Search icon

Fitness & Health

27th Nov 2018

Seven signs you’re deficient in protein – and how to rectify that

Protein plays a pivotal role in your day-to-day diet, but how do you know when you're not getting enough? Nutrition specialist David Wiener explains

Alex Roberts

Protein plays a significant role in your day-to-day diet, but how do you know when you’re not getting enough?

There’s no doubt you’re familiar with the perks of a high-protein diet. Consuming adequate protein can help boost your energy, keep you feeling fuller for longer and also assist in muscle recovery and growth post-workout.

But how do you know when you’re lacking in levels of this vital macro?

David Wiener, Training and Nutrition Specialist from fitness app Freeletics has shared the warning signs to be wary of:

1. Poor sleep

“Your brain has the ability to control all of the hormones necessary for a good night’s sleep. When your body lacks the protein necessary to maintain a healthy brain, it can lead to a hormonal imbalance which will ultimately impact your sleep.”

2. Thinning on top

“Hair is made up mostly of a protein called keratin. If you’re consistently not getting enough protein, over time you may notice your hair start to thin or even fall out.

“That’s because your body stops using protein for non-essential things such as hair growth in an effort to preserve its stores.”

3. Increased infections

“Your immune system needs protein to protect your body and defend against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

“When your body does not have the right amount of protein, the number of new white blood cells decreases. This results in a weakened immune system and increased risk of infection.”

4. Poor wound healing

“Wound healing is dependent on good nutrition, including protein intake.

“Protein deficiency has shown to contribute to low wound healing rates and reduced collagen formation, according to research. Without adequate protein, the wound healing process is said to be greatly compromised.”

5. Food cravings

“Frequent food cravings and the need to snack often between meals can be the consequence of not enough protein and too many refined carbs, as protein evens out the highs and lows of blood sugars.

“Craving sweets is especially common – in fact, it’s typically one of the first signs. You may crave sweet treats more than you used to, and also feel as if you’re never quite satisfied.”

6. Brain fog

“Having balanced blood sugar levels is important for many functions throughout the body, including the ability to stay focused.

“When those levels go up and down, it can be hard to think and perform even basic tasks, a term known as brain fog.

“Eating protein with meals helps to time-release carbs so you’ll get a steady flow of energy instead of those up and down spikes. Relying on foods like bread or crackers to get your energy up will only give you short boosts which are followed by brain fog.”

7. Low energy

“Protein is important for sustaining energy and motivation. A low protein diet can result in muscle wasting, fatigue and even weight gain.

“You can also find yourself working out more but seeing fewer results as your diet is not providing you with the adequate nutrients and giving you the energy that you need to complete a productive workout.”


  • Aim to consume at least 20 grams of protein with each meal
  • Each day, aim for 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight
  • Eat a variety of sources: chicken, turkey, lean beef, eggs, oily fish and more
  • If you’re finding solid meals hard to come by, supplement with one or two whey protein shakes per day

Read more: