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5 Signs of chronic protein deficiency

Are you starving your body of this essential nutrient?

BY JAKE GRILLEY

"Are you getting enough protein?" If you're vegetarian or vegan, you've undoubtedly heard this question from concerned friends and relatives. And with good reason: Protein is an essential macronutrient, universally considered the body's fundamental building block.

Questioning protein intake, however, shouldn't be isolated to the herbivores among us. Many endurance athletes, even those who embrace their carnivorous inclinations, do not get enough of this critical nutrient.

Chronic, low-level protein deficiency is common among athletes and other active people, causing a wide range of problems. Be sure you're getting enough by bolstering your daily intake with high-quality Hammer Whey and Vegan proteins. Hammer Vegan Protein has been recently reformulated and is now certified organic, with 100% organic ingredients, including two new potent protein sources: pumpkin and sacha inchi. Hammer Whey Protein has also been reformulated to contain 100% grass-fed, glutamine-fortified whey protein isolate. With no antibiotics, hormones or fillers here, Hammer Whey is the purest whey protein on the market!

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that 10-35% of daily calories come from protein, athletes require an amount on the higher end of that range. When training, your daily protein intake should be:

  • 2/3-3/4 gram of protein per pound of body weight, OR
  • 1.2-1.7 times your weight in kilograms
    (For example, a 68-kg endurance athlete should consume 81-116 grams of protein per day.)

Before you add a calculator to your grocery list, know that your body is probably already alerting you if it hungers for additional protein.

Here are five common warning signs of chronic protein deficiency:

1. Constant food cravings, snacking - You might assume a protein shortage would create a hankering for a hamburger or T-bone steak. Experts, however, have found that without the protein necessary to steady your blood sugar, your body instead looks for a more immediate solution. Translation: craving candy and other junk food to fill the gaps.

2. Muscle and/or joint pain - Protein is critical for building and rebuilding muscle tissue, so it makes sense that a deficiency would cause muscle pain. Brown University research has shown that protein also plays a pivotal role in the synovial fluid that surrounds joints, preventing them from wear and tear. When dietary protein is lacking, the body pulls from its reserves in both the muscles and joints. As a result, muscles tighten and ache, and joints stiffen.

3. Thin hair and nails - Sure, many factors (including genetics) play into thinning hair, especially as we age. But regardless of your DNA, hair and nails are made up almost entirely of protein and are strong indicators for even the slightest deficiency. Hair prone to splitting or breaking and brittle or ridged nails can indicate a lack of protein in your diet.

4. Edema (swelling) - Protein plays an integral role in keeping excess fluids from accumulating in tissues as blood travels through the body. Research has shown that when protein levels are insufficient, fluid tends to build up in tissue. Its most notable in hands, feet, ankles, and cheeks.

5. Frequent illnesses - Are you otherwise in good health but find yourself using all your sick days every year? More protein could be your best prescription. Protein is key to a strong immune system. It's the foundation of red blood cells, white blood cells, and antibodies. All of these work together to fend off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in your body.

Pump up your protein intake

When looking at increasing your daily protein intake, always choose high-quality sources and include both food and protein powders. Here are some of our favorites along with their protein content per serving:

Hammer Whey Protein - 17 grams
Hammer Vegan Protein - 20 grams
Hammer Soy Protein - 23 grams
Eggs (1 large) - 6 grams
Soy milk (1 cup) - 8 grams
Chicken breast (3 oz.) - 24 grams
Grass-fed beefsteak (3 oz.) - 26 grams
Pork chop (3 oz.) - 22 grams
Turkey breast (3 oz.) - 24 grams
Wild-caught fish (yellowfin, tuna, salmon, halibut, tilapia; 3 oz.) - 20-25 grams
Mixed nuts (1 cup) - 27 grams
Lentils (1 cup) - 53 grams
Tofu (3 oz.) - 12 grams
Wheat germ (3 oz.) - 9 grams
Soba noodles (3 oz.) - 12 grams
Quinoa (1 cup) - 8 grams