Protein is a massively important part of any healthy diet. We talk about it all the time in terms of how it can help you lose weight and build muscle but protein does so much more than that. It is, simply put, the building blocks of the body.
Everything from hair, nails, muscle, skin, and bones is made from protein. Protein is used to repair and rebuild damaged cells in the body so eating enough during your day can help keep you energized and healthy.
The good news is that most of us get enough protein to suit our needs. If you are eating a diet with a wide variety of food sources, like the one laid out in the BodyRock Meal Plan, than you are, in all likelihood, getting enough protein. If you are eating an extremely restricted diet, or sticking to the same foods day in and day out, you may be robbing yourself of this important macronutrient. Here are some signs you may not be eating enough protein:
1) You get a hankering for protein
Sometimes, when you aren't getting enough of something you need, your body will tell you in the form of cravings. If you find yourself craving a big steak, some roasted chicken, or a nice big bowl of lentils, indulge that craving!
2) You crave sugar
Proteins and fats digest more slowly than carbohydrates. This helps to keep you feeling full while keeping your blood sugar fairly stable. If you eat lots of carbohydrates and not enough protein, you will process the food quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash. When your body is stuck in this sort of roller coaster, it will fight to get your energy levels back up in a hurry, resulting in those mid-afternoon trips to the vending machine for a sweet treat. The best way to avoid this, is to eat your carbohydrates with protein so that your digestion happens more slowly and your blood sugar levels remain steady.
3) You're frequently sick
Your immune system is your best line of defense against illness. One of the building blocks of a healthy immune system is, you guessed it, protein. If you aren't eating enough, your system may be weakened, leading to illness.
4) Your hair is thin
Your hair is made up of keratin which is a protein. When you don't eat enough protein, your body tries to reserve what little it does get for essential bodily functions. This means non-essential functions, like hair growth, take a back seat. So, if your protein levels are low, over time, you may start to notice your hair becoming thin and, in some cases, falling out!
5) Your nails are weak and your skin is flaky
As with your hair, protein is essential to the growth of nail and skin cells. What happens over time is that your nails become weak and you may notice your skin becoming flaky. It is also possible that you may break out in a rash or experience other skin troubles!
6) You feel weak and/or tired
If you're a little shy on your protein intake on any given day, you aren't likely to notice much. But, if you are consistently short, your body may start to break down your muscle as a protein source. This will rob you of energy and strength. It is important to remember, however, that energy and strength can be impacted by a poor diet overall so if you're regularly feeling sluggish or weak, you should take a closer look at all of your habits, not just your protein consumption.
Now that you know what happens when you aren't eating enough protein, you might be asking yourself, "how much protein do I actually need to be eating in a day?" The amount of protein you actually need depends on a lot of factors like your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level.
It is generally recommended that you consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To calculate what this means for you, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 and then multiply by 0.8. Now that you've got your base number, you can better plan your meals and snacks!
Whether you choose to eat high protein meals or supplement your intake with a quality protein powder is up to you. Just remember, protein is your friend! It will help you stay healthy, keep you looking trim, and help you build lean muscle!
What are your favorite sources of protein? Share your ideas with us!