You probably know by now that you need to be eating a good amount of protein if you're trying to lose weight or gain some muscle. But there are plenty of people out there who aren't working toward either of those goals — and that's totally OK, too. However, if you're not watching your protein intake carefully, there's a chance that you're not getting enough of it on a daily basis, and that's when your health starts to suffer.
"When you don't consume adequate levels of protein, your body will start to break down tissues that contain the amino acids it needs in order to use them for more important functions," Dr. Nancy Steely, ND, MBA, Arbonne senior director of R&D/quality and nutrition, told POPSUGAR. "Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — are used for much more than just muscle; they are essential for formation of numerous body structures and compounds, including collagen, enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones, and cellular structures."
That's why there are many different symptoms of protein deficiency, and some may surprise you. Here are the main signs that your body isn't getting the protein you need (and deserve).
- You feel weak and tired most of the time.
- You don't seem to be gaining muscle, no matter how much you work out.
- You're out of breath for no reason.
- You're always hungry, even after you finish eating a meal.
- Your hair and nails are dry and aren't growing.
- You have trouble concentrating.
- Your skin is dry.
Dr. Steely explained that you need protein to create red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your body, which is why many parts of the body are affected by protein deficiency. If any of these sound familiar, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to see what you can change in your lifestyle in order to get the nutrients you need.
When it comes to how much protein the body requires to function normally, Dr. Steely told POPSUGAR, "There still seems to be some disagreement around the required amount of protein one should consume every day. The recommended US daily protein intake is about 46 grams per day for a woman age 19-30 eating 2,000 calories a day."
Of course, if you're very physically active, you'll need to eat more protein to fuel your muscles to recover from your workouts. "If you exercise frequently or are very active, you may need more protein, or if you have been fighting a bug that reduced your appetite, you could benefit from some additional protein," Dr. Steely explained. "If you are being monitored for any health condition, though, you should consult with your physician, as too much protein may not be beneficial."