Protein is one of the most important building blocks of life.

True protein deficiency in the United States is rare. However, it can sometimes be found in those with anorexia, cancer, and undiagnosed Crohn’s disease. However, it is possible for vegans and people who eat raw foods to run low on protein, Leslie Bonci MPH, a nutritionist and consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs tells Health. She says that vegetarians who eat milk or eggs will not have any problems meeting their protein goals.

Bonci says that although there are many plant-based food options on the market, not all of them have the same protein content. Consider milk. A cup of 1% cow’s milk has 8.5g of protein while an almond milk cup only has 1 gram.

Additionally, many plant-based proteins don’t contain all nine essential amino acids. According to the Food and Drug Administration, soybeans and quinoa constitute complete proteins, while beans, peas, and grains, as well as seeds, are lacking in at least one of the nine essential amino acids.

Bonci says, “I believe that people who choose a plant-focused lifestyle must ensure they don’t under-value themselves.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, men and women should consume.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. However, Bonci suggests that you may need more if your goal is to maintain muscle mass while cutting calories. One pound equals 2.2 kilograms. An adult weighing 150 pounds would require 54 grams of protein.

There’s more to it than just following your macros. It’s important to eat the right amount of protein at the right times. Bonci says that the body is at its best when it gets some protein every four to six hours.

These are five indicators that your protein intake may be low.

Stress fractures are common

A healthy diet rich in protein can protect your bones.

Bonci says that if we don’t get enough protein to fuel our brains and organs, our bodies borrow from other places, such as the storage in our bones. Our bones are more vulnerable to injuries like fractures and breaks if they don’t have strong skeletal muscle tissue.

Your nails and hair look dry.

Bonci says that protein is an important part of hair and nails. This can lead to your nails feeling softer and your hair becoming more brittle. She explains that hair may lose its shine and become less thick. It may also split.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you might experience hair loss after a few months of insufficient protein intake. This is because your body stops hair growth in order to conserve its protein stores.

Losing weight is happening in your muscles

While the number may be trending down, it’s not necessarily a good sign. Bonci says that if people don’t get enough protein, their bodies will usually break down muscle to make more. “And if they are losing muscle, their bodies will also hold on to fat, which could lead to a change in their body composition.”

You feel weak

Although you won’t feel tired immediately, those who don’t eat enough protein over time may feel less tired and sluggish. While it is possible to have less muscle mass, Bonci says that protein is an important component of hemoglobin. This is the substance found in red blood cells and is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout your body. Low levels of oxygen can cause weakness and shortness of breath.

A cold is something you are always susceptible to

Bonci says protein is one of the building blocks for antibodies. These antibodies are made by the body’s immune systems to fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. She explains that if you don’t get enough protein, your immune system could be compromised and you might become sicker more frequently than others.

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