11 Signs and Symptoms You Have A Protein Deficiency


Hunger, muscle loss, depression, fatigue, hair fall, fluid retention, stunted growth, breaking bones, taking time to heal, getting a belly and poor sleep are some of the common symptoms of protein deficiency.

What are proteins?

Proteins[1]  are essential nutrients for the human body. They are one of the building blocks of body tissue and can also serve as a fuel, providing energy. They are polymer chains of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. Proteins are broken down during digestion for the absorption of essential amino acids.

Why do we need proteins?

Meat, milk products, eggs, fish, whole grains, green vegetables etc. Are sources of complete protein. Proteins are used every day to keep the body going because they are used to grow, develop and maintain almost every part of our body from our skin to digestive enzymes. They are being broken down and need constant replacement. Vital organs, muscles, tissues and hormones are made from proteins. They also create haemoglobin and important antibodies. Therefore, without proteins life cannot exist.

11 Common Symptoms of Protein Deficiency

protein deficiency

The major symptoms of protein deficiency are explained below


Constant or frequent hunger pangs is a sign that the body is not getting enough fuel. Protein is required to promote signals of satiety to the brain and stabilize blood sugar. Amino acids from protein are required for many processes inside the body. A minimum of 25-35 grams of protein should be consumed in each meal in a day.


Muscle loss

Fatigued muscle, increased body fat and loss of muscles can be signs of inadequate protein intake as the amino acids from proteins are the building blocks of the body. When the diet is low in protein, the body is forced to breakdown muscle mass in order to gain amino acids to use in body processes.


Amino acids such as tryptophan or tyrosine act as precursors to neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which can lead to depression and changes in mood and anxiety when off balance. Adequate amount of proteins in meals can promote a positive mood and prevent cravings.


A deficiency in protein can lead to both muscle fatigue and brain fatigue. Inadequate protein can lead to muscle wasting causing muscle cramps and tired muscles. Amino acids such as glutamate are used along with glucose in the muscle for fuel. Amino acids are also needed to build neurotransmitters involved in cognitive functioning and memory.

Hair fall

Both collagen and keratin are main components of the hair and both of these products are comprised of amino acids from protein. Inadequate diet intake can lead to hair loss as the body needs amino acids such as cysteine, lysine, arginine, and methionine to form hair. Collagen peptides is a great source of amino acids to promote both hair, skin and nail growth.

Fluid retention

Protein is necessary to maintain adequate balance of fluid both inside and outside of the cells. Without proper protein, the body often will retain fluid on the outside of the cells causing both fluid retention or oedema around the abdomen and dehydration of the cells.

Stunted growth

Deficiency or insufficiency of protein is especially harmful to children whose growing bodies require a steady supply. Stunting, is one of the most common sign of childhood malnutrition.


Breaking bones

As we age, a growth factor that positively impacts bone mass called igf 1 decreases. Increasing protein intake to a normal level can increase plasma level of this growth factor and promote increased bone density, making us less prone to injuries. Along with proper protein intake one can practice bone strength training to increase bone strength.

Taking time to heal

If one is getting sick very often and it keeps lingering, it could mean that the immunity level has decreased due to protein deficiency. Without enough protein injuries and wounds take time to heal as protein is a vital nutrient for immune function. Amino acids produce antibodies and other immune factors which protect the body from diseases.

Getting a belly

Experiencing edema or swelling is a sign of inadequate protein intake. There are proteins in our cell walls which act as channels to pump electrolytes in and out to regulate fluid balance in our body. It may be present in some people as a distended abdomen.

Poor sleep

Poor sleep and insomnia can be linked to unstable blood sugar levels, a decrease in serotonin production. Eating food with protein can help with tryptophan and serotonin production and have a minimum effect on blood glucose levels. Protein also slows down the absorption of sugar during a meal.

Side effects of protein deficiency

Protein deficiency is also known as protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). When PEM is caused primarily by protein malnutrition, it is called Kwashiorkor. One of the adverse effects of Kwashiorkor is edema or fluid build-up in the tissues. Some of the other major ill effects of protein deficiency include the following:

The recommended daily minimum intake of protein for adults of average weight is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams for women. Some of the biggest benefits of protein include burning fat, weight loss, muscle recovery, fighting diabetes, brain function, fighting cholesterol, heal wounds etc. Thus a regular balanced diet with adequate protein is required to maintain the immune system and physic of our body.

Hope this article was of help to you! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy, Healthy and Empowered Women!!