This is a guest post from Chris Gronkowski & Ice Shaker™
Consuming the correct amount of protein is essential to maintaining a well-balanced diet, particularly if you’re an athlete or an active person. Nearly every cell in your body is at least partially composed of protein. In fact, your skin, nails and hair are almost entirely comprised of it. This compound made up of amino acids, which stimulates muscle growth, is vital to nearly all bodily functions, from producing enzymes and hormones to building and repairing tissue.
While you may believe that you’re consuming a normal amount of protein, the proper serving often varies greatly from person to person, especially if you participate in a high level of physical activity. Athletes, in particular, require a larger portion of protein each day. The more calories you burn, the more protein your body requires to create energy. If you’ve been following a plant-based diet but still experience these symptoms, you may need to explore more vegan and vegetarian protein sources. It can be difficult to make sure you’re eating enough protein if you’re just testing out a plant-based diet for the first time, so be extra mindful about what you consume.
If you’re concerned about your protein intake, read on to learn about some of the most common signs of a deficiency and discover some of the best ways to boost your protein consumption.
Constant Hunger or Cravings
If you’ve been experiencing intense food cravings or you’ve noticed a consistent state of hunger, there’s a high chance you may not be incorporating the proper amount of protein into your daily diet. People who are lacking this essential meal component may even feel unsatisfied immediately after eating. Try adding a protein coffee to your morning routine and you may notice an immediate difference in your hunger levels
Hair Loss, Weak Nails and Skin Irritation
Because your hair and nails are so dependent on protein to stay healthy, one of the first, and most noticeable, signs of protein deficiency can be seen in these areas. Losing an unusual amount of hair often points to a larger issue because your body may be attempting to conserve protein. People lacking the proper amount of protein often complain of flaky skin or red rashes. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, along with weak nails and problems with your skin, you may want to re-examine your intake and adjust accordingly. Using a protein shaker bottle to quickly add more to your diet is an easy way to overcome this deficiency.
Getting Sick or Injured Often
Do you feel like you’re constantly getting sick or injured? Protein aids in your body’s ability to fight off bacteria and other germs that lead to the common cold, so not nourishing your body with enough amino acids can create a cycle of sickness. Though having a cold is a minor health issue, it’s frustrating to constantly feel ill, and it impairs your daily functions.
If you feel as though you’ve been more injury-prone than usual or an injury is taking an unusually long time to heal, this is another major sign that your protein intake is too low. Protein fuels your muscles, and not consuming enough will lead to feelings of lethargy and weakness, making it more likely that you could fall or injure yourself during physical activity. Because your bones also rely on protein, people with a low intake can fracture bones more easily. Once you’ve been injured, if you’re still protein deficient, it will take your body much longer than normal to recover as it works overtime trying to provide you with energy.
Feeling Foggy and Tired
Protein is the fuel that supports your body in building healthy tissues and cells., so naturally, when you’re not giving your body enough fuel, you’re going to feel the effects. If you’re an avid exerciser and your protein intake is too low, you’ll likely feel yourself growing lazy and tired more quickly during your routine. Although working out is a common time to notice these effects, it’s also common to feel groggy or have difficulty thinking clearly throughout the day.
How to Increase Your Protein Intake
Replace Carbs with Eggs in the Morning
Starting your morning off with a meal high in protein will keep you full longer and kickstart your metabolism. Most people eat a small, carb-filled breakfast but end the day with a large, protein-filled dinner. Beginning your morning with a large meal will provide your body with fuel for the whole day, leaving you energized and alert for an extended period of time.
Drink Protein Shakes Throughout the Day
Anyone trying to boost their protein consumption should purchase a protein shaker bottle. This is a quick, effective way to ensure that you’re ingesting protein throughout the day. For those who are physically active, drinking a protein shake right after working out is an excellent way to replace lost energy exerted during your workout. Protein shakes after exercising will also stimulate muscle growth.
Incorporate Nuts into Salads
Though most people tend to think of meat and eggs when trying to consume more protein-heavy foods, nuts actually contain a significant amount of protein as well. Replacing unhealthy, carb-heavy snacks with a handful of nuts throughout the day will boost your energy and keep you feeling full. Adding nuts that are high in protein, like almonds, peanuts, pistachios and pecans, to salads (like this delicious one of mixed greens with Irish Cheddar, dried cranberries and walnuts) is another easy way to sneak protein into your everyday diet.
Snack on Cheese
Sometimes overcoming low protein intake can be as easy as replacing your snacks with foods high in protein. Incorporating nuts into your diet is one great way to replace snacks like chips and pretzels, which are packed with empty calories, but cheese is another excellent source of protein. While you should certainly avoid over-consuming cheese as it can cause other health issues like high sodium levels and potentially high cholesterol, adding a small amount to your diet can help boost your protein and calcium intake. Many medical professionals recommend a daily serving of one ounce of cheese to increase protein levels as well as reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.