Will You Lose Muscle if You Don’t Eat Enough Protein?

Having a healthy diet is crucial for preventing diseases, and a healthy diet is composed of all food groups. So, a healthy diet provides you with carbs, fats, and proteins (1). 

Have you ever wondered what could happen if you do not eat enough protein? Well, in this brief article we will answer the query “Will You Lose Muscle if You Don’t Eat Enough Protein?”

Additionally, this article also presents other consequences of not eating enough protein. Finally, you will have a brief guide on how much protein you should eat, and what foods are rich in protein.

Will You Lose Muscle if You Don’t Eat Enough Protein?

Yes, losing muscle mass is one of the main signs that you are not eating enough protein in your diet. Your body needs protein to make a lot of functions like creating enzymes, hormones, and even immune cells (2). 

Muscles are the main storage of proteins in your body. So, if you don’t provide your body with proteins with your diet, your body will take this precious nutrient from your muscles to keep you alive (2).

What is Protein, and Why is it Important for You?

Protein is a macronutrient which contains nitrogen; proteins are composed of many amino acids linked to each other. Your body requires 20 amino acids, 10 of them are non-essential because your body can create them through metabolic pathways (2,3).

However, there are other 10 amino acids that your body can’t synthesize, and you must consume them in your food. These 10 amino acids are known as essential amino acids (2).

In the following table, you can find a summary of which are non-essential and which are essential.

Essential amino acids Non-essential amino acids

Adapted from Wu (3). * Conditional amino acids, it is only essential in children.

Proteins and amino acids are important for your body because they are the building blocks of several structures like organs or muscles (2). 

Amino acids are also essential for creating hormones, neurotransmitters, and even other proteins known as enzymes used by your metabolism and digestion of foods (2).

Moreover, your immune system also needs protein to create immune cells and fight against viruses and bacteria (2).

What Are Other Consequences of Not Eating Enough Protein?

Due to the broad spectrum of roles that protein has in your body, other consequences of not eating enough protein are (4):

  • Immunological suppression and susceptibility to get ill
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Limited growth in children
  • Chronic protein malnutrition can lead to metabolic failure and possible death

How Much Protein Should You Eat a Day?

The recommended intake of protein a day is around 0.8 to 1.2 g/kg. So, if you weigh 70 kg, you should be eating 56 to 84 g of protein daily (5). If you are not sure if you are fulfilling your requirements, check out this page with the protein content of different foods.

Remember that you should consider asking for professional advice with a nutrition specialist; he or she will determine your exact protein requirements, and provide you with the most suitable diet for you.

What Foods are Rich in Protein?

All meats including chicken, turkey, beef, pork, and fish are excellent sources of high quality proteins (those with all essential amino acids). Other foods rich in protein are eggs and dairy products (6).

You can find proteins in legumes like lentils, peas, chickpeas, and beans. Unfortunately, legumes do not have all essential amino acids, they lack Methionine. However, you can combine legumes with cereals; cereals have Methionine and can complement legumes protein (6).


This brief article answered the query “Will You Lose Muscle if You Don’t Eat Enough Protein?”. Additionally, this article also presented other consequences of not eating enough protein. Finally, you had a brief guide on how much protein you should eat, and what foods are rich in protein.


Cena H, Calder PC. Defining a healthy diet: Evidence for the role of contemporary dietary patterns in health and disease. Nutrients, 2020;12(2):334.

Olson B, Marks DL, Grossberg AJ. Diverging metabolic programmes and behaviours during states of starvation, protein malnutrition, and cachexia. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle, 2020;11(6):1429–46.

Wu G. Amino acids: metabolism, functions, and nutrition. Amino acids, 2009, 37, 1-17.

Mohapatra S, Gangadharan K, Pitchumoni CS. Malnutrition in obesity before and after bariatric surgery. Disease-a-month, 2020;66(2):100866.

Huecker M, Sarav M, Pearlman M, Laster J. Protein supplementation in sport: Source, timing, and intended benefits. Curr Nutr Rep, 2019;8(4):382–96.

Day L. Proteins from land plants – Potential resources for human nutrition and food security. Trends Food Sci Technol, 2013;32(1):25–42.