Are you getting enough protein?
Protein is an important compound required for all living organisms. It gives us energy, heals our wounds and is important for building muscle.
While vital to both sexes, men need more protein than women, according to most credible research studies. This point is particularly true for guys who are interested in packing on muscle.
In this article, you will learn:
- What protein is
- How this compound works in the body
- Amount of protein active men need
- Protein myths
- Signs you may not be getting enough protein
- Risk factors for low protein levels
- Dietary suggestions for protein intake
- Protein supplement information
I’ve tried to write this in a way that keeps the clinical jargon to a minimum. Additionally, wherever possible, resources for more information have been provided for greater insight.
Let’s jump right in!
WHAT IS PROTEIN?
Protein is a class of nitrogen containing compounds that are formed by mostly long chain amino acids. These chemical compounds preform a number of functions that are responsible for sustaining life.
Common functions of protein include:
- Serving as the major structural components of cells.
- Repairing, rebuilding and maintaining body tissues.
- Help to maintain blood pressure.
- Integrating themselves into anti-bodies for disease prevention.
- Production of energy in the body.
- Repairing and rebuilding muscle mass.
- Functioning as a building block for seminal fluid.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN TO MEN NEED?
There are more answers to this question on the Internet than you can shake a stick at. Most of the people trying to push protein onto men and women (particularly body builders) will cite all sorts of studies to justify you buying their products.
What’s interesting is that many of the so called “studies” being referenced are conducted by the product manufacturers. That kind of disqualifies the study altogether when you think about it.
So what’s the real deal? How much protein do guys really need?
According to published data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most men need approximately 56 grams of protein per day. In other words, 16-18% of your daily diet should contain proteins.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO BODY BUILDERS NEED?
One of the biggest myths floating around (and has for years) is that body builders need tons of protein to get “big”. But here is the thing – the scientific research suggests it’s completely untrue.
Related: Body building myths debunked
If you lift weights on a regular basis and are ingesting the right types of foods, you should be getting enough protein naturally.
It helps to know what the nutritional requirements are for body builders. If you have time, be sure to read this comprehensive post on the topic.
SIGNS YOU MAY BE PROTEIN DEFICIENT
Now that you have a basic overview of protein and the amount you need on a daily basis, let’s take a look at the 10 signs you may not be getting enough of this compound into your system.
FYI: What appears below is for information only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. If you are concerned about any of these issues, it’s important to consult with your doctor.
OK, here we go.
1. MUSCLE PAIN
Protein is a critical to muscle repair and rebuilding. This is particularly true if you are involved with resistance training.
While muscle pain can be caused by a number of issues, it can also be a bodily sign you aren’t getting enough protein.
2. JOINT PAIN
Because protein is partially responsible for helping in the repair process of tissue, it makes sense that a deficiency could be the cause of your joint pain.
Common complaints of people experiencing a lack of protein include joint aches and difficulty with movement.
3. INTENSE FOOD CRAVINGS
Because protein is responsible for evening out blood sugars, it’s important to ingest the appropriate amount each day.
A lack of protein can manifest itself through intense food cravings. If this is the case, your body may be screaming for a leveling compound because you’re eating too many carbs.
4. SKIN PROBLEMS
Is your skin cracking, spotty, peeling or overly dry? This could be an indication you’re not getting enough protein in your daily diet.
While there are skin care products designed for men that can help with these issues, none of them will do a lick of good if your collagen levels are depleted. That’s because collagen is a protein. See this post on collagen and anti-aging.
5. DAMAGED, FALLING OUT HAIR
Did you know that your hair is made up of proteins? It sure is. And guess what – if you aren’t getting enough in your body, it can have devastating results.
A common indication of a protein deficiency is dull, dry, brittle hair. In some cases, hair can even start falling out.
While hair products may deliver topical proteins, you need to be taking in (eating) the right amount each day for protein synthesis to occur within the hair follicle.
6. DIFFICULTY RECOVERING FROM INJURIES
Earlier, we looked at how protein helps to rebuild bodily tissues, like muscles.
If you have injured yourself – like at the gym – and are experiencing a slow recovery, it could be a symptom that you lack enough protein for repairs.
7. FLUID RETENTION
Does your body seem swollen? Do your fingers sometimes blow up on you to the point you can’t get a ring on or off? Ankles looking enlarged? Do you have baggy, puffy eyes?
Fluid retention can be caused by a number of issues, including cardiovascular problems and arthritis. But it can also be a symptom of low protein levels.
That’s because protein plays a strong role in keeping fluids from building up in tissue.
Do you frequently get sick? Does it seem like you always catch everyone else’s cold? Are you constantly tired and exhausted?
Many people with poor protein levels experience these issues on a regular basis. That’s because your immune cells are built from protein enzymes.
A lack of them can leave you feeling spent and vulnerable to illness.
9. MENTAL FATIGUE
Do you ever feel mentally exhausted? Does it seem to be happening more and more frequently? If so, it could be your body telling you to eat more protein.
Here’s why – your blood sugar levels require proteins to achieve a state of homeostasis. Without these proper levels, your brain responds by having difficulty concentrating.
10. NO RESULTS AT GYM
Are you working out and getting nowhere? Does it seem like you throw all you’ve got into weight training, only to see little to no results?
It can take three to six weeks before you see results from a given program. But if your diet is protein poor, you likely won’t see increased muscle mass at all. This all goes back to the role protein plays in repairing and building muscle.
RISK FACTORS FOR PROTEIN DEFICIENCY?
If you are involved in strength training or competitive sports, you’re likely to burn more protein than your non at active counterparts. This is very much the case for men.
The older you get, the less able your body is to process proteins. It’s an unfortunate side effect of aging.
Highly Stress People
The more stressed you are, the greater your body releases stress hormones. And those hormones like to break down tissue and muscle. This can cause your protein levels to become quickly depleted. See this post on 5 tips to reduce stress.
People on Diets
We know from scientific research studies that people who diet tend to suffer from protein deficiencies. Intuitively, this makes sense when you think about sudden changes in food consumption.
Persons Recovering from Injury
If your body is trying to heal itself from a severe or acute injury, it’s likely going to use up a bunch of proteins in the process.
Digestive system challenges
If you have IBS or live with some other form of a digestive system challenge, you are more likely to experience a protein deficiency, according to clinical studies. Much of this has to do with acid levels in the stomach.
DIETARY SUGGESTIONS FOR PROTEIN
The best way to make sure you are getting adequate protein into your body is by eating the right foods. In other words, natural sources.
Here are some suggestions:
- Cut out the processed foods that are loaded with sugars and carbs and opt for 3 or 4 servings of lean, fresh meat. Fish, chicken, turkey, eggs and beans are all good sources.
- Vegans can reach for lentils, nuts, soybeans and whole grains.
- Protein powders are OK but make sure you don’t get the sugary type. Some have more sucrose in them than candy bars. Optimum Nutrition makes an excellent product that delivers 24g of whey protein. See Amazon for pricing.
- Don’t forget that fruits and vegetables also contain plant based proteins, in addition to essential vitamins and minerals.
- If you are unsure how to prepare high protein meals, consider the Ultimate Body Building Cookbook. It’s loaded with delicious meals that are protein rich. Available at Amazon.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Protein is one of the building blocks of life. Because we live in a 24/7 world where so many of us are constantly “on”, it can be easy to ignore important nutritional requirements.
If you are concerned about your eating habits or are worried you aren’t getting the right level of nutrients into your system, talk to your doctor or a registered dietician.
The good news is that protein problems are often easily corrected with changes in diet. It’s all about being mindful about what you’re eating – and what you’re not.