There’s a big difference between marijuana and hemp. Though they’re both green and come from the same species of cannabis plant, the former contains high levels of the psychoactive substance, THC. The latter contains little to no THC, and as such, has no recreational value.
Hemp is a sustainable, renewable source of oil, fibre and food. Its nutrient-rich seeds, full of amino acids and enzymes, are an ideal form of plant-based protein.
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From Whole Seed to Powder
Hemp protein powder is made by hulling and grinding the tiny seeds of the hemp plant. These nutty-tasting seeds are rich in oil, enzymes and protein, making them suitable for vegetarians, vegans or individuals who can’t tolerate dairy products.
Though the seeds can be consumed whole, grinding them into powder makes them easier to mix and digest – they’re very small and difficult to chew thoroughly – and powdered hemp seed can be added to shakes, smoothies, recipes, and just like any other protein powder.
Hemp Protein for Muscle Building
If you’re wondering – “is hemp protein good for muscle building” – then you’ll be pleased to know that it sure is! Hemp protein powders contain a complete amino acid profile — it contains all essential muscle building amino acids, including BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), which increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis and help prevent catabolism (the loss of muscle tissue).
And anyone who knows anything about bodybuilding nutrition knows how essential these aminos are to getting bigger muscles.
Hemp Protein Powder vs Whey
When compared to whey protein – often considered the “gold standard” of protein supplements – hemp’s amino acid profile does fall a bit short on tryptophan, leucine and lysine. However, this plant-based protein source has myriad other benefits, such as containing high levels of delta-tocopherol, a powerful antioxidant… And there are several other benefits which I’ll get into shortly.
Looking at the nutritional profile of hemp and whey isolate there are some obvious differences.
1 (25g) scoop of Hemp protein powder contains around 15g of protein. Compare the same 25g to a scoop of whey isolate powder and you get around 30g of protein. A considerable difference, which would mean that you may need to double up on scoops of hemp when making a protein shake.
Hemp powder may be more suited to a bulking phase because it contains considerably more calories, fats and carbohydrates compared to whey isolate powder.
Whey Isolate Vs Hemp per 100g
|Whey Protein||Hemp Protein|
Don’t Panic, It’s Organic
Most of the hemp protein powder available today comes from organically grown plants, which means that no nasty pesticides, herbicides or other toxic chemicals were applied during the growing process. But if you can’t find certified organic hemp protein, chances are still good that the plants it came from were, at worst, minimally treated with chemicals. Hemp is an extremely hardy plant that generally requires no artificial inputs to thrive.
Rich in Essential Fatty Acids
Unlike other supplemental protein powders, hemp – being made from the seed of a plant – is an excellent source of EFAs (essential fatty acids). They’re called “essential” because they’re necessary for maintaining overall health, but must be acquired through diet – the body doesn’t produce them on its own.
EFAs play a role in forming healthy cell membranes, producing hormones, improving cognition, regulating blood pressure, transporting and breaking down cholesterol, maintaining healthy skin and hair, supporting the thyroid and adrenal glands, and reducing inflammation.
Supplementing with hemp protein at breakfast or as part of your first meal would be a great way to set yourself up with those essential healthy fats.
Hemp Protein Fiber Benefits
Most protein powders provide very little in the way of dietary fibre. Hemp protein contains over ten percent fibre – approximately 4 grams per ounce. Men require between 30 and 38 grams of fibre each day. Women need between 21 and 25 grams daily. The fibre found in hemp confers myriad benefits, including regular bowel movements, a reduced risk of bowel-related health concerns, lower cholesterol levels, better weight management and a potentially lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Easy On the Stomach
Hemp protein contains albumin and edestin. Both are classified as “globular proteins”. Spherical and somewhat water-soluble, this type of protein is easily digested.
In addition to its easy digestibility, edestin helps promote muscle development. Hemp protein is also free of oligosaccharides, substances which can cause gas and stomach upset. Soy – another popular plant-based protein – may have more amino acids per given serving than hemp, but contains oligosaccharides and enzyme-inhibitors, which make it harder for the body to break down.
Fuels Your Workout
As I’ve already mentioned, Hemp seeds are rich in protein and fat, but also contain carbohydrates – not a quantity sufficient to qualify hemp protein powder as a complete meal replacement, but worth mentioning, especially when compared animal-based proteins, which contain virtually no carbs.
And a 2008 study published in the Journal of Hygiene Research showed that hemp seed protein improved swimming speed and decreased blood levels of lactic acid, suggesting that hemp may improve performance and stave off muscle fatigue. Furthermore, hemp proteins’ high levels of GLA (gamma linoleic acid) and alpha, beta and gamma globulins can boost immunity while promoting the formation of new tissue, which can help curtail the unwanted effects of physical overexertion.
Good For You + the Environment
The hemp plant is incredibly good at sequestering carbon. That means that large-scale hemp-growing operations can help mitigate the climate-changing effects of carbon dioxide. And, as mentioned above, hemp can be grown with few to no chemical inputs.
It’s also drought-resistant, thrives in many environments and reduces soil erosion, not only making the production of hemp protein far less resource-intensive than that of other supplemental proteins, but actually beneficial to the ecosystem.
Hemp protein tastes great, comes from a sustainable, earth-friendly plant, is virtually guaranteed to be free of harmful chemical residues, is high in fibre, rich in protein and essential fatty acids, and helps you build muscle.
If you want a healthy alternative to soy protein, or a vegan option amidst a sea of egg, whey and beef protein powders, or simply want to add some variety to your diet, give hemp a try.