuating and a protein deficiency. Another sign: Having short bursts of energy right before entering this state of fog.

  5. You’re having trouble sleeping.

    If you’ve ever heard that you’re supposed to eat protein for your last meal before going to bed, it’s true: protein in food can build on tryptophan, an amino acid that makes us drowsy (that’s why everyone falls asleep on Thanksgiving—turkey is loaded with it). Eating too little of protein can cause some annoying tossing and turning when you’re trying to get some shut-eye.

  6. You’re having muscle weakness and joint pain.

    Since protein is important to growing and maintaining muscle, a lack of protein in your diet could do the opposite: and cause some painful muscle weakness or loss and joint problems.

  7. Your bones are brittle.

    Graphic of bone painTiphero

    People tend to think an increased risk for bone fractures is related to a calcium deficiency, but protein is needed to absorb calcium and helps regulate bone metabolism. So not getting enough protein can actually weaken bones.

The recommended amounts of protein should be used as a guide, but every body is different and unique and metabolizes protein differently.

If you think you might not be getting enough protein, speak with your health care provider or consider seeing a nutritionist to help guide you on how much you should be eating. They can help you make a plan customizable to you and your needs.

Do you have any of these signs? Do you think you could be protein deficient? Share your best way to sneak in protein into your diet!