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Protein is integral to supplying your body with energy, helping you recover after exercise, and keeping you feeling full and satisfied after a meal. Protein also plays an important role in the repair, growth and maintenance of your muscles – an important element in helping you further develop your yoga practice or fitness regimen.
Protein is one of the most vital components of your diet, and adequate protein intake is essential to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Luckily, protein can be found in a variety of foods that you eat every day, from meat and fish to legumes, dairy, quinoa and seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables and protein supplements.
The amount of protein that you need each day is determined by your age, weight and activity level. However, a good rule of thumb for the average person is to consume .36 grams per 1 pound of body weight of protein each day.
Even though protein is found in so many sources, protein deficiency is still very common among the elderly, athletes, frequent dieters and people with digestive issues, and those who are under stress or recovering from illness or injury.
You might think that your diet is protein-rich, but are you sure that you are supplying your body with enough of this important macronutrient? Are you really getting enough protein?
Muscle weakness and loss of existing muscle are signs that you may not be eating enough protein. When you don’t eat enough protein, your body will break down muscle to use as fuel and energy. Loss of muscle mass can slow down your metabolism, too.
If you cut calories and protein in an effort to lose weight, you might actually be causing the opposite effect due to a slowed metabolism caused by reduced muscle mass. If you are trying to lose weight, you should eat more protein, since increased protein consumption is linked to eating less calories throughout your day as you will feel fuller longer. Also, the weight you lose will be from fat, not muscle.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy immune system. When you do not eat enough protein, your body utilizes the T cells (germ fighters) in your body as fuel that would typically combat cold and flus. This may result in you getting sick more frequently. You may also take longer to recover from cuts, scrapes and infections.
Protein is not just essential for muscle growth and development. It is also the building block of our cells, including our hair, skin and nails. To save energy and retain stored protein, your body will enter a resting phase in which it will not grow hair, resulting in hair loss or thinning.
Other very visible signs of protein deficiency include peeling skin and nails. Common signs to look out for include flaky, irritated skin on the back of your thighs and booty, which is caused by a weakened skin barrier that makes your skin more susceptible to allergens.
When you don’t eat enough protein, you may experience unexpected swelling in your lower extremities – your legs, ankles and feet. This swelling is caused by fluids that would normally be stored in your blood vessels that seep into the surrounding tissue. You can tell if you are retaining water and swelling by pressing a finger to the area and seeing if a mark is left behind (mark = swelling).
There are a variety of reasons why you might be hungry, including dehydration, but you might also be lacking adequate protein in your diet. If you find that you are always hungry, or that you need a snack or two between meals, this might be your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat more protein at each meal. Protein evens out blood sugar and keeps you feeling satisfied until your next meal.
If you are not just hungry, but you also specifically crave sweets, you might need more protein. Because protein regulates blood sugar and glucose levels, lack of protein might lead you to reach for a sweet treat. If you eat protein at each meal, you are less likely to have highs and lows with your blood sugar and those associated cravings.
If you don’t get enough sleep or if you overexert yourself at work, home or the gym, you probably feel tired quite often. However, if you are tired in the middle of the day, your blood sugar and protein levels might be to blame. Instead of taking a nap, which is not an option for most people, reach for a protein-rich snack and watch your energy levels improve.
When you don’t maintain your protein levels, you may experience brain fog. Protein balances blood sugar, which keeps you mentally focused and on-point. Don’t rely on carbs or sweets to keep you going. Instead, add some protein to each meal to keep your body and brain working clear and in-sync!
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you might have a protein deficiency. You can increase your protein intake by incorporating protein-dense foods into your diet, or supplementing with a protein shake or bar. Whatever you do, make sure that you are getting all the protein you need to keep your body running to its optimal potential.