While eating fruits and vegetables seems to be common sense, and it is extremely important for overall health, getting enough protein into your diet is sometimes overlooked. You will hear your gym-rat friends discuss their protein intake to an extreme, but protein truly is an extremely important factor when it comes to keeping your body functioning properly. Making sure that you are getting enough can help in areas of your life that may seem unrelated, such as your sleep and mental function.
Why Is Protein Important?
To put it simply, your body, inside and out, is made of protein. This is why protein is often referred to as the body’s building block. Protein is used to build and repair tissues, help fight infection, and promote energy. And because every part of your body is made up of protein, not replenishing enough can effect just about every part of the body’s necessary functions.
Proteins are long chains made up of hundreds of smaller units called amino acids. Protein is mainly found in animal sources, such as fish, meat, dairy, and eggs. Other foods like beans, nuts, and seeds also contain protein in smaller amounts, and some vegetables and fruits have a small amount of protein as well. (1)
How Do You Know If You Are Deficient In Protein?
Because your body is largely made up of protein, you can imagine that being protein deficient will be an issue in more ways than one. Here are some signs you can look for to know if you are deficient in protein.
1. Low energy
If you feel your energy depleting, it’s possible that protein deficiency could be the cause. Your body uses protein for energy, and also to build muscle mass. Making sure you have enough protein is especially important any time you exercise or if you participate in sports. If you aren’t getting enough protein your muscles won’t be able to fully recover after physical activity. (2, 3)
2. Trouble Sleeping
No one likes to lie awake at night, tossing and turning. Once again, not enough protein could be the culprit. Studies have shown that more protein intake can improve your sleep, and help you to sleep longer. (4, 5)
3. Brain Fog
Protein deficiency is also linked to neuron loss, which can affect your brain function. If you feel you have poor concentration, difficulty retaining information, or just a general brain fog, you may want to up your protein intake. (6)
4. Digestive Issues
Many digestive functions require protein to work effectively. If you find yourself constipated or gassy, or if you have any digestive disorder, you may be deficient in protein. (7)
5. High Cholesterol
The modern American diet makes healthy eating a difficult task, especially if you eat a lot of sugary snacks, refined carbs, and processed, packaged foods rather than healthy sources of protein. This can cause your cholesterol to rise to dangerous levels. Making sure you get enough protein, as opposed to other unhealthy foods, can help keep your cholesterol where it needs to be and protect against heart disease. (8)
6. Mood Swings
Neurotransmitters in the brain are made up of amino acids, aka protein. If your brain doesn’t get enough protein this can result in low mood, anxiety, and irritability. Bottom line is, if you’re in a bad mood, you might just benefit from some extra protein. (9) Maybe “hangry” is a real thing after all.
7. Weight Gain
Protein has shown extremely helpful in weight loss. Making sure you get enough protein can increase your satiety, helping you curb your appetite and reduce snacking. If you’re looking to drop a pound or two, trying adding a little more protein to your diet. (10, 11)
8. Prone To Injuries And Slow To Heal
Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and assisting in bone growth. If your muscles and bones aren’t in good shape, you may be more prone to falling or injury. Not getting enough protein can also cause your injuries to take longer to heal as well. (12, 13, 14)
9. Irregular Menstrual Cycle And PMS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common reasons that women suffer from irregular periods and infertility. Insulin resistance can greatly affect PCOS, which can disrupt female hormones needed to sustain a regular cycle. Making sure you get enough protein can help prevent insulin resistance, thus helping you maintain a regular cycle. Studies have also shown that low protein can result in the impairment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), especially for athletes. (15, 16)
Protein is extremely important to keep your body healthy and functioning properly. Whether you are a body builder or a CEO with a crazy schedule, a protein rich diet is essential in maintaining your lifestyle. Make sure you get the proper amount of protein each day, and you’ll find this simple fix affecting almost every area of your life!