Protein deficiency: Seven symptoms you’re not getting enough - including hair loss

Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is a ‘macronutrient’, meaning that you need to ensure sufficient consumption of it in your diet to function and maintain optimal health. 

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) on protein is 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight per day for an average 65kg person, this means you need to achieve at least 52g of protein in your daily diet.

But many people fail to recognise the importance of protein in our body and neglect to eat the sufficient quantity - a diet that is chronically deficient in this nutrient can lead to a variety of unwanted health issues. 

Liam Mahoney, nutritionist from Active Nutrition brand, Grenade, has revealed the seven signs to watch out for you’re not getting enough protein. 

Hair Loss

Hair loss can occasionally be caused by lack of protein in the diet, due to its main structural component being protein itself, according to Liam Mahoney. 

He said: “Often, people go on crash diets that exclude protein or have abnormal eating habits which causes them to develop protein malnutrition. When this happens, the body will save the little amount of protein it has left by shifting growing hairs into the resting phase. Usually, this lasts for around three months, and then the hairs shed and are replaced by new strands. However, if you don’t have enough protein in your diet, a large number of strands will enter the resting phase simultaneously, causing hair loss to become evident.” 

Food cravings 

Food cravings and constant snacking may be a consequence of a high-carb/sugar and low protein diet. When we don't give our bodies a healthy supply of protein, our blood sugar levels can spike and then rapidly fall, leaving us craving anything that will quickly bring it back up, says Liam. 

He added: “This is where protein packed snacks can really help. For ease and convenience, I recommend carrying a high quality protein bar, such as Carb Killa from Grenade (www.grenade.com) with you, this will fight of the urge to have an unhealthy sweet treat, but also keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

Brain fog 

Our blood sugar level can really affect how we feel and how our brains process information, so it's important to keep those levels stable to prevent brain fog. In fact, poor concentration and a lack of motivation can also indicate a poor protein level in the body.

Liam said: “Ensuring you have enough protein in your diet can boost work performance as well as learning and motor skills, whereas inadequate protein consumption has the ability to do the opposite.”

Slow recovery from injury 

A lack of protein in your diet can increase the risk of muscle loss, falling, slow bone healing, bone weakness, fractures and even osteoporosis.

Liam explained: “Protein is the fuel for your muscles, so they will suffer if you deprive them of it. The initial effect of low protein intake is muscle wasting, accompanied by increasing weakness, and gradually, this diet can cause your body to lose lean muscle mass. As a result of this, you will find that your body does not recover as quickly from injury as it might have before, due to your weakened muscles.” 

Low energy 

It’s clear that protein is needed for muscle growth, but it is also important for sustaining your energy and motivation. 

Liam said: “A low protein diet can result in muscle wasting, fatigue and even weight gain. You can even find yourself working out more, but seeing less results as your diet is not providing you with the adequate nutrients and giving you the energy that you need to complete a productive workout.” 

Poor sleep 

Liam explained: “Your brain has the ability to control all of the hormones which are necessary for a good night’s sleep. When your body lacks the protein necessary to maintain a healthy brain, it can lead to a hormonal imbalance which will ultimately have an effect on your sleep.” 

Weakened immune system 

Protein helps keep our immune system cells healthy and working.

Liam said: “Our immune cells need enough protein to repair themselves and to multiply. Without enough protein, we're at a much higher risk for coming down with any germs we're exposed to.”

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