12 Signs You Need to Eat More Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient. We can’t make it. We can pull it from our structural tissues – our muscles, our tendons, our organs – if we’re in dire need of amino acids, but that’s not a healthy long term strategy. For all intents and purposes, we need to consume protein to stay healthy, fit, happy, and long-lived. But we need to consume the right amount at the right times. And since I’ve already talked about how much protein certain populations should be eating on a general basis, shown you how to identify when you need more carbs, and explained how to tell if you need more fat, today’s post will cover 12 situations, symptoms, and signs that indicate a direct need for more dietary protein.

Let’s jump right in:

You’re older than you used to be.

For years, the elderly have been told not to expect anything from their bodies but decay and decrepitude. They can lift weights if they want, but they’re not going to get very strong and if anything they’ll just improve “tone” and “balance.” Well, that’s nonsense. The elderly absolutely can get stronger and even build muscle and improve their bone mineral density by lifting heavy things. Maybe not as easily as a 22 year old. Maybe not as much as when they were younger. But they can do it. There’s just one caveat: they need more protein than their younger counterparts.

The elderly aren’t as efficient at processing protein. To maintain nitrogen balance or tip the scales toward lean mass accrual, an older person is going to need more protein than a younger person – all else being equal. That goes for resistance training oldsters, puttering around the garden oldsters, and taking an hour to walk around the block oldsters. More protein is better than less.

You’re always hungry.

Of all the macronutrients, protein is the most satiating, and high-protein diets (which are usually also low-carb) consistently result in the greatest inadvertent reduction in calories. You don’t consciously stop eating. You’re not fighting your desire for food. You simply don’t want it. That’s the perfect antidote to insatiable hunger.

Just try it. Make a point to add an extra 20 grams of protein each meal. A few ounces of steak here, a chicken leg there, a piece of salmon, a few eggs. You’ll be fuller, faster.

So if your stomach resembles a bottomless pit, try increasing your protein intake.

You’re cutting calories.

Traditional calorie-restricted dieting certainly can help you lose body weight, but it also causes the loss of lean muscle mass. That explains why so many people who simply reduce calories to lose weight end up skinny-fat. Luckily, increasing the amount of protein you eat can offset some of the muscle loss caused by calorie restriction:

  • In weightlifters, a low-carb hypocaloric diet with 2x the RDA for protein resulted in greater nitrogen balance than a high-carb hypocaloric diet with RDA protein.
  • In women, a low-calorie, high-protein diet was better than a conventional high-carb, low-fat diet at promoting lean mass retention, even in the absence of exercise.

If you’re reducing calorie intake, you’d better increase the absolute amount of protein you’re eating. As an added bonus, the satiety from increasing protein will make the cutting of calories – an infamously onerous task – much easier.

You’re lifting heavy things.

Lifting heavy things changes how your body processes protein. On the one hand, resistance training makes you more efficient at protein utilization so that you actually need less protein to maintain your muscle mass. If maintenance is your goal, you probably don’t need extra protein.

However, resistance training also pushes your anabolic ceiling higher so that you can leverage higher protein intakes into more muscle mass and greater strength gains. The more protein available, the greater the response.

You’re exclusively eating plant protein.

For the most part, plant proteins are less efficient than animal proteins. They’re often missing essential amino acids. And in the case of something like soy protein, it’s just not as effective as an animal protein like whey:

The easiest thing would be to add a whey protein supplement or start eating pastured eggs from happy hens (or raise your own to ensure their quality of life), but if you’re not going to do that at least increase your overall protein intake to make up for the inefficiencies of plant protein.

You’re engaged in chronic cardio.

As much as I caution against chronic cardio, people are still going to do it. I stuck with it for many years, even long after I’d realized the damage it was doing, because I was addicted to the rush of competing. So I get it.

If you insist on endurance training, you’re going to need more protein to stave off the loss of muscle. Even though you’re not necessarily eating less food when you exercise – maybe more, if anything – your caloric expenditure is greater and the net result is a negative calorie balance. A higher protein intake can stave off the lean mass losses associated with negative calorie balances, whether they stem from lower calorie intakes or higher expenditures.

You’re craving meat.

A lot of people get mixed up trying to interpret cravings because in our modern food environment, real nutrient deficiencies often masquerade as cravings for junk food. Sometimes, though, a craving is correct. And animal research suggests that a specific appetite for protein exists in mammals. When mice are protein deficient, they tend to seek out protein-rich foods and ignore protein-poor foods. I know when I haven’t had a good piece of meat in awhile, or I’ve just finished a heavy lifting session, I get a primal (small “p”) urge for it. I’ll almost salivate at the smell of a cooking steak.

So if you’re craving meat, give into it. Don’t ignore the craving. It’s probably right. There’s really no mistaking a desire for a delicious slab of animal flesh.

You’re eating lots of muscle meat.

Wait. What? The consumption of a potent source of animal protein raises the requirements of protein? How does that work?

Muscle meat is a rich source of methionine, the amino acid that the life extension crowd is always railing against as carcinogenic, inflammatory, and anti-longevity. They’re onto something, but there’s evidence to suggest that you don’t need to eliminate, or even reduce your methionine/muscle meat intake as long as you balance it out with another type of animal protein: gelatin.

Found in bones, connective tissues, gristle, cuts of meat like oxtail, neck, and shank, or collagen supplements, collagen is a protein composed primarily of amino acids like glycine and proline. Animal studies show that “methionine toxicity” can be countered by glycine supplementation. In fact, one of the primary mechanisms of methionine toxicity is glycine depletion. My favorite way to balance out methionine and glycine is to supplement with oxtail stew  (or a tasty Chocolate Coconut Collagen Shake if you’d rather an alternative).

You’ve got achy joints.

In the previous post about fat requirements, I explained how my first response to achy joints is to increase my omega-3 consumption because that quickly curtails inflammation. But if that doesn’t work – and even if it does – I then turn to gelatin. Gelatin is connective tissue; it’s made of the stuff we use to repair and build our own cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. A few studies indicate that eating gelatin can improve joint pain:

A novel collagen type II supplement (a gelatin supplement) improved pain, range of motion, and stiffness in women with severe joint pain and patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

You’re on bed rest.

Bed rest eats at lean muscle mass. It makes sense from your body’s point of view; since you aren’t using it, you don’t really need it. Placing individual limbs on bed rest also has the same effect. Wearing a cast on your arm and preventing it from performing simple, everyday contractions will initiate the atrophy process within days. In effect, unused muscle on bed rest becomes less responsive to protein/amino acids, or “protein resistant.” The answer is not to throw up your hands (if you can even move them) and give up. The answer is to increase your protein intake to mitigate the inefficiency.

Increasing protein during bed rest will slow down (but not completely halt) the breakdown of lean mass and improve muscle function.

You’re experiencing chronic stress.

Stress hormones are catabolic; they increase muscle and tissue protein breakdown. If you’re experiencing an acute stressor, like a tough workout, this catabolism is normal and necessary and gives way to anabolism. That’s how we get stronger, faster, fitter, and more capable. But if that stress becomes chronic, and the stress hormones are perpetually elevated, the balance tips toward muscle catabolism. Until you’re able to get a handle on the stress, eating more protein should mitigate the damage and might even reduce the stress itself.

You’re coming off surgery, recovering from burns, or trying to heal a wound (or all three).

Traumatic damage to your tissues requires more protein to make the necessary repairs and recovery.

In wound patients, protein deficiency is common and impairs the healing process. Wounded rats placed on protein-free diets also take far longer to heal than wounded rats eating protein-replete diets.

After surgery, which is pretty much a controlled wounding, protein intake is probably the most crucial aspect of the patient’s nutrition and subsequent recovery. Many doctors even recommend that surgical patients take whey protein isolate for a couple days after a procedure.

After a severe burn, your metabolism goes into hyperdrive. Stress hormones and inflammation skyrocket, leading to accelerated tissue breakdown, lean mass reduction, and overall body weight reduction. To counter this, “early and continuous” high-protein enteral feeding has become part of standard care for severe burn victims. Adult burn victims need at least 1.5 g/kg bodyweight; kids need up to 2.5 g/kg.

Most research focuses on the importance of protein intake after severe injuries, burns, and surgeries, but the same principles should hold true for recovery from minor stuff. This is also a good time to increase your gelatin/collagen intake, as those are the primary proteins used to rebuild new skin and gelatin is also a good source of arginine, an amino acid that promotes wound healing.

There you have it, folks: 12 signs, situations, and symptoms that indicate you should probably be eating more protein. I hope they’re helpful!

Which of these signs ring true? Are there any I’ve missed? Let’s hear about it in the comment section.

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TAGS:  mobility

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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116 thoughts on “12 Signs You Need to Eat More Protein”

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  1. Ok now I’m craving ribs….

    But seriously, I think it’s about time I stop procrastinating and buy some bones to make homemade stock with. Protein AND collagen? Doesn’t get any better!

    I’ve noticed lately I have achy joints (primarily the ankles) and I think you’re onto something, Mark.

    1. I started supplementing with bone broth on a daily basis over joint issues and it definitely helps. Stick some bones in a crock pot, add water and some vinegar, and you’re good to go. I leave mine running for 4-6 days and just take from it all week long.

      1. Just started doing this again. I think my biggest mistake before was trying to flavor it with too many things. It’s much easier if it’s just bones, water and maybe a little salt.

        I assume the vinegar helps with extracting nutrients? How’s the taste?

        1. What I’ve read is that vinegar helps to break the bones down faster. It doesn’t affect the flavor in my opinion. I use maybe a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar when I first start the Crock pot.

          I am super lazy when it comes to making broth. Sometimes I will stick a couple of whole carrots and an onion in. I never chop veggies, because really, I see no point. But, most of the time I’m lucky to get salt and pepper added!

      2. How do you keep your stove or crockpot at the right temperature?

        1. I keep my Crock on low throughout. I’ve never made broth on the stove top, so not sure on how to do that!

        2. When I have beef bones I add some red wine to the water, along with salt, and it really adds a nice flavor.

        3. I put it on lowest heat once it’s bubbling, and that works fine. Using a smaller stovetop makes it cooler too.

        4. Bone broth is easy, as people here have said. I simmer the carcass of the chicken I roast for dinner in enough water to cover well, add either 1T of vinegar or the juice of a whole lemon, and don’t add salt! The acid pulls the minerals from the bones, but salt already is minerals, and it interferes by lessening the ones from the bones. You want all you can get from those bones.

          Throw in a quartered onion, and half a garlic, and maybe a stalk or two of celery either at the beginning or about half way through. After you strain it, you can add salt to your heart’s content. I use Celtic sea salt. Sometimes my broth gels, sometimes not. Sometimes I boost it with Great Lakes Kosher beef gelatin if it doesn’t gel on its own.
          Eat well!

        5. Sorry, forgot the important part: I simmer my broths in an 8qt. stockpot on the stove at power level 2 or less once it starts to simmer. I bring it to a boil and turn it down to the lowest setting that will continue a gentle simmer. I simmer overnight, so about 24hrs. for a roasted chicken (meat removed).

          Also, if you don’t eat veggies, then don’t put them in, they’re just for flavor, they get strained out anyway. Some fresh ground pepper is nice, too.

          Because I buy meat from the farmer, and he raises heritage chickens, I strain the broth and fill the pan with water and do it all again for another 24hrs. He claims that he gets three batches but I haven’t tried it yet. If you have store bought organic chicken or beef or lamb, one batch is all you might get, but with truly free-range or grass-fed beef/lamb you can get two batches of broth from one pot of bones. Why? Because the bones are that much stronger and firmer – especially the chickens. Check out your local farmer’s market(s) for pastured chicken and grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork, that’s where I buy all my meat.

      3. Been reading about this, where do you buy the bones and what do you ask for? Is that a stupid question….sorry if it is.. 🙂

        1. I buy marrow bones and roast them and add the marrow to mashed potatoes and keep the bones in the freezer. I also keep bones from various cuts of beef I get which have bones in them, and when the freezer bag is looking pretty full I make stock. That is what I use for beef stock.

          For chicken stock, we occasionally buy a whole roasted chicken and then keep the carcass in the freezer. When I have 2 carcasses I add them to the slow cooker and make chicken stock.

          Both really simple and easy, and basically free.

        2. Hi Renee,

          I went to a market that sells grass fed beef and asked if they could sell me bones. They were very happy to.


        3. Some places will sell just bones (my local Whole Foods sells marrow bones), or other animal parts that are only good for stock (my favorite poultry vendor with the big oxymoronic sign that says “LIVE POULTRY FRESH KILLED” sells frozen bags of chicken necks & backs).

          But pretty much EVERY place sells bones that are covered in meat, so that’s the way I generally do it.

          I roast a chicken once a week or so, I buy bone-in beef short ribs to make burgers with, and all those bones (& chicken backs & necks) go into the freezer. When there’s enough of them, or I’m running out of room in the freezer, I dump them all into a big stock pot, fill it with water, add a little vinegar & a quartered onion & the limpest celery in the fridge & a few peppercorns, and simmer it all weekend, topping off the water as necessary. (I never add salt to the stock – not that I’m salt-phobic or anything, just that I want Total Seasoning Control over whatever dish I’m using the stock in…)

          Aside from the obvious stock uses (mainly, making REALLY GOOD soups), one fun thing to do is to fill a medium saucepan with (strained) stock and reduce it down carefully until it’s thick, almost syrupy – basically, a poor man’s demi-glace. Use one of those tiny-cube ice-cube trays to freeze little blocks of it, and you have a bunch of gelatin-protein-umami flavor bombs to deploy whenever you need them.

        4. You guys are the best ever!!! Thanks so much for replying to my “novice” question!!!

      4. I left mine running for a few days and I decided that next time I may just have to put the crock pot in the garage. My senses got OVERLOAD on the fragrant aromas from the pot cooking and I had to wait for some time before it was really appetizing to think about eating/drinking the broth. That happens when you live in a small house, no biggie, I can move the pot to the garage.
        If you don’t have vinegar you can use tomato paste to help leach the lovely stuff from the bones. (Thanks Ron)

    2. Tried many variations of bone broth and this is what I’ve found to be best. Use a few different kinds of meat. Lots of white stuff (bones, gristle, fat). Add it to a crock pot with a Tbslp salt, 1/4 cup vinegar and one large cut up onion. (Fill with water) Let it simmer 24-48 hours. Bring it to boiling temp at first but then a long, low simmer is best. High temps break down the gelatins. I remove most of the meat at this point. Nothing else is gunna get sucked from it, plus it frees up a ton of room in the crock pot. For the last 12 hours of cook time (put stuff in before work and leave it all day) add 3-4 stalks celery, a couple carrots, a leak or another onion. Fill with water again. You can also add cardamom pods, a whole palm of cut ginger, some dried chili peppers and cinnamon stick to make pho broth. I often add a sheet of dried seaweed on the last day, too. Adding plant material (onions seem to defy the rule) makes broth bitter when it cooks too long. Add them in at the end for flavor only. Strain the broth well and freeze it in convenient serving containers. My basement freezer is “broth only.” That’s my two cents worth.

  2. I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years and an endurance athlete (with Hashimotos disease) for the last 2. It always amazes me how many people ask me how I get my protein in. I usually respond with “how do you get your vegetables?” It’s not hard for me to get more than enough protein from eggs, yogurt, lentils, soy, etc.

    1. Do you add strength training to your endurance regimen? I know many endurance runners that when they start approaching their mid 40’s they get that wrinkled, withered look. Do you have any opinions on what Mark says regarding constant cardio? Women seem less obsessed about their physics with good reason(they have those wonderful curves) but even the curves go away in post menopausal women who lose too much fat and muscle that over or improperly do cardio.

      1. I tend to agree with your general observation endurance sports and women. Time is much kinder to the guys in that sense. There also seems to be a significant overlap women with either avoiding fat or meat and endurance, which discourages the proper fats consumption that would help stave off that look.

        On the other hand, I have really appreciated pictures of older, natural body builders of both genders. If there was ever a fountain of youth, it appears to no drug strength training combined with sensible eating habits designed to encourage muscle mass. I’ve seen pictures of men at 60 who look 40 and been openly amazed at a woman I saw who was 50.

      2. I say go with your human incitants!

        Endurance is one of the MANY abilities that we humans have. Strength, is something that should never be neglected as it is what completes us. “Bigger, stronger, faster” isn’t so far fetched as what you would hear from young ambitious folks starting out in fitness.

        Strength training has massive benefits for the joints, muscles and overall health. We all have strength, but it can decline with age.

        I also know it releases hormones which help keep your skin youthful. So there you have it! 🙂

        1. Correction on my spelling: instincts. Go with your human instincts! Hopefully I helped a little bit!

    2. In case you missed it in the article,

      •In both the young and the elderly, whey promotes greater muscle protein synthesis than soy protein.
      •Compared to milk, soy protein results in less hypertrophy following resistance training.
      •Women who consume animal protein have greater muscle mass than female vegetarians.

    3. We all come from a long line of omnivores. You may do fine on a vegetarian diet, but it will affect your children (just as your parent’s diet affected you). Vegetarianism is a new diet and has not been shown to be affective through multiple generations.

      All the vegetables you are consuming are relatively newcomers as well. Even people with the best intentions eat far fewer plants and animals than our ancestors, which can lead to unseen deficiencies, especially micronutrients. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts for instance are all descendants of Brassica oleracea (wild cabbage). Farmer’s modified this plant for many reasons. To make it has healthy for us as possible was not their agenda. Which is to say, they are weaker versions of their progenitor. So even though someone may think they are eating a genetically diverse diet they’re really not.

      I hope you look into this more. Best wishes.

    4. Do you explain to people that you are a vegetarian that eats animal products? Because that would clear up the questions quickly I would assume

    5. My thyroid markers were going into the red, so I switched quite long distance running for body weight strength and short sprint sessions – thyroid now back in the green. I know a lot of endurance athletes my age, and they look haggard.

  3. Love me some oxtail soup/bone broth. It’s like a miracle food. A missing link.

    On “cutting the calories”, I never hear those people say anything except that they want to lose weight. They never say they want to lose just fat. Losing muscle mass is not good and it’s a bear keeping it on or gaining it. Hard earned as Mark would say.

  4. I definitely got a lot of these when I first started eating primal, not so much now though. I’m guilty of eating too much lean muscle meat generally speaking, can’t bring myself to rustle up liver when there’s a steak or some lamb chops in the fridge!

  5. I posted about this in the forum. I had been consuming a lot of protein while I was lifting weights and I felt normal while doing it, making good progress. I took 2 weeks off lifting weights but I kept up the protein because it’s what was in my fridge. I started to feel awful in general and revolted by the thought of having eggs for breakfast or meat for dinner. I realized that’s how big a need lifting weights provides for added protein in the diet. For me the difference is about 50-75g per day more is needed if I lift weights regularly vs. if I don’t.

    Mmm. Oxtails. I suddenly really really want some.

    1. Same thing with me. When lifting heavy 2-3 days in a row I get a ridiculous appetite for meat. It’s really remarkable, it’s almost insatiable. I’ll eat a whole pack of beef jerky before a big meat dinner, and I really want to eat more but stop myself so I don’t ruin my appetite. If I haven’t lifted in a week or so (rare) I seem to get stuffed from meat easily.

  6. A clean source of gelatin is Great Lakes hydrolyzed gelatin powder from grass fed cows. I get it on amazon 2 cans at a time. Satisfies my glycine needs plus keeps my skin, hair and nails super fresh. Mix with water, it’s tasteless, and you’re good to go. Been using it for years. Will sometimes drink it when eating a huge rib eye or mega lamb meals.

    1. I’ve been thinking about getting some of this stuff. Can you tell me what the differences are between the different kinds among the Great Lakes brand? Thanks!

      1. The green label is the one that dissolves easily in water or other liquid. I have to cut my nails more often now that I take it every day.

      2. The hydrolysate is in a green can and has been altered in such a way that the particle size is made smaller so it is easily mixed with liquid and is more bioavailable. The gelatin in the orange can is straight up gelatin to make jello and such and does not mix easily in liquids…

  7. You might need more protein if:
    “I’ll almost salivate at the smell of a cooking steak.”

    Do you mean to say that you don’t literally salivate at the smell of a cooking steak? I am literally salivating at the thought of the smell of a cooking steak. I guess that means I should go get some protein!

    1. “I am literally salivating at the thought of the smell of a cooking steak”

      I am literally salivating at you saying “salivating”!

      I wonder if that’s one of those words like “yawn” that you can’t read without your body mimicking the action, hehe.

  8. I found that thinning hair is another big sign of aminoacid deficiency. I rarely see a vegan with strong shiny hair.
    One quetion about gelatine supplement (great lakes brand): does it always creates crazy gas?

    1. In my experience, yes. I finally had to pitch an almost full container of the stuff because no matter how little I took my system just couldn’t seem to accommodate it.

    2. If you want to see malnourished children in the first world, there are main two places: the children of the poor who have on a carb rich diet and the children of vegans and occasionally vegetarians. Limp thin hair, tired and sick much of the time, and the boys in particular tend to have social issues. I suspect males are more finally tuned to process animal food stuffs. Women apparently have easier time extracting nutrients from plants, which explains why we seems to be the Insisters of Vegetables.

      1. Or having more testosterone in your system means you respond more violently to poor nutrition than a female would. We’re not two different species, fer cryin out loud.

        Women do have more glucose needs for lactation, and there may be some requirement for additional carbs during pregnancy (though let’s not get stupid with it, that’s how you wind up with an excessively large baby and the related labor problems), but if you’re not lactating or pregnant? Just make sure you’re getting sufficient iron. How? Oh, I know! Eat red meat!

  9. I started making Bone Broth about 2 months ago on the advice on my Naturopathic Doctor. She also recommended that I read the ‘Autoimmune-Paleo’ diet, since I have other medical conditions. Anyway, bone broth is absolutely fabulous & tasty! Am trying to get in 2 cups per day. Makes me satiated almost immediately and the flavor is phenomenal (since I add my favorite vegetables & spices). Having a cup right now, before breakfast; won’t need to eat for awhile yet. Yum-Scrilly-Ishus!

  10. You have a bevy of followers, some should not over-indulge in protein. Organ transplant people can have kidney failure if they over do it. People should have blood tests done to make sure their kidneys can stand it and get advice on how much protein to intake. As a 17 year survivor of heart transplant, I am well up on my food. I have had to not eat high potassium foods for a bit and now can go back on the luscious greens and beans. But the transplant team require me to have a blood test monthly. I am down to 1/2 tablet of the diabetic oral medication, which makes me feel in charge. Thanks for your articles.

    1. As a diabetic, I limit how much protein I consume at any one time because too much will raise my blood sugar and keep it there for longer than I like.

      1. I’m diabetic too. Can you tell me how much protein you eat a day?
        I find if I keep the fat at meals low I’m much better off. I also can eat a lot more protein at lunch and dinner without effect but NOT at breakfast. I eat about 60g day. 7 at BF, 20-25 lunch and 25-30 at dinner. Snacks are low carb & protein and higher fat.

        1. Yes, the issue with protein is your body’s ability to be transformed to glucose and mess with your blood sugar. High fat is also satiating and more so if you’re diabetic. Truthfully, the whole protein is satiating meme strikes me as a way to avoid that the idea that the fat almost always consumed is what suppresses your appetite. If you’d like to be hungry an hour later, eat a boneless, skinless chicken breast. 🙁

          1. Yes, I always look askance at that “protein is the most satiating macronutrient” too. I’d say it’s mid-range. Fat intake actually causes the release of a chemical from your small intestines that induces a satiety response. I’m unclear whether we can say the same about protein.

        2. I do fine with fat, about 70 grams a day starting with bulletproof coffee in the morning. I try to stay below 50 grams of protein a day, and never go beyond 20 grams of carb a day, with no carbs at all after 3 p.m. and not a lot of protein that late, either. I’ve dropped my morning reading from 110 to 83 and my A1C to 5.1 on what I eat. No drugs. I’m never hungry. I’m just the opposite, breakfast is my wonderful meal, but I usually don’t eat it until 10:00.

  11. Ahh, the post-surgical meat craves. Last year I had a full laparotomy, and after the first two days post-op of liquid diet only, I nearly went murderous at the smell of blood sausage. After I was sent home, I literally had blood sausage with every meals for 3 days.
    When it was time to go back to the hospital for my check up and to remove the stitches, the doctor was surprised at how healthy I looked – most of the time, those of us with a week-old 16 cm incision in our bellies are dreadfully pale, and stil need help standing up from bed.

  12. Thank you thank you for saying elderly can build muscle.I’m 71 I went for a physical, stress test found two blocked art. a hole from birth and a M valve leaking 45%! surgery the next day. 4 weeks later i was well on my way to feeling 40. Then I wanted to really get in shape but no one could say it could happen. I’ve always stayed trim but LGN was the goal. There is nothing more frightening than a naked 70 year old man! I have been a fan for a few years I’ll keep you informed of my progress.GROK ON

  13. My mother made her oxtail soup often because the joints (if not the joint meat) were always inexpensive and added wonderful flavor to her broth, soups, and stews.

  14. Great list there. We always think of protein in building and repairing muscle but it’s amazing how it is actually in every cell in our body and makes up most everything in us along with how many functions it is involved in.

    There’s always confusion over protein requirements but going with a palm size and width with each meal I find a no fuss way to get what is required in relation to your body size. And bumping it up to two palm sized portions if you are looking to gain muscle and participate in vigorous activity

  15. I have never once had gas from Great Lakes gelatin powder and I’d many times have it morning and night…In my mind it is a very good product. Get the hydrolyzed version that easily dissolves in liquid.

    1. Unless you mix it (orange can) with your coffee with butter, coconut oil, pure cacao powder and an egg…. mixes well. However, don’t let it sit for too long or you’ll get a bit of a “skin” on the top.
      I buy it from the company in a big box of many. Almost ready to order more.

  16. Nothing beats an article that validates what you are already doing.
    Nearly two month ago, I suffered a metatarsal stress fracture after running barefoot (5K on the sidewalk plus a fast 100m sprint at the end). I swear that I didn’t feel any pain at the time. Go figure, since it obviously wasn’t my 1st run. Anyways, my 1st step the day after, was to cook a large pot of bone marrow & cartilage broth, up my Omega 3 supplements and my protein intake. It still took me until now to recover, but it was less painful and didn’t swell at all, in compare to a similar fracture I endure back when I was a wet behind the ears Paratrooper (I’m 57 now). On the other hand, I am eating better now then what we were given in the Army, so I am sure it had a positive effect. And hopefully, I resume my running in about a week but with my minimalist shoes for now (-:

    That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.
    – Friedrich Nietzche

    1. Marcello Rios is a former no 1 tennis player and looks very Amerindian. Also widely considered a tennis genius. There are obviously plenty of South American tennis players, but he is the most Amerindian looking (nicknamed El Chino). His wikipedia is definitely worth reading. He was widely despised. This is my favorite line: In a confusing incident, he ran over his physical trainer, Manuel Astorga, with his jeep, leaving him gravely injured at the foot. Astorga was later fired as trainer.

  17. Thats for this. The article has reminded me I need to think about protein post surgery (major surgery in about 7 weeks), and from the comments ive gone and ordered some great lakes gelatin powder. Does anyone know of anything similar being made in the UK or at least Europe?

    I think when I next go to the abattoir I’ll have to see if they can do me some ox tail. At the moment ive mostly been consumjng chicken broth.

  18. Mark! You forgot the pregnant ladies. They need more protein than the average lady.

    But I guess pregnancy isn’t a symptom… more a condition… but! You did include surgery, so I thought it should be mentioned.

  19. Its interesting how I’ve started craving more protein and been able to eat more of it after I’ve started lifting heavy. I think its a healthy sign that my brain is asking for more of it to build muscle.

  20. I’m curious about the opposite of craving meat — what if it absolutely repels you? I go through fairly regular phases where even the thought of meat makes me gag. I seem to have a strong disgust reflex, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    I just don’t understand why this happens to me so frequently, and it’s frustrating because I really need more protein. But even in my “meat is okay” phases, I can’t seem to make myself eat more than 3-4 ounces of meat a day, plus an egg or two.
    (I think the blood type diet is kinda nuts, but it is interesting that my type is the “vegetarian” type, according to my naturopath.)

    1. Juanita, I used to be like that– I always said I didn’t have a protein tooth. But my health was suffering, & I was determined to try getting more protein. At first I did a lot of whey isolate & gelatin in greek yogurt, & I still have that with breakfast most days. I also find fish is more palatable than meat most of the time, & I can actually get by on fish, yogurt & eggs pretty well. Beef is easier to tolerate if it is ground or corned, & I still have trouble with steak & most pork. But oddly I have grown to love chicken liver, & I swear it’s my body making the decision because it is so gross to handle & smells very odd cooking, & at first it really did disgust me, but now I seem to crave it every couple of weeks. I have Celiac Disease so I need to cook my own, but if I were you I’d try a commercially-prepared pâté first. But it is definitely not an entry-level meat!

    2. Yes! I’m a responsible paleo eater (and ketogenic to boot), but would happily go the rest of my life without meat if I thought my health would remain intact. I’ve never liked meat much and have to make myself eat it. During both pregnancies meat made me very nauseated. Sadly, eating a nearly vegetarian diet also made me sugar crazy, arthritic in my thirties and 35 pounds heavier.

      Eating ketogenic actually limits the amount of protein I eat in order to reduce blood glucose, so if I added an “extra” 20 grams at each meal I’d be more than doubling my protein intake for the day (I’m small-ish, and not massively active). From experience I know that this would make me uncomfortably full, and my glucose would shoot up.

    3. About a decade or so ago I was checking out various books about diet and I read the blood type diet stuff. Type A is *not* the vegetarian blood type. It is the blood type *best suited* to going vegetarian. If I remember correctly it’s the one type that can consume soy. But chicken and certain fishes are recommended for that blood type group, too. Not saying I believe in that stuff, though I’d love to see more research on how blood type antigen in the GI tract might relate to food intolerances (and I don’t think anyone’s really addressed that yet), but just FYI.

  21. Ok. So I was just trying to cut down my meat intake recently because I thought I was eating much. Which is it? I give up…..*sigh*. Thanks for the post, though.

    1. Oh my, just eat meat until you think, ew, this isn’t good, I want some……usually its some veggies…..
      That’s what I do, but then I try to round out my protein (meats) with eggs, nuts, cheese, etc so it’s all good.
      Tonight we had chicken breast pounded down to FLAT, schemered with cream cheese and bacon bits and green onion mixed in and baked in the oven. Oh yeeeeeeeah, that was good and not too much protein. A side of garden tomatoes and Viola a nice little dinner.

  22. Check out the work by Dr. Steffen Oesser and Michael Schunck at the University of Kiel, and now the Collagen Research Institute. They found that collagen hydrolysate stimulates the body to generate more extracellular cartilage matrix.

  23. Totally agree Jean! However, this article talks about 12 signs one needs to eat more protein. I have 5, possibly 6. In this instance a number is significant and necessary. Though if I already have 5 signs I need to eat more protein, 6 (age) may not even matter. Probably just ought to eat more protein!

  24. Is there a gelatin supplement I can take? tried the bone broth.. Did not like it. Any suggestions.

    1. See above mentions of Great Lakes Gelatin and Great Lakes Collagen Hydrosolylate.

  25. Adding protein along with plenty of fat to my diet seems to have helped a lot with my “chronic cardio” tendencies, aka marathon training/running. Protein alone though doesn’t seem like the right thing to focus on. Our society is protein obsessed and not in a healthy way.

    1. Saying we are protein obsessed implies we’re getting too much protein. We as a society are (in my opinion) much more obsessed with the macronutrient we can most afford and that’s processed carbs. For me protein is satiating to the point we we don’t over indulge and it is the most expensive of the three macs so we don’t over buy.

      1. The fact that protein powders are popular and big cereal brands advertise protein on their labels is a sign to me we are focusing on protein. I definitely think we eat too many quick carbs and “whole grains” but protein is really trendy now too. I don’t see big brands advertising high fat on their labels.

        1. I think you nailed the problem exactly…

          it is the WRONG proteins people are focusing on – and so sad at the ignorance over so much of this –

  26. I’m all on board trying to get more protein in, but the satiety thing makes it more difficult. Assuming that you can only absorb 30 grams in 3 hours, which is something I believe I’ve read here before, I find myself needing to add more meals or snacks at hours I don’t really feel like eating to get it all in.

  27. What about good quality sausages. I get them from a local butcher who uses good ingredients.

    I’m wondering if they have all the non-muscle bits that are good for me.


    1. I think the same is true of good quality mince, will contain all the connective tissues and gristly bits too. Plus for stews, I don’t trim meat, all the stringy bits, any skin goes in too, and always try to cook the meat on the bone

  28. What about people who are chronically cold? I know a few women who are cold all the time (they are mostly vegetarians).

    1. Get them to have a look at ayurvedic eating patterns. It is generally not eating the right foods for your body constitution. Lots of veges/fruits are very cooling to the body – the things you need to eat also depends on your local climate – cold, damp, dry or warm. Things like spices, warm water, vege broths all help.

      1. Every single Hindu woman I’ve ever worked with always complained about freezing when even they would eat heavily spiced Indian foods (which were all quite delicious, but all vegetarian) and it was 70 degrees outside.

      2. This makes me go Hmmmmmm. I HATE being cold which is mostly at temps below 74, however, I’m cold at 77 to 80 if the AC is blowing on me. I get headaches and will pass out at 68 to 73 if there is a blowing AC on my face, RRRRRR.
        Most office buildings will keep a comfortable temp of 68, but for those of us who are comfortable at 80, well that is WAY too cold.
        I have tried increasing my fat consumption, increasing my protein, wearing thick clothing and all is no good if there is a fan blowing on me. My only saving was going thru menopause and having hot flashes – so enjoyed them!!! However, that’s all past and I just want to be WARM while I work.
        I will look up the ayurvedic eating and see what it says.

    2. Get the thyroid checked and don’t settle for TSH. That might come back abnormal and it might not. T3, T4, TPO and (I think it’s called) reverse T3. Good luck finding a non-endocrinologist doc who will check those though. Might be better off getting the labs yourself through one of the online services. They keep a doc on staff to approve the tests but you usually still have to pay out of pocket.

  29. ohhhhhhhh = great post – and I have to admit that this is actually one of the best tips I first got from the primal resources – because one of the first things that I learned here was that “not all protein is created equal” – and how eating the right protein can can leave us more satisfied.

    And how I have learned how to make some easy egg dishes that are dense and packed with satisfying nutrients…. and mmm mmm mmm

    anyhow, found this really interesting:
    “there’s evidence to suggest that you don’t need to eliminate, or even reduce your methionine/muscle meat intake as long as you balance it out with another type of animal protein: gelatin.”


  30. IMO, protein over-consumption is more popular than under-consumption in the Primal community. People forget to add in fat and substitute protein instead.

    I’ve heard tons of guys in the gym talking about how much protein they eat per day, how much protein is in their powders etc.. never hear a guy talking about how much fat he’s eating!

  31. Been buying Great Lakes gelatin. Hydrolysate works well for sprinkling on random dishes and stirring into a protein shake (it doesn’t clump or have any significant flavor). Regular for when I want to thicken soups and sauces. It adds that rich mouth-feel you get from slow-cooked, glutinous meats. I don’t always have time for things like oxtail soup, but this is not a bad alternative.

  32. This was a nice post for me, I always wonder if I’m eating enough/too much protein. Seems as tho I may have it dialed in ok, however, I do think that I should add the Great Lakes in more often. I keep thinking about making bone broth but that doesn’t seem to PRODUCE any, need to buy the bones and climb up on that tall chair and retrieve the crock pot that my husband “put away” up on top of the cabinets instead of where it goes. Eye roll inserted here.
    Mostly I’m interested in having the collagen fill in all the lines on my face, how did THOSE get THERE !!!! I’m certainly not old enough for them, duh.
    Thanks Mark for this post, right when I needed it.

  33. Today for most of the day, I subsisted off vegan protein and wow, I could just TELL I needed animal protein. My thinking was cloudy, I had a headache and I was so lethargic! I will never eat just vegan protein again!

  34. hello does everyone know if the meat is okay if it is frizzled?
    i search on this web and many web but who does know…..

  35. When I worked in the burns unit (24 years ago), we had most patients sitting on somewhere around a 25,000 calorie intake, the greater proportion being protein. We had an interesting (but sad) comparison for the effects of poor diet on healing. Two guys, both similar ages (24 & 21) had similar burns (both full legs, some arms, neither full thickness following the initial incident). One young man (24) had his mum (Italian mum) ask what should she feed him? High protein was the answer and by God was he in deep trouble if he did not! Lol! The other guy refused to eat what he needed, and had mummy & daddy (yep, at 21!) get cranky and complain when we tried to make him eat what he should (plus tubes, plus IV…it’s hard work to consume that much!). Needless to say guy 1 healed well with not too many problems and no skin grafting, while guy 2 refused everything, had multiple skin gifts and ended up refusing to move in physio as well, and had flexion contractures in both arms. Crippling for life! I have forever been VERY aware of the effects of protein in healing! Interesting but sad. I often think on how both those guys are going.

  36. How much more protein should an “elderly” person, 75 years old, eat compared to my younger self with the same amount of activity? 10% more, 20%, 30%. Just saying “more” isn’t very helpful.

    1. Milt, you said: “How much more protein should an “elderly” person, 75 years old, eat compared to my younger self with the same amount of activity?”

      Current recommendations for protein intake are 0.8 g/kg of body weight for adults to healthy and frail elderly, which amount, sometimes called the “safe” protein intake, is based on what is required for nitrogen balance. In contrast, “habitual” protein intake, the amount that people naturally tend to consume, is about 1.0 g/kg of body weight. Many nutritionist consider that the recommended “safe” protein intake to be inadequate to cope with health reversals and suggest that the habitual intake of 1.0 g/kg body weight is a more appropriate target. The following study is one that recommends higher protein intake for the elderly.

      Protein turnover requirements in the healthy and frail elderly: Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, QC, Canada, 2006

      “We reviewed the relevance of the new 2002 recommended protein intake of 0.80 g/kg body weight.d for adults to healthy and frail elderly persons. We found that data from published nitrogen balance studies indicate that, a higher protein intake of 1.0 – 1.3 g/k.d is required to maintain nitrogen balance in the healthy elderly, which may be explained by their lower energy intake and impaired insulin action during feeding compared with young persons. PMID: 16886097”

      I am going on eighty years old and in good health. Based on what I have read, I try to get about 1.2 g/kg of protein which equates to 84 g/day for my 70 kg body weight.

      1. Thanks for the information! A more recent study I found out about today is the PROT AGE study reported last year: pubmed #23867520, which recommends at least 1.2 to 1.5 g/kg/d for a senior who is exercising. For me that would be a little over 100 grams per day at 1.5 g/kg.
        I have started doing High Intensity Resistance Training per Dr. Doug McGuff and can certainly use the protein. I highly recommend his book “Body by Science.”
        Health and happiness.

  37. Since I’ve been on my primal diet my hair has started to really grow, even my hairdresser remarks on how much it grows. A friend also says my hair is very shinny. My nails also grow quite quickly. I certainly eat more protein than I did before plus more fat. I’ve worked out what seems to satisfy me. I’m 71 so hopefully I’m getting it right. As for oxtail, my butcher sells oxtails (I’m in the UK) and I made a very tasty stew in the slow cooker. When I have a roast chicken I always cook up the carcass on top of the stove with water,salt, pepper & herbs, take off as much chicken as possible and add various veg, cook a bit more then liquidize. Delicious.

  38. This is a really helpful article. I understand a lot more about myself than I did before reading. I’ve had the experience of being a constantly hungry vegan who dreamed vividly about steak, and actually interpreted that dream correctly as a need for more protein (I did go back to animal protein sources). I was unaware of the stress connection – stress has been a major force for a large part of my life. What I’ve discovered is that I do much better with more protein in my diet, and less fast carbs. Now I understand why. At this point I think it will be worth investing in some good gelatin and using it in place of whey protein when I want an unflavored protein source. I also appreciate knowing that one should have gelatin as part of one’s diet when eating muscle meat. I never realized how complicated/complex nutrition can be.

  39. What about eating some sugar free jello from time to time to get your gelatin, would that work?? …not looking for a lecture on how bad sugar substitutes are just asking if it’s the same gelatin. 😉

  40. I enjoyed this article. I lost 110 lbs on a Lc hi protein diet in 2007-8, getting down to Size 6-8. Had major lifestyle changes and setbacks along with a lot of health problems, including quick onset menopause. Now, at 49, I’m having a hard time. Osteoarthritis in knees and ankles, torn MCL, gallbladder removal, etc. etc. and I’ve gained 20lbs/year for the past 5 years. Trying to get back on track and get this weight off to be healthy again. Tis article once again reminded me of what I used to do. I’m now in PT which is helping me to learn new exercises for my age, but it’s working out a new dietary regimen that I’m struggling with. Maybe just back to the basics that I did before….I also salivated when you mentioned a good steak! LOL

  41. Great post. I think I eat a lot of protein, but I could probably use a bit more. Actually I should probably be eating more than I usually do.

    Also, off topic, but looking at the picture, I’m reminded of Attack on Titan XD

  42. Well I am a textbook illustration at this point in my life. 58 year old female , living on mostly raw vegan high carb quaziness with Chronic Cardio. I have had 2 former back surgeries before this recent (9/16) spinal fusion. I cannot deny or submerge my wanting, craving or whatever you want to call it, for fish ( sardines in particular) My back actually felt better today after Sardines and vegies. This article had my namd on it!

  43. I just recently had some really unpleasant and extensive dental surgery involving tooth removal and bone implantation, among other procedures. Results of a childhood accident that needed correction.

    I’ll be on a “soft diet” for the next six weeks or so. Interestingly the doctor’s instructions for recovery were very specific about protein and to avoid the natural tendency to want to subsist on applesauce, mash potatoes and ice cream when faced with long term difficulty chewing.

    His written instructions specifically emphasize the need for protein to promote and speed the bone and muscle healing. It’s makes complete sense, but I have never seen or heard of a regular medical professional sharing such specific nutritional guidance, particularly when it comes to increasing protein.

  44. Regarding the use of UC-II for joint pain, any suggestions on brand or type? I’ve seen undenatured type 2 collagen, and I’ve seen undenatured type 2 bovine collagen, etc. I read the study but got lost in all the terminology

  45. Tired, aching muscles can be asking for protein, especially after physical exertion.

  46. HI MARK!

  47. So glad to read this. i am recovering from surgery for a broken femur. I will be sure to eat lots of protein and supplement with collagen. Thanks

  48. achy joints is quite often a sign of inflammation which is often due to large intakes of animal protein. so one common way to improve that is increase plant protein and reduce animal protein