We live in a wonderland of food choices where we can find something to eat no matter where we are. But if we’re always picking the quickest and easiest options during the busy week (or following a strict diet or lifestyle choice), we may be missing out on certain essentials. Protein is one of the easiest to miss, which is unfortunate because it’s also one of the most important.

Now you may be wondering: how do I know if I need more? Here are 4 signs that you aren’t eating enough protein. Not only can you use this information to eat more protein before it’s too late, but it may even explain some of the problems you’re already having.


1. You’re losing muscle mass

Protein fuels your muscles. It helps them grow and stay large and healthy. When you’re not getting enough protein from your food, your body tends to take the protein it needs from your large muscle groups. You’ll lose muscle mass as a result.

Since muscles already lose mass naturally as we get older, this can contribute to fatigue and age-related physical problems. With enough dietary protein, you can not only prevent muscle loss – you can even build new muscle at the same time.


2. You’re losing your hair, bones, nails, or skin

The health of your hair, bones, nails, and skin are great indicators of your overall health, especially when it comes to your diet. These body parts share certain proteins in common like collagen and keratin and they’re all affected by nutrient-absorption related to digestion.

If you’ve broken bones lately, noticed that your hair is thinning more rapidly, felt like your skin is unusually dry, or noticed that your nails break more easily, you could have a serious protein deficiency. Since these things are also related to aging, they may not be related to protein. But you should pay attention to the signs.


3. You’re hungry all the time

We started with identifiable problems like losing muscle and hair because those are better signs that you aren’t eating enough protein. These next two are less specific. They could be caused by something else, but you should pay extra attention if you experience either of the first two and one of these. That heavily implies a protein deficiency.

If you’re not eating enough protein, your body has trouble regulating your appetite. Protein is one of the main supporters of that “full” feeling you get after eating. Getting enough protein at breakfast will prevent you from feeling hungry throughout the day.

If you’re always feeling like you need a snack, it may be because you’re not eating enough protein.


4. You’re always tired

This is another symptom that could be explained by a lot of things. However, fatigue is a good sign that you’re not eating enough protein, especially if you’re experiencing the other symptoms we mentioned as well.

Losing muscle mass leads to weakness. Makes sense, right? Weakness doesn’t just kick in when you’re lifting weights though. It’s there when you’re pulling a long day at work, trying to stay focused, or getting all your errands done without feeling like you were hit by a bus.

Fatigue due to a lack of protein can be annoying or debilitating, depending on how much you lack. If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to make it through the day, more dietary protein may give you the boost you need.


The Takeaway

Protein deficiency isn’t the only reason you could be experiencing these symptoms. Losing muscle mass or feeling hungry and tired may be caused by aging or sickness. This is why it’s important to see a doctor about the problems you’re having and not diagnose yourself.

However, if you notice several of these symptoms, they may be signs that you aren’t eating enough protein. This could happen on accident, just from taking the easy route on weeknight dinners because you don’t have time to make something more substantial. Or if you’re refusing to eat eggs or meat for diet reasons and not replacing that protein with supplements or healthy snacks, you may start suffering the symptoms of protein deficiency.

It’s important to recognize what they are so you don’t let it go too far.