Whichever way you look at it, protein is an essential macronutrient

We can’t produce it ourselves and yet we need it to stay healthy, strong, lean and long lived.

We can break down our existing muscle stores when times are hard but it’s far from an optimal approach.

But the reality is many of us lack enough good quality protein in our diet.

Here are 3 signs you need to increase your protein intake, courtesy of Marks Daily Apple:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

If any of those ring true for you then it’s time to increase your protein intake.