Have you ever wondered why protein is often hailed as the superhero of nutrients?
If the answer is yes, then it's time to learn more about protein deficiency, where our bodies sometimes miss out on this mighty macronutrient. Whether you're a fitness enthusiast looking to optimise your muscle gains or simply curious about how protein keeps you up and running, let’s break down the basics of protein deficiency.
What Is Protein Deficiency?
Protein deficiency is a condition that occurs when the body doesn't receive the right amount of protein from a regular diet over an extended period of time. Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats, and it plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. A lack of protein causes a range of health issues. To put it simply, protein deficiency means your body is running low on the essential building blocks it needs to maintain and repair tissues, support the immune system, and carry out numerous other vital functions.
Protein plays a crucial role in various biological functions, including:
1. Tissue Repair and Growth
Proteins are essential for the growth and repair of muscles, skin, hair, and other body tissues.
2. Enzyme Function
Many enzymes that drive chemical reactions in your body are made of proteins. Enzymes are involved in processes like digestion, metabolism, and cellular functions.
3. Immune System Support
Antibodies, which help fight infections and diseases, are proteins. A protein deficiency can weaken the immune system's ability to protect the body.
4. Hormone Production
Certain hormones, such as insulin and growth hormone, are proteins. These hormones are essential for regulating various bodily functions.
5. Transport of Nutrients
Proteins help transport important molecules, such as oxygen and fats in the bloodstream.
What happens if you don’t eat enough protein?
When the body has a protein deficiency, the lack of protein causes several negative effects like muscle atrophy and weakness because your body may break down muscle tissue to obtain the necessary amino acids for vital functions. A lack of protein causes disruption of the fluid balance in the body, leading to edema. Some studies have also shown a link between protein deficiency and mental health problems, including mood disorders and cognitive impairment.
Signs of a protein deficiency
Let’s take a look at some protein deficiency symptoms so you can identify the condition and get the right treatment and include the right foods in your diet to overcome protein deficiency.
1. Brittle hair and nails
Protein is essential for the growth and maintenance of hair and nails. When the body has a protein deficiency, the body diverts the limited available protein to more critical functions, leaving hair and nails vulnerable. Resulting in hair becoming thin, dull, and prone to falling out, as well as nails that are brittle, easily cracked, and slow to grow.
2. Feeling weak or hungry
Another one of protein deficiency symptoms is the constant feeling of hunger. Protein-rich foods provide a sense of fullness and satisfaction after a meal. Lack of protein causes one to feel hungrier shortly after eating and experiencing weakness or a lack of energy throughout the day. Protein helps stabilise blood sugar levels and keeps you feeling full for longer.
3. Fatty Liver
Protein deficiency can lead to a fatty liver, a condition where fats accumulate in liver cells. Without enough proteins, the liver struggles with fat metabolism, reduced antioxidant production, and increased inflammation. Over time, this can progress to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. A balanced diet rich in protein is vital to maintain liver health and prevent these serious complications.
4. Loss of Muscle Mass
When the body has a protein deficiency, it turns to existing muscle mass as a source of essential amino acids. This process, known as muscle catabolism, leads to muscle loss and weakness. Without proper protein intake, muscles aren't repaired or built, causing gradual atrophy. To preserve muscle mass, a balanced diet with an adequate protein supply is crucial, especially for athletes and those recovering from illness.
5. Stress fractures
Protein is involved in maintaining bone health, along with calcium and other minerals. A deficiency in protein can weaken bones, making them more susceptible to fractures, including stress fractures, which are tiny cracks in bones that often occur due to repetitive stress or overuse.
6. Mood changes
Some research suggests that a lack of protein may affect brain function and neurotransmitter balance, potentially leading to mood changes, irritability, and cognitive impairment. Ensuring an adequate intake of amino acids from protein sources is crucial for maintaining optimal brain health and mood stability.
Edema is a medical term used to describe the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body's tissues, leading to swelling. It occurs when tiny blood vessels in the body (capillaries) leak fluid. This excess fluid gathers in the surrounding tissues, causing them to swell. Edema can affect various parts of the body, such as the legs, ankles, feet, hands, or even the lungs. Protein helps regulate the balance of fluids in the body. Inadequate protein intake can disrupt this balance, leading to fluid retention.
8. Weakness and Fatigue
Protein is involved in various metabolic processes and provides a source of energy when carbohydrates are insufficient. When you lack protein, your body may struggle to maintain these processes, resulting in weakness and chronic fatigue, making daily activities more challenging.
It's important to remember that the severity of these protein deficiency symptoms can vary depending on the degree of protein deficiency and individual factors. Mild deficiencies may lead to subtle symptoms, while severe or prolonged deficiencies can result in more noticeable and serious health problems. To address protein deficiency and its associated symptoms, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can provide guidance on dietary changes and potential supplementation if needed.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
A recent study has shown that almost 80% of the Indian population has protein deficiency! The recommended daily intake of protein varies depending on factors like age, sex, and activity level, but it's generally recommended that protein makes up around 10-35% of your daily caloric intake. But don’t worry, here’s your guide to understand how much protein is needed per day by our bodies.
How to get more protein?
Protein deficiency can occur, especially in certain dietary patterns (e.g., very restrictive diets) or among vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, those with eating disorders, or people in low-income areas with limited access to nutritious foods.
An easy and effective way to meet your daily protein needs and combat protein deficiency symptoms is by incorporating protein powder in your diet.
Our Plant Protein Powder is a vegan protein powder that gives you 22g of protein per serving and is ideal for all types of individuals. Just 1 scoop in a glass of water and your daily protein needs are met. It also contains added Ayurvedic herbs giving you additional benefits. So if you are a gym goer or just someone looking to add a delicious way to incorporate protein in your diet then consider having vegan protein powder. Further to prevent protein deficiency, it's essential that one maintains a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein sources, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Also Read: How Much Protein Needed Per Day?