You’ve probably heard about proteins being essential nutrients too many times. About how important they are in building your skin, muscles, enzymes, and hormones.
And how important it is for you to watch your protein intake to maintain a healthy body composition—the healthy range of protein mass in the body being 17% or more.
But how relevant is this nutrient to our health when our body starts experiencing scarcity? Low protein intake can make various disruptions in your body function, including muscle wasting and other subtle changes in your body you might not spot immediately.
And here’s the catch. You may be guilty of having a low food intake of protein even if you deem it unlikely.
The problem is you may not necessarily be eating protein from the highest quality sources even if you have your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed in this department. As a result, this may leave you deficient in certain essential amino acids.
That said, this article will help you do a quick reality check. It lists major protein deficiency symptoms and proposes ways to add more quality protein to your diet for quick results.
What Happens When Your Body Is Low In Protein?
Low protein levels can mess with your health in more ways than one. If we’re talking about more severe forms of deficiency, you can expect symptoms such as swelling, skin conditions, and an increased risk of infection.
Now get this. The standard western diet typically satisfies the body’s requirements for protein. That said, true protein deficiency is rare in developed countries where people can afford to have wholesome diets.
Moreover, even a vegan or a vegetarian diet will provide you with enough protein so you meet your RDA.
Yet, mild cases of protein deficiency happen and they can cause poor concentration, increase the risk of bone fractures, and promote muscle loss.
This is where amino acids come in—they are important building blocks proteins are made of. The most important thing to pick up here?
- There is a total of 20 amino acids. And you’re fine as you’re being covered for eleven of them (they can be produced by your body).
- The remaining 9 amino acids can only be supplied through diet—which is why they’re dubbed essential amino acids or EAAs (we’ll dive into these a bit later).
Signs and Symptoms of Protein Deficiency
1. Weakness and Fatigue
An insufficient amount of protein in your body can cause the feeling of weakness and lack of energy. This is because protein is a macronutrient that supplies energy to your body.
When this process is disrupted by a nutritional deficiency, weakness and fatigue kick in.
This is one of the first signs of protein deficiency and here’s exactly what happens. Your body starts depleting body fat and muscle to supply itself with sufficient amounts of protein and this is when lack of energy entails. 
2. Loss of Muscle Mass
Loss of muscle mass is another early symptom, a red flag alarming you that you may not be giving your body sufficient protein. Not consuming enough protein can eat away at your muscles.
Your muscles are where most of your body’s protein is stored. When your body is protein deficient, it will start sourcing protein from skeletal muscle reserves, trying to preserve more important tissues and body functions.
This is exactly how you lose muscle mass.
That said, eating more protein can help us slow down the loss of muscle strength and performance as we age. 
3. Weakened Bones
Inadequate protein intake can interfere with your bone health as well. Proteins play a role in restoring any damaged tissues that need repair—bones included.
Plus, they’re essential for repairing the collagen structures which are of critical importance to bone strength. That said, low protein intake has been linked to a lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of fractures. 
Protein supplementation has been known to curb these effects and studies confirm this type of treatment shows promising results in postmenopausal women. One such study showed that taking 20 grams of protein supplements per day decreased bone loss in women by 2.3% after half a year of use. 
4. Painful Food Cravings
In the state of protein deficiency, your body will give off hunger signals. It does this to reach homeostasis and restore the optimal functioning of cells, tissues, and organs.
Unfortunately, you’re most likely to have carbohydrate and sugar cravings (which are also most likely to result in weight gain). 
To spare yourself the inconvenience, combine carbs and protein in your servings. The food will digest more slowly and you’ll be able to bypass frequent and difficult sugar spikes and drops (which tend to happen on a carb-rich diet).
5. Hair, Skin and Nail Problems
If you’re not giving your body enough protein, this will reflect on your hair, skin, and nails. The symptoms are unlikely to occur until you develop a severe protein deficiency, but once they do, they include:
- Brittle nails
- Faded hair colour
- Hair thinning, and
- Hair loss
Hair loss is most commonly linked to the unsatisfactory iron status which backlashes as a result of protein insufficiency.
A 2019 study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal reported various hair, skin, and nail-related problems in subjects who consumed less than half of the recommended daily allowance of protein. These included conditions such as acne, melasma, hair loss, and flaking skin. 
6. Increased Risk of Infection and Slower Wound Healing
Another symptom of protein deficiency is an increased severity of infection. This is because malnutrition caused by a low-protein diet weakens your immune system.
Proteins play a critical role in the formation of antibodies and in regulating immune responses. Protein malnutrition impairs this natural process and can make you more vulnerable to flu and other common infections.
Research shows poorer resistance to influenza infection in mice that followed a low-protein diet.  Also, insufficient protein mass can influence your body’s ability to repair cells, leading to slower wound healing. 
7. Poor Sleep Quality
Insufficient protein consumption can disrupt a healthy circadian rhythm. This has to do with the vital role of protein in maintaining healthy sugar levels and a good supply of serotonin—both of which are critical for good sleep. 
So, when your body is in short supply of protein, your sleep quality suffers.
But being protein deficient doesn’t only pose a risk for chronic sleep deprivation for those affected. It can mess with your glucose levels making you more prone to having daily sugar crashes.
Eating a balanced diet containing sufficient protein will serve you well on both of these fronts.
8. Inefficient Workouts
Low protein levels can be the culprit behind having bad workout results despite working out more. Protein is indispensable in supporting tissue repair and supplying energy needs. When you’re not feeding your body adequate amounts of protein, the body doesn’t cooperate.
Moreover, being protein deficient puts you at risk of muscle atrophy, and even fat gain. And fatigue is another symptom you may have to grapple with.
How Much Protein Do I Need a Day?
An average person should aim for at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of your body weight a day. Different factors play in here and your recommended daily protein intake will depend on gender, weight, as well as your activity level. These numbers are not set in stone.
To figure out how much protein you should take, think along the following lines:
- If you aim to increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, you need to eat more protein. If you do a lot of running, swimming, cycling, or weight lifting it’s reasonable to take 2 to 2.5 grams per kilo of your body weight. 
How to Boost Your Protein Intake?
High-protein foods, both plant-based and animal-based can affect your protein status. These include beef but also plant foods such as legumes and lentils.
Below are a few dietary protein sources that should help you ward off deficiency:
- Animal product protein sources. Organic chicken, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught salmon, eggs, cheese, Greek yoghurt
- Plant-based protein sources. Lentils, beans, almonds, flax seed, hemp, pea protein.
Add Amino Acids to the Equation
Including essential amino acids in your diet will put a dot on your efforts to reach a healthy range of protein mass.
LLS EAAS work in such a way as to get the most benefits for your body. With 99% bio-availability, they help you maximise your protein absorption—plus they’re free of nasties.
If you’re looking for clean stuff, free from binders, fillers, coatings, or dyes, you’ve just found one. And a quality one at that— EAAs from Love Life Supplements are UK-made and come with all 9 essential amino acids packed inside our power box.
Choose our tablet formula or consider the powder form which is great if you want to consume protein during workout.
Get LLS Essential Amino Acids
Stay On Top of Your Protein Deficiency
So there you go. A few signals your body may be sending you to tell you you could benefit from eating more protein-rich foods. But how do you know you’re doing it right with your dietary protein intake? Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I taking my protein from the highest quality sources?
- Am I taking too little protein to support my current activity level and health needs?
- Am I getting maximum protein absorption from my supplements?
Lastly, speak with a registered dietitian to cross-check your facts. You do that and you’ll get your proteins sorted with flying colours.
LLS steps in to help you make the most of your protein intake fast. Our Aminos are readily absorbed with 99% of them being utilised by the body.
From 2012 onwards, LLS has been building clean, quality products with a mission to help people maintain their optimal health. So, check out our online store or subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know about our deals, offers, and product updates.