Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies. We need protein to build muscles, tendons, organs, skin, and even enzymes, hormones, and other tiny cells that operate our body. Proteins are such an essential part of our body that without it, we wouldn’t be able to function.
What is Protein?
Proteins are composed of smaller molecules that are called amino acids. The amino acids are linked to one another and are called protein chains. These protein chains can then fold into all sorts of shapes.
Where Does Protein Come From?
The amino acids in the protein can be produced by our bodies, but our bodies can only do so much, so we need to get the rest of our protein from our diet. The amino acids that we get through the food we eat are what we call essential amino acids.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to meet your daily protein intake. This is what builds our body and helps us become stronger. But how do you know the amount of protein you need to eat in a day?
How Much Protein Do I Need In A Day?
According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, the easiest way to figure out how much protein you need in terms of a daily intake is to multiply 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight. It’s best to keep in mind that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is the minimum amount of protein that your body needs and not the ideal amount that you need to eat every day.
If we follow the calculations above, we may be able to determine the following:
- For the average sedentary man, this formula would equate to 56 grams of protein per day.
- For the average sedentary woman, this would equate to 46 grams of protein per day.
Every person’s body is different; thus, their needs are also different. Many underlying factors can affect a person’s protein intake. It can be their age, muscle mass, activity level, and even their current state of health. So what’s best for other people may not be the best for you.
There’s also a debate in the nutrition community around whether or not the RDA formula is valid for the average person. Some scientific bodies believe that we are consuming too much protein daily, while others have taken the opposite stance. According to the Protein Summit held by nutrition scientists in Washington D.C., we may be consuming too little protein.
Their argument states that the RDA only meets ten percent of the daily protein intake of a relatively active adult. They also encouraged people to eat more protein from both animal and plant sources, as it can promote muscle preservation despite aging. They recommended a daily protein intake amount that is twice as high as your RDA, which is an excellent range to aim for.
During the Protein Summit, they also stated that your daily protein intake should take up about 15 percent to 25 percent of your total daily calories. Of course, this depends again on your age, sex, and/or activity level. If you happen to be a 50-year-old woman living a happy, sedentary life, then you would need a different amount of protein than an active 20-year-old man.
So how do we know when we have consumed too much or too little protein? Thankfully, some signs will help us know.
Effects of Protein Deficiency
A lack of protein can quickly lead to protein deficiency. This is dangerous, especially if it goes below warning levels since protein plays a huge role in building, repairing, and maintaining tissues, including the immune system.
If you suspect yourself of having a protein deficiency, here are some clear signs:
If you notice yourself losing a few pounds, then this can be a sign that you’re lacking protein. This can be caused by switching to a special diet. A low protein diet can cause weight loss, as the lack of protein will break down your muscles. Naturally, this isn’t ideal, as you lose your muscles, but the fat remains.
Your hair is made up of protein, so if your diet isn’t protein-packed, expect some thinning. Hair loss or thinning around the hairline is another sign that you may need to up your amino acids a bit. Our hair needs protein to stay healthy.
Protein also keeps your glucose levels in check. When your body lacks amino acids, it throws your sugar levels all over the place. This leads to extreme sugar cravings, and if you give in, this can develop into weight gain or, worse, diabetes.
If your body is lacking amino acids, this may lessen the production of serotonin, a hormone that is responsible for your sleep cycle. Difficulty sleeping and/or insomnia are common symptoms of a person with a protein deficiency. Amino acids are broken down from proteins, so this can very well disrupt your bodily functions.
Protein deficiency can also be the cause of constant headaches. This is because the lack of amino acids in the body is decreasing your blood sugar and encouraging anemia, which can lead to migraines.
Fortunately, you can quickly fix this issue. Aside from adding more meat and protein-based plants into your diet, you can also drink chamomile tea or apply peppermint oil.
Protein is such an essential part of our diet that it builds our muscles, tissues, hair, and even the nails on your fingertips. When you don’t meet your daily protein intake, your amino acids slow down the production systems in our bodies, including your nails. So if you happen to see white streaks across your fingernails, this is a sign that you’re missing out on protein.
As we mentioned earlier, proteins are the building blocks of your body. Without protein, the development of your limbs would weaken and even break down over time. A protein-deficient diet will undoubtedly result in a lack of strength, making everyday tasks more challenging.
Muscle and Joint Pains
As your muscles are breaking down due to protein deficiency, so will your joints and ligaments. You will notice a vast difference in muscle size and experience pain as you perform the simplest activities.
If you have a slow metabolism, it can be because protein is severely lacking in your diet. It’s known that protein quickens your metabolism and increases your muscle mass. However, if you switch to a protein diet soon enough, you can expect a jump-start in your metabolism and an improved caloric burn.
Weak Immune System
Lastly, if you’re getting sick often, then that’s another sign that you have to up your protein intake. Proteins break down into amino acids that are not only responsible for building tissues and organs, but as well as boosting the immune system. If you have less of those essential amino acids, then you will have a higher risk of getting sick.
Effects of Too Much Protein
Now that we have discussed what happens when you have too little protein, we can move on to what happens when you have too much. Having too much of anything is dangerous, and there is such a thing as too much protein.
One of the most obvious signs that you’re consuming too much protein is if you’re gaining weight. This happens when you double up on protein without cutting down on other parts of your diet. Again, this can be good or bad, depending on your weight goals. If you were planning to bulk up, then this can be a good start. However, it’s still important to keep track of the protein you consume.
Unfortunately, this can be a tricky sign to look for. You usually can’t be completely sure you have kidney issues unless you visit a doctor. If you’re having doubts, it’s better to consult a professional to be sure. If there’s too much protein in your body, this will make your kidneys work overtime and become strained.
Since your kidneys are working overtime, you can expect to be thirsty all the time. This dehydration comes from the fact that your kidneys are producing way too much blood urea nitrogen. Blood urea nitrogen is a dangerous by-product of the waste management process, and if you have too much of it, the your body will have to work more to flush it out. This can cause severe issues with dehydration, so make sure to combat it with drinking lots of water.
Weak bones are also a sign of too much protein. When amino acids are released, they need calcium to be appropriately digested. So when you have too many acids in your body, the calcium can be overpowered and sucked from the bones. Your body will quickly drain your bones for calcium and decrease its strength, stability, and durability.
Most proteins are sourced from meat products, and most of the meat products come with layers of saturated fat. So it’s only logical that if you’re consuming too much of it, you will probably have heart issues as well. It’s commonly believed that you can get a cardiovascular disease from the overconsumption of proteins. If you want to avoid this, opt for leaner cuts of meats or sourcing your proteins from plants.
Most low-carb diets fill in the gap of their calorie intake through increased portions of protein. This will often result in reduced ketosis. If this is what you were aiming for, then good for you! But we recommend being cautious, as not everybody reacts well to reduced ketosis. We highly suggest consulting a dietician before starting a low-carb diet. On the other hand, if this isn’t what you were planning, you can always fight the excess protein with low-glycemic vegetables and fats.
Mood swings can also be an indicator of too much protein. When you’re not eating enough carbs, we’re not getting the sugar to help our bodies run throughout the day; thus, we have no energy. If we have no power, it would be draining and exhausting to work, causing irritation and extreme emotions.
Brain fog is what happens when you’re feeling fatigued, and your eyes glaze over. This happens when we suddenly switch from a high-carb diet to a low-carb one. Carbs are the fuel for our bodies, and if you don’t get enough of it, it will be difficult to concentrate. Controlling your intake of protein and having a healthy snack to keep yourself full can help you prevent this symptom.
It’s understandable that when you eat carbs, you consume the fiber needed for regular digestion. But now that the intake of grains has been cut out from the diet, it can be challenging to have a proper bowel movement, and this may increase your risk for indigestion. If you have a high-protein diet, you can fight this symptom by consuming a daily probiotic meal.
Last but not least, if you have gout, then that is a clear sign that you have too much protein. If your body is heavily dependent on animal-based proteins, then your chances of developing gout will be higher. These animal-based proteins will raise your uric acid levels over the roof. To prevent this, we suggest pairing or switching between animal-based and plant-based proteins.
Importance of Getting Enough Protein
The key to a healthy body is a balance of everything. Protein is an essential nutrient, but consuming too much of it can also cause health issues. We recommend calculating your body’s daily protein intake needed so that you know exactly how much your body requires.
Similar to carbohydrates and fat, protein is a macronutrient. This means that our bodies need large amounts of it to stay healthy. On the other hand, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are those which we only need in small quantities.
Unlike carbohydrates and fat, our bodies don’t store protein. This is why many people who are trying to lose weight opt for a low-carb and high-protein diet. They can burn the stored fat while using protein as their primary source of energy instead of carbohydrates.
There are many reasons why it’s significant to meet your body’s daily protein intake.
For one thing, protein is a core component of every cell in our body. Our muscles and tissues are made up of broken-down proteins and even our organs themselves. Ensuring that we have enough of this is a reassurance that our body will be healthy.
Protein is also required to repair our tissues, including our ligaments between our joints and our skin. At the same time, when we consume too much, it also damages our tissues. This is often why many elderly suffer from arthritic pains and high uric levels – an aftershock after their many years of a meat-based diet.
The third reason is that proteins create enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals needed for us to function correctly. For example, when we don’t get enough protein, our serotonin, a hormone responsible for sleep, production goes below the average level. This can cause insomnia and other sleeping issues in the long run.
Lastly, proteins are what complete the building blocks of our bodies. They are the primary source of upkeep for our bones, muscles, cartilages, skin, and even blood. They are essential in a way that, without it, life would be challenging to live.
Proteins are complex and come as a package with carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals. If we want a healthy balanced diet, we should aim for protein sources that are low in saturated fat and processed carbohydrates.
Another critical thing to keep track of is that, if you increase your intake of protein, you should reduce your consumption of carbohydrates. This will keep your caloric intake steady. If you increase your protein without minding everything else in your diet, this will undoubtedly increase your risks of weight gain. For a healthier choice, try to increase your protein intake and avoid low-quality refined carbs, such as white bread and boxed pasta. Focus more on pairing it with vegetables and other nutritious foods.
Our bodies need a daily intake of protein to keep us healthy and active. If we consume too much or too little of it, we will most likely face health issues. But when we manage to keep a balance between the two extremes, then we will hit the sweet spot and feel healthy and active.
The truth is, many studies are still undecided whether a high-protein and low-carb diet are what people should aim for. This is because different bodies have varying needs, so a lot of factors are included. But if you feel like such a diet would be beneficial to you, then we highly suggest consulting with a dietician before embarking on any diet.