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Protein powders are popular nutritional supplements used by athletes, bodybuilders and those trying to gain weight or increase muscle mass.
Hemp protein powder is one of the more popular varieties, made by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder.
It has an earthy, nutty taste and is often added to shakes or smoothies to boost protein intake.
Hemp is a high-quality vegan protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, plus fiber, healthy fats and minerals.
This article reviews the pros and cons of hemp protein powder and determines whether it’s the best plant-based protein powder available.
Hemp is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food.
However, research is mixed on the exact amounts of these amino acids it contains.
One study found that the amino acid profile of hemp protein is similar to egg whites and soy, which are both high-quality protein sources (1).
However, other studies have shown that hemp has relatively low levels of the essential amino acid lysine, making it a poorer quality option for that nutrient (
A 1/4-cup (30-gram) serving of hemp protein powder contains around 120 calories and 15 grams of protein, depending on the brand (4, 5).
That’s less protein per serving than soy or pea protein powders, which are more highly refined and contain up to 90% protein (6).
However, for those who prefer less processed protein sources, hemp is a good choice.
Hemp protein is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, but more research is needed on its quality. Each 1/4-cup (30-gram) serving contains 15 grams of protein.
In general, animal proteins are more easily digested than plant proteins, but research shows that 91–98% of the protein in ground hemp seed is digestible (
This means that your body can use almost all of the amino acids in hemp protein powder for important bodily functions, such as repair and maintenance.
Researchers believe that hemp is so easy to digest because it contains the proteins edestin and albumin, which your body can break down quickly (
However, other studies that judge proteins based on both digestibility and amino acid content consider hemp protein to be of moderate quality — roughly on par with lentils (
Research has found that heat processing can reduce the digestibility of hemp protein by about 10%, so look for hemp protein powders made from cold-pressed seeds (
Hemp protein is very easy to digest, but look for cold-pressed hemp protein for the highest quality.
High-fiber diets have been linked to many health benefits, including improved blood sugar, healthier gut bacteria and a reduced risk of bowel cancer (
Women and men should consume 25 grams and 38 grams of fiber per day respectively, but studies show that less than 5% of American adults meet these recommendations (
High-fiber foods, such as hemp protein, can help bridge this gap.
Hemp protein powders can contain different amounts of fiber depending on whether they were made from hulled or unhulled hemp seeds and whether additional fiber was added.
Most hemp protein powders contain 7–8 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup (30 grams) and provide 18–28% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber for men and women respectively (4, 5).
In comparison, other plant-based protein powders such as soy, pea and rice are highly refined and contain very little fiber (6,
Hemp protein powder is a great way to add both protein and fiber to your diet, which may keep you feeling fuller, longer (
Hemp protein powder is a good source of fiber, containing 8 grams per serving — much more than most other plant-based protein powders.
Hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds that have been pressed to remove their oils, but it still contains roughly 10% of the original fat content (
A 1/4-cup (30-gram) serving has around 3 grams of fat, most of which is unsaturated and excellent for heart health (4, 5,
Additionally, hemp seeds contain an ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (18,
A typical Western diet provides an unbalanced 15:1 ratio of these fats, and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer (
Consuming foods such as hemp seeds, which have lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, can help correct this imbalance and may improve heart health (
Since hemp protein powder is less refined than other protein isolates, it contains more fat than most protein powders.
This fat content can be good for people who want to add more heart-healthy unsaturated fats to their diet but may be undesirable for those seeking a lower-calorie protein powder.
Since hemp protein powder contains fat, it should be stored in the refrigerator after opening to prevent the fats from going rancid.
Hemp protein powder contains omega-6 and omega-3 fats in an ideal 3:1 ratio that promotes heart health, but it’s slightly higher in calories because of it.
Hemp seeds are an incredibly rich source of minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc and copper (
To date, no research has investigated how processing the seeds into protein powder affects the levels of these nutrients.
However, the nutrition fact labels on many hemp protein products indicate that they contain up to 80% of the RDI for magnesium and 52% for iron per serving (22).
What’s more, hemp seeds contain compounds called lignanamides which have strong antioxidant properties (
Antioxidants protect your body from oxidative damage, which has been linked to chronic illnesses including heart disease and diabetes, so eating foods that contain antioxidants is good for your health (
Hemp protein powder is a good source of antioxidants and minerals, especially magnesium and iron, which benefits your health.
Hemp protein powder is brownish-green in color and has a taste that can be described as earthy, nutty or grassy.
While many people enjoy the taste of hemp protein powder, others find it too strong.
It’s worth trying a small amount of hemp protein to see if you enjoy it before buying it in bulk.
Since hemp protein is less refined than other types of protein powders, it’s slightly grittier in texture.
It blends well with smoothies and shakes, but can be sandy when stirred with water.
Hemp protein powder has an earthy taste that many people enjoy. It’s best consumed blended with other ingredients, since it can have a grittier texture than other plant-based protein powders.
Adults need at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of bodyweight, every day (
For a 150-pound (68.2-kg) adult, this equates to 55 grams of protein per day.
However, people who exercise need more protein to maintain their muscle mass.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that regular exercisers eat 0.64–0.9 grams per pound (1.4–2.0 grams per kg) of bodyweight, per day (
People who do resistance training while cutting calories, such as bodybuilders and fitness competitors, may need up to 1.4 grams per pound (3.1 grams per kg) of bodyweight (
Athletes should consume protein within two hours after exercise for maximum recovery benefits. Doses of 5–7 tablespoons of hemp protein powder are most effective for muscle building (
While whole foods should make up the bulk of the protein in your diet, supplementing with protein powder can be a good additional protein source.
Hemp protein powder can be a useful additional protein source, especially for athletes. 5–7 tablespoons provides the ideal amount of protein for exercise recovery.
While hemp protein powder is safe for most people, there can be potential side effects.
Since hemp protein contains relatively high amounts of fiber, some people may experience gas, bloating or diarrhea if they consume too much too quickly.
Additionally, those with allergies to hemp should avoid hemp protein powder (
A few animal studies suggest that hemp may be unsafe for pregnant or nursing women, people with anemia and those with poor immunity, but human studies are needed (
Though hemp is in the same plant family as marijuana, hemp seeds contain very little of the psychoactive compound THC. Research shows that eating up to 0.67 pounds or 300 grams of hulled hemp seeds per day does not interfere with urine drug tests (
Hemp is safe for most people, though it can cause digestive problems. It should be avoided by anyone with hemp allergies and certain medical conditions. This protein powder does not contain enough THC to affect drug test results.
Hemp protein powder is a complete protein that packs antioxidants, minerals, fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
It’s a good choice, especially for vegans, but may be less nutritious than other plant-based proteins such as soy.
While it’s generally safe, it can cause side effects or adverse reactions in some people.
More research is needed to determine the quality of hemp protein powder, but it is a good choice for those looking for a nutritious protein powder with fiber and healthy fats.