Are you protein deficient?
These days, we are bombarded with loads of information on protein. Which one is the cleanest? Which one does your body make the most use of? What time of the day is best to eat it? Is plant-based protein as effective as animal-based protein?
Regardless of the influx of protein probes floating around, one basic question still remains that trumps all others: Are you protein deficient? Or protein sufficient?
The average American does not consume enough protein on a regular basis. Research reported by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey investigated the protein intake of over 11,600 adults over the age of 51 over a nine-year period and. In addition to looking at protein intake levels, dietary patterns and physical activity were also assessed. Turns out, up to 46 percent of the participants did not get enough protein regularly.
According to New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA holistic nutritionist and wellness specialist Shauna Faulisi, the Standard American Diet (SAD) has a high emphasis on our nation’s most-produced crops—wheat, corn, and soy. “Many Americans eat a high carbohydrate, high sugar diet that is low in protein and fiber,” she says. “And the issue with a diet like this is that after water, our bodies are mostly constructed of protein (it makes up 15 to 20% of our body weight.)” Simply put, we need ample amounts of protein on a regular basis for our body, brain, and hormones to function optimally.
The problem with consistently low protein levels is that the body does not receive ample amounts of other essential nutrients, like zinc, selenium and vitamins C, D and E, all of which are crucial for healthy bodily functions. Faulisi says, “Protein deficiency can manifest as brittle nails, thinning hair, joint issues, brain fog, insulin resistance, low energy, and a lack of satiation after meals.”
On the flip side, it is possible to become overly sufficient in protein, too. “This can happen when excess amino acids get converted into glucose and stored as fat. If you pay attention, you can begin to feel when the body has an insulin spike,” Faulisi says. “If this happens after eating a low-carb, high protein meal, decrease the amount of protein on your plate and increase your green vegetable intake.”
If a protein deficiency is a problem, try these easy-to-incorporate steps to feed your body with more protein:
Write down what you eat. 1
“When I work with clients, we work together to take note of how the foods they eat, or don’t eat, translate into how they show up in the world. I observe their energy, symptoms, clarity, mood, and sleep,” Faulisi explains. “It’s a form of tuning in to give them their own biofeedback. Many times, we notice increasing protein and water does wonders for their energy and other symptoms.”
Add in more protein. 2
As we age, muscle loss inherently occurs which is why you need to up your protein intake. “As we age, we’re more susceptible to chronic disease. And many chronic diseases affect our ability to maintain skeletal muscle mass,” Faulisi says. If eating ample amounts of lean protein, like chicken, turkey, and salmon, are hard to incorporate into your daily diet, protein shakes and supplements are an easy go-to. “I like them because you can really increase your protein. I obviously love Hush & Hush PlantYourDay because it packs a high amount of protein per serving—and it’s delicious,” she says.
Other protein-boosting favorites of Faulisi include unflavored collagen protein and hemp hearts. “Add them to your smoothie, salad, soup, or chia pudding. They pack 10 grams of protein per every three tablespoons. I like to put some in my smoothie to thicken it up, and then I add some on top for a little crunch.”
Always opt for clean protein. 3
Faulisi herself relies on clean protein sources like eggs, Hush & Hush PlantYourDay, collagen powder, hemp seeds, cold-water fish that don’t contain high levels of metals and other contaminants, like salmon, organic turkey and pasture raised chicken. “That is what personally does well for me. But I have clients who are drawn to gamier proteins like bison and deer and that’s great too, as long as it’s grass fed.” Just make sure to pick clean, organic sources that your body can properly absorb.
Many people question if a plant-based protein is as effective and nutritious as animal-based protein. “I do believe in the power of a plant-based, plant-rich diet with moderate amounts of high-quality organic animal-based proteins and its readily available nutrients for our bodies,” says Faulisi.
Load up on protein in the morning. 4
While there’s no harm in eating protein later in the day, the body definitely tends to make the most of protein when it is consumed in the morning. “Protein helps to curb hunger hormones, and since our bodies are largely made up of protein, our need for it may be a signal for hunger. Plus, who wants to be hungry all day,” says Faulisi. “As a general rule of thumb to keeping hunger at bay, keep insulin levels down by staying away from carbohydrate-rich meals and focusing on protein, fiber, and fat at each meal. This will help to balance your blood sugar levels giving you more energy and clarity throughout the day, making your skin glow, hair grow, and to help prevent degenerative diseases as we age.”