Signs You're Not Eating Enough Protein

by Isadora Baum, CHC
cooked salmon fish fillets, Grilled salmon
HUIZENG HU/Moment/Getty Images

Not all foods are created equal, and high-protein foods should definitely be on your list of go-to meal options. Eating protein will boost your energy, so you can feel awesome. Looking for the signs you're not eating enough protein in the day can help you be more mindful to satisfy your fill and get in appropriate amounts for power and stability. If you think you're not getting enough protein, try adding in more protein-packed foods and see if you notice any positive changes.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on maintaining a healthy diet that supports their lifestyle and adds tremendous health benefits. Adding in good staples, like protein, can help balance the mood and body so that you can function optimally and feel satisfied throughout the day. Feeling hungry sucks, and often not having enough protein and contribute to the hangry pangs. If you think you could use a bit more protein in your diet, add slowly and see if you find any improvement. Here are nine signs you're not eating enough protein and should build a better meal moving forward. Not only will it add flavor and substance to your meals, but it'll also help prevent those dreaded cravings in the day.

1. Edema

According to Will Smelko, co-founder of Ora Organic, over email with Bustle, "edema" or "unexplained water retention or swollen appearance," can occur when the body is deficient in protein. If you notice any strange swelling, it could be worth checking your condition and protein levels.

2. Shortness Of Breath

Smelko also cautions against becoming anemic, which can happen when you're too low in protein. When you're not getting enough protein, you might feel lightheaded and lack of energy, as well, Smelko says. "Feeling faint, shortness of breath, fatigue" are all common with anemia, Smelko advises.

3. Increased Appetite

According to Allison Stowell, M.S., RD, CDN, and dietitian for Guiding Stars, over email with Bustle, it's common to feel super hungry all the time if you're not getting enough regular protein. "We often overlook protein when it comes to snacking (think carb-based snacks like a cereal bar, piece of fruit, or vegetable juice)," she says. "The problem is a snack of carbohydrate alone may actually leave you hungrier. Pick up a granola bar with at least five grams of protein, a cheese stick, an ounce of nuts, or two [tablespoons] of nut butter to pair with that piece of fruit and you will have balanced, satisfying snack."

4. Crazy Cravings

"Many of my clients come to me for consultations and complain that they are always hungry and start craving sugar between three and four pm," Rebecca Gahan, Kick@55 Fitness owner and NASM certified personal trainer, tells Bustle by email. "The number one solution that I propose is to start eating protein at every meal and snack to satiate hunger, stabilize sugar, and ward off cravings."

5. Feeling Sluggish After Eating

"You may not be getting enough protein at meals or in your snacks if you feel hungry or sluggish soon after you eat. This is a sure sign your meals may be too carb-heavy and lacking protein and fiber," Lanette Kovachi, SUBWAY’s corporate dietitian tells Bustle in an email. "I find many people fall short on protein at breakfast and that can throw your whole day off. For more protein at breakfast, try topping whole grain toast with eggs or egg whites, Greek yogurt topped with chopped fruit and a handful of walnuts or a cereal with more than eight grams of protein per serving with milk."

6. Not Healing From Injuries

According to Dr. Axe on his website, if you're getting injured often and aren't healing in a normal amount of time (based on doctor feedback), it could be due to not eating enough protein in the day, as protein can speed muscle repair. Make sure to amp up your protein to protect your joints.

7. Hair Loss

Smelko says that hair loss and strange hair patterns can happen when you're too low in protein. Hair needs protein to strengthen and grow, so if it's lacking in the vital nutrient, it won't be able to produce solid fibers. Instead, you might experience thinning and hair loss.

8. Lower Immunity

If you're deficient in protein, you might be getting sick too often, as well. As your body needs protein to be strong and keep the body safe, if it's lacking, it won't be able to ward off germs and other infections. If you're always sick, it's worth eating more protein to see if it helps.

9. Dry And Patchy Skin

Smelko cautions against strange skin patterns, such as dryness, patchy appearance, and scaly to the touch. If these skincare effects are popping up on your face and hands, it's wise to check with a physician or dietician to figure out a healthier diet that can boost skin health.

If you notice any of these symptoms, check your diet. If you're low in protein, you'll need to bulk it up. It'll better your health and enhance your body's ability to get through the day with fuel and agility.

Images: Getty Images (10)