When you're trying to build muscle, eating frequently is recommended. However, while whey protein has its benefits, it shouldn't be the only source of nutrition, or protein, in your diet. Consult a dietitian to help you design a healthy meal plan that meets your health and fitness needs.
Benefits of Whey Protein
Whey comes from the liquid portion of curdled milk and is a by-product of cheese-making. It's considered a high-quality source of protein, and it's especially beneficial to those trying to build muscle, because it's rich in branch-chained amino acids, which are necessary for maintaining lean body mass and muscle energy stores. Taking whey protein before and after exercise may improve muscle performance, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Frequent but Balanced
While whey makes a good protein supplement choice, you do need to eat a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat for good health and muscle growth, too. Eating five to six small meals that contain all the macronutrients is ideal, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating mixed meals frequently supports lean body mass and helps maintain energy levels. If you limit your meals to whey protein only, your body may use the protein, or even worse your muscle, as a source of energy. Additionally, if you use whey as your only source of protein, you may miss out on essential nutrients from other sources of protein, such as the omega-3's in fatty fish like salmon.
Balancing the Protein
The NSCA advises that the maximum amount of protein you need is 0.9 gram per pound, or 162 grams for a 180-pound person, and that you should limit your protein from whey to 25 grams a day. Ideally, most of the protein in your diet should come from whole foods -- poultry, seafood, lean meat, beans, soy food, low-fat dairy products such as yogurt, nuts and seeds. Even grains and vegetables help you meet your protein needs.
Balanced Meals with Whey
Whether you're taking your protein before or after you workout, include some carbohydrates and fat for balance. For example, a healthy pre-workout meal with whey might include a bowl of oatmeal mixed with whey and topped with chopped walnuts. A post-workout meal might include whey protein blended with blueberries, kale and coconut milk. For muscle-building and to replenish energy stores, eat your post-workout meal within 30 minutes of completing your exercise.