Six Signs to Indicate a Protein Deficiency

If you have any of these symptoms, it's likely you need to consume more protein. In this article, we'll tell you about the fundamentals of their importance.
Six Signs to Indicate a Protein Deficiency

Last update: 14 April, 2019

A protein deficiency may be affecting you without you knowing it. In this article, we’ll explain the signs that you need to be aware of in order to consume more of this nutrient in your diet. Keep on reading to discover more about it!

Proteins are macromolecules formed by chains of amino acids. They’re present in foods of animal origin and some foods of vegetable origin. Likewise, they’re absolutely necessary for our bodies since they intervene in nutritional processes, growth, and bodybuilding.

Protein consumption to avoid protein deficiency

A human being needs to consume 15 percent of proteins daily. However, this percentage may vary depending on weight, height and lifestyle of the individual. For example, an athlete that wants to increase his muscle mass must consume a slightly greater amount.

However, disregarding your sports objectives or your daily lifestyle, protein deficiency may be detected through several signs. It’s important to know what these are since you may be unaware that you need to consume more protein.

1. Swelling: a sign of protein deficiency

Edema or swelling occurs when an abnormal amount of liquids accumulate in the tissue that is beyond the circulatory system. The reason is that proteins that flow in the blood especially albumin, which is the main protein in our blood and helps prevent liquid retention. Therefore the lack of this protein provokes edema easily.

On the other hand, there are many other causes for an edema. If you suffer from edema it is convenient to see a doctor and receive professional care.

2. Skin, hair and nail issues

Frailty and hair loss, weak nails and dry skin are signs of low protein levels. The reason is that they are made of proteins such as elastin, collagen, and keratin. If you suffer from these problems you’ll probably need these nutrients to strengthen these zones.

woman hair loss lack of protein

3. Mood swings

This may sound a little odd, but the truth is that the lack of proteins may alter your mood stability. The brain uses chemicals known as neurotransmitters to transmit information between cells. Most of these are amino acids that are acquired through proteins.

This way, the absence of this nutrient in your diet implies a reduced production of these neurotransmitters. In turn, this alters the way the brain works normally.

4. Protein deficiency causes fatigue and weakness

Maybe a reduced intake of proteins won’t make you feel tired immediately. However, in the long term, people that don’t consume enough proteins tend to feel weak and tired. 

Besides, proteins are an essential component in blood, specially in hemoglobin, which is present in red cells and carries oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, low oxygen levels produce weakness.

5. Hunger

Constant hunger, even after eating is a sign of a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars, and low in proteins. Proteins nourish us, thus, it’s advisable to include them in our diets to feel more satisfied. You’ll also meet all of your nutritional requirements.

6. You take longer to heal

People that have a protein deficiency may notice how injuries such as scrapes or cuts take longer to heal. It stands true for other types of injuries as well such as sprains, or sports related injuries.

This is due to the fact that in the process of blood clotting, protein nutrients are essential for the process to occur. In the case of scarring, a crust needs to form which requires a good level of collagen, this is obtained through proteins.

scarring wounds lack of proteins

In summary, proteins are essential to keep your body working correctly. Likewise, a protein deficiency affects your performance in your daily life, as well as in sports. It’s recommendable to keep these signs in mind and assess how many proteins you are consuming.

This doesn’t mean you have to consume proteins in huge amounts because taking them excessively may also be harmful. However, it does mean that they need to be significantly present in your diet.

Beyond proteins, you need to make sure you have a balanced and healthy diet. It should include legumes, white and red meats, fruits, vegetables, and cereals among others. This way, you can prevent diseases, have a healthy body and be prepared to face any task. Don’t eliminate proteins, they’re really important!


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Liu, Z., Hagan, N. D., & Higgins, T. J. V. (2016). Proteins. In Encyclopedia of Applied Plant Sciences (Vol. 2, pp. 40–43). Elsevier Inc.
  • Hernández, R. (2003). Necesidades proteicas en individuos físicamente activos. Pensar En Movimiento: Revista de Ciencias Del Ejercicio y La Salud, ISSN-e 1659-4436, ISSN 1409-0724, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003, Págs. 63-763(1), 63–76.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.