7 Signs You Might Not Be Eating Enough Protein

Your body has ways of telling you that you’re not eating protein-rich foods to fuel your muscles and overall health.

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Sweaty thirsty man
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You constantly feel weak and hungry

Terry Hope Romero, author of a number of bestselling cookbooks for health foods, noticed that her vegan diet was leaving her unsatisfied and lacking energy throughout the day. “When you work full time and have a long commute, and you regularly work out or you have a lot of errands to run, it can be easy to fill up on processed carbs,” says Romero. “To feel full every day, especially when you’re working out to build muscle, it’s not really the best approach.” Protein takes longer to digest, which makes you feel full and energized. When Romero started consuming more protein by adding natural protein powders like hemp protein and brown rice protein to everyday foods, she started feeling stronger and more satisfied. Here are 14 foods that have more protein than an egg.

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Woman's chin and neck
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Your muscles look MIA

It takes more than daily gym visits to look and feel strong. If you don’t eat enough protein to fuel your body’s tissues with the necessary amount of amino acids (protein’s small subparts), your body has no choice but to start breaking down your muscles to get amino acids from their fibers, according to SFGate.com. One key body part to watch is the clavicle, says Jessica Bihuniak, PhD, RD, assistant professor of nutrition at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. If your collarbone is becoming especially prominent, it could be time to make sure you’re eating enough protein and enough calories in general.

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Legs of men standing on scales weight background fitness room.
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You’re struggling to lose weight

Research in the journal Nutrition Metabolism found that dieters who boosted their protein intake to 30 percent of their total calories ate nearly 450 fewer calories each day and lost 11 pounds over a three-month period, Women’s Health reported. Eating enough protein is especially important on a diet because it helps ensure that you lose fat, not metabolism-boosting muscle, as you slim down. “High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize and use, which means you burn more calories processing them,” the magazine notes. “They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time.”

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Woman with problematic hair
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You’re losing your hair

Occasionally nutritionists will test the health of their clients’ diets by asking them to run their hands through their hair to see how much falls out with just a gentle tug. Hair is made primarily of protein; your hair needs adequate protein to grow and stay healthy. If the body is deprived of protein from your diet, it will try to conserve protein levels as much as it can and shift hair growth into a “resting phase,” notes WebMD. This means you may find yourself shedding more hair than usual. Maintain a healthy mane by eating two to three servings of protein a day, like these high-protein meals.

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Young sick woman sitting on sofa drinking tea
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You’re always getting sick

Avoiding the sniffles often requires more than just good hygiene and good sleep; good nutrition is key, too. The immune system depends on the right fuel to function correctly. A study published in Progress of Food and Nutrition Science concluded that being deficient in protein results in the loss of T cells, important germ fighters. As a result, the immune system can’t ward off bacteria or viruses as well. If you’re already sick, these recipes will help you feel better.

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Elderly woman swollen feet putting on shoes
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Your lower legs and feet swell up unexpectedly

If you skimp on protein, you may find yourself prone to fluid retention around your ankles and feet. Proteins help to hold salt and water in blood vessels; without enough protein, these fluids can seep into surrounding tissues, according to Harvard Health Publications. The bloated sensation of one’s swollen lower legs and feet—called edema—is uncomfortable. It usually results in stretched or shiny skin that retains a fingerprint after being pressed for a moment.

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One foot is so dry of a woman
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Your skin gets patchy in places

A protein deficiency can sometimes result in a flaky dermatitis, or irritation of the skin, especially on the back of the thighs and on the buttocks, says Dr. Bihuniak. Lack of a certain protein in the skin’s protective barrier can make skin more vulnerable to allergens and other irritants.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest