Protein is a super popular and super important macronutrient - which is why you need to make sure you eat enough of it.
Whether you are doing flexible dieting or not, protein is pillar of good sports nutrition and helps you recover and repair your body so it can grow and/or adapt to training and make you the best you can be!
So how do you know if you are not eating enough protein?
In this blog post, I share the 4 signs of not eating enough protein. Use these 4 signs to help you improve your food game and become a better athlete or gym goer - whether you are trying to lose weight or build up some muscle mass.
And the award for ‘Most Popular Nutrient’ goes to….Protein!
Yes, we all know how we all love ourselves some protein. Usually this is because there isn’t alot of fear mongering and hate being pushed onto protein like it is for say, carbs. Also, there is a belief among many that protein is a sort of nutrition holy grail or hack when trying to get results.
Truthfully, alot of this is over-exaggarated and skews priorities among dieters. Just look at the love for whey protein powder. However, protein is nonetheless very important and should be a pillar in your nutrition plan. You need to be eating enough of it!
What Is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient (a “macro” as many know it), which alongside carbohydrates and fat, makes up the food supply you know and love. Think of it as one of the 3 building blocks of food.
More specifically, protein is made up of things called Amino Acids - chemical building blocks that are important in our bodies physiology and the purpose protein delivers to us. There are both essential (need to be consumed via food) and non-essential amino acids - all of which are used by the body in different ways for different reasons.
Our bodies use protein to repair and recover our muscles and bones, as well as produce enzymes and hormones in the body. This is why protein is heavily associated with getting “gains” - because you need protein to build muscle.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
“How much protein should I eat?”
The age old question. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been asked this. It is quite imply the most popular question around protein in my humble Sports Dietitian opinion.
The answer is truthfully the classic “it depends” as protein (like all nutrition things) is very much individual. However, to give you a general guideline that will get you pretty close to adequacy…
1.8-2.2 grams of protein per kg of lean body mass
(or goal weight if you don’t know your lean mass)
If you follow this guideline, you will be eating more or less the adequate amount of protein.
Signs Of Low Protein Intake
Sign #1: Increased Hunger Levels
Protein has another benefit that is not often considered. That is that protein can help improve meal satiety and keep you fuller…for longer.
The reason for this is that protein is more slowly digested than other macronutrients making it the more filling macro. It is also partly thought to be because of the impact protein has on the hunger hormone ghehlin as well as boosting the peptide YY hormone which keeps you fuller.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that one of the signs of poor protein intake is that you will start feeling more unnecessarily hungry and your meal satisfaction will drop like it’s hot.
Sign #2: Loss of muscle or lack of growth
When you don’t eat enough protein, your muscles will be affected. The extent of that effect will depend on other factors that are beyond the scope of this blog post.
However, regardless the fact of the matter is that when protein is lacking you may find your muscle growth stagnating or in more severe cases….muscle losses may occur.
While protein is sometimes overexaggerated as a muscle booster and there is plenty of misinformation around needing to eat bucket loads of protein unnecessarily…
The fact of the matter is that you want to observe how effectively you are building lean muscle mass to let you know if you may need to look at your protein game.
Sign #3: Delayed muscular recovery speeds
Post-training nutrition emphasises the importance of protein ingestion to promote and optimise muscular recovery and repair.
So it’s no surprise that when you are not eating enough protein, your recovery speeds will go down and be diminished compared to before.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, for example, will impact people differently and also depends on factors beyond protein. However, if you notice yourself not improving and your muscle fatigue and soreness is getting more prolonged or not diminishing…
Audit yo protein!
Sign #4: Experiencing more cravings
Less protein may lead to more cravings. This is partly related to the first sign about increased hunger when protein lacking. It is also I believe due to the fact that a diet lacking in protein is a diet that is unbalanced. An unbalanced diet does not maintain a balanced phsiolgoy which will impact hunger and satiety in different ways.
Also, we as humans love yummy foods and we will crave them - especially emotionally. So when we are extra hungry due to a lack of protein, the likelihood that you will crave certain foods will increase (or at least become more apparent).
This is why a lack of protein is associated with the sign and symptom of specifically increased sugar cravings. So yes, you could make the argument that this point is similar to the first and you would be correct in a sense.
I wanted to emphasise the different ways hunger can manifest itself from a lack of protein consumption - regular residual hunger AND strong specific cravings for food.
Now you know 4 common signs and symptoms of inadequate protein intake. Using this new knowledge, I want you to start thinking about your nutrition more proactively and audit your current macronutrient situation to see if any optimisation is needed.
More protein does not = no more problems. Nor is it a cure for bad nutrition or a lack of results.
However, it is a important piece of the puzzle that will enable you to improve your physique and make things easier when trying to achieve fat loss or muscle gain.
So start making sure you eat enough protein so that your nutrition game has all it’s legs to stand on. Remember, 1.8-2.2 g/kg will tick of the box when in doubt.
But…I do want to check with you.
Are you feeling stuck and struggling with your nutrition game?
Not seeing the body you feel happier, healthier, and more confident in?
I may be able to be of assistance.
If you are ready to take your nutrition and body to the next level and elevate your performance in a way that doesn’t make you want to punch your Sports Dietitian, then let’s chat.
I have developed a 90 Day Macro Sherpa program that is a 1:1 nutrition coaching experience to help start bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be with your physique & performance.
In this program, I'll personally coach you using my flexible nutrition system to help you harness the power of calories and macro strategy to regain your competitive edge - think of it as a bespoke nutrition solution that empowers you to eat better to achieve better.
Interested in learning more?
Simply email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org to have a chat about this and see if we are a good fit to work together and get you your best results yet.
Or to apply now to see if you are a good fit, simply CLICK HERE and start the process for reaching your peak potential.
Sports Dietitian Aleksa
Brisbane Sports Dietitian & Nutritionist
Hi there! My name's Aleksa Gagic - i'm a Brisbane Sports Dietitian & Brisbane Sports Nutritionist. I have 7+ years experience in providing professional nutrition consulting and want to help you learn about the power of flexible nutrition.