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Hemp protein powder stands out as a top-tier vegan protein powder source, boasting a rich blend of minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. It’s crafted by grinding pressed hemp seeds into a fine powder, retaining nutrients and an earthy flavor through a less intensive processing method than many other protein isolates. High-quality hemp protein powder may appeal to those who value a plant-based, nutrient-rich, and sustainable diet. 

Many fit folks conveniently incorporate the best hemp protein powder into their daily training routines by blending it into smoothies, which can help elevate their protein intake to reap the benefits of protein powder, like bolstered muscle development, expedited post-workout recovery, and weight management. 

Nevertheless, while hemp protein powder offers an array of health benefits, it may not suit every dietary preference or lifestyle. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I’ll delve into hemp protein powder benefits to help you decide if it suits your needs.

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

1. Hemp Is a Complete Protein

Hemp protein is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids (EAAs) that the body cannot produce by itself. EAAs are necessary1 for protein synthesis, muscle growth, wound healing, metabolism support, and mood regulation. Included in the EAAs are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are particularly important for muscle-building and recovery.

RELATED: EAA vs BCAA 

Hemp has relatively low levels of lysine2, important for the production of collagen, a protein that helps give structure to bones and skin. Therefore, it’s often mixed with pea protein or soy protein, plant-based protein powders higher in lysine, to provide a rich essential amino acid profile. 

An image of Sunwarrior hemp protein

Furthermore, hemp protein is high in arginine, a conditionally essential amino acid required for the synthesis of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule that relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow to the muscles, giving you an impressive pump. What’s more, increased nitric oxide production (arginine in particular) has been shown to help improve anaerobic and aerobic physical performance3

2. Provides Fiber

Hemp protein powder typically contains fiber, a carbohydrate most adults don’t consume enough of. Hemp seeds—from which hemp protein powder is derived—contain soluble and insoluble fiber. The grams of fiber still remaining in hemp protein powder vary depending on the brand.

Fiber aids in digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Moreover, it offers a feeling of fullness (or satiety), which can help with appetite control and weight loss4 by reducing caloric intake. Beyond its digestive benefits, dietary fiber is known to support heart health5 by helping to reduce cholesterol levels and manage blood sugar levels. 

RELATED: Best Fiber Supplements for Constipation

Although fiber is an important nutrient, you’ll want to avoid increasing your intake too quickly because this can lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating. If the hemp protein you choose is fiber-rich, consider gradually easing into a full serving size to allow your gut to adjust.

3. May Be Easier to Digest

Research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry6 indicates that 91 to 98% of ground hemp seed meal is digestible, which is comparable to casein protein (98%). Its superior digestibility means your body can actually absorb and utilize most of its amino acid content. Researchers believe that hemp is easily digested due to its high edestin content, the main type of protein in hemp seeds that’s easily broken down by the digestive enzymes.

An image of Evo Hemp protein

Furthermore, hemp is not a common allergen. For individuals who have allergies to milk or soy, hemp protein can be a suitable and better-tolerated alternative to whey, casein, or even soy protein powders. People with milk or soy allergies may find hemp protein easier to digest and less likely to trigger allergic reactions.

RELATED: Plant-Based Protein Powder vs Whey 

4. It’s Sustainable 

Plant-based diets are generally considered more sustainable than diets that rely on animal products. Vegan protein powders—such as hemp protein—may require less resources than animal products, preserve biodiversity, and have a lower environmental impact. 

RELATED: Plant-Based Meal Delivery

Hemp is known for its relatively low water requirements, adaptability to different climates and regions, and ability to grow with minimal pesticide use. This makes it a resource-efficient crop in comparison to the production of other plant and animal products. 

Additionally, hemp has a carbon-negative impact on the environment7. This means that hemp cultivation and utilization can help remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it produces. By reducing our carbon footprint, we can help slow rising temperatures due to global warming. 

5. It’s Rich in Minerals and Antioxidants

Hemp seeds are a good source of minerals8 such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium. These minerals are essential for bone health, nerve signaling, proper muscle function, and fluid balance in the body. 

An image of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah protein

Moreover, hemp seeds contain molecules with antioxidant activity, including tocopherols and lignan derivatives8. These compounds are considered beneficial because of their ability to combat harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which can cause cell damage in the body, potentially contributing to improved health. 

In particular, their antioxidant properties may be beneficial9 in combating inflammation and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. 

6. Contains Heart-Healthy Fats

Eighty percent of the fat content of hemp seeds is from polyunsaturated fats, omega-6, and omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels8. Because hemp powder is less refined than other protein isolates, it retains a higher fat content than most. 

Aside from cardiovascular benefits, the essential fatty acids remaining in hemp protein powder also supports cognitive function and brain development, reduces inflammation, and contributes to hormone regulation and a strong immune system. 

RELATED: Best Heart Healthy Meal Delivery

7. Taste

Many consumers approve of the earthy, nutty taste of hemp protein powder. The taste will vary slightly depending on the brand and how it’s processed, but the earthy and nutty characteristics are typically consistent. Those who do find the taste too strong often deem it more palatable when blended into the best protein shakes, mixed into oatmeal, or added to baked goods. 

An image of Nutiva hemp protein in oatmeal

RELATED: How Much Protein Is In Oatmeal?

Possible Hemp Protein Powder Side Effects

Hemp protein powder is generally safe, but may cause side effects for certain individuals. Due to the higher fiber content of hemp protein powder, some may experience gas, bloating, or diarrhea if they consume the full serving and aren’t accustomed to a high-fiber diet. 

RELATED: Does Protein Make You Poop?

Those with an allergy to hemp should avoid hemp protein powder. Allergic reactions to hemp can vary from mild symptoms like itchy eyes or a runny nose to more severe reactions.

Consult with your healthcare provider before using hemp protein powder if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you have an existing medical condition, as it may not be safe in these circumstances. 

Despite being derived from the hemp plant (cannabis sativa), hemp protein powder contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, and won’t pose any concerns regarding drug tests.

Hemp Protein Powder Recommended Dosages

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein stands at 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight10 and is the minimal amount of protein daily recommended for adults. Under these guidelines, a 150-pound person would need at least 55 grams of protein each day. 

An image of Bob's Red Mill hemp protein

Nevertheless, various reputable organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine, and International Society for Sports Nutrition suggest elevating daily protein intake to a range of 1.2 to 2.0 grams11 per kilogram of body weight to promote muscle growth, aid in post-workout recovery, and enhance performance. Following these recommendations, a 150-pound athlete would need between 82 to 136 grams of protein daily. 

RELATED: How Much Protein Do I Need?

Hemp protein powder contains slightly less protein than whey, casein, and pea protein powders. Each 30-gram serving contains approximately 15 grams of protein, depending on the brand.

While whole foods should always be your primary source of protein, adding hemp protein powder to your diet can be a convenient tool to increase your protein intake and support your health and fitness goals. 

Hemp Protein Powder Benefits: FAQs

Who should not take hemp protein?

Those with an allergy to hemp should avoid hemp protein powder as it could cause an allergic reaction. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before starting a new protein supplement. 

Does hemp protein powder build muscle?

Yes, hemp protein powder can help you build muscle mass when combined with regular strength training and a well-balanced, high-protein diet. Hemp protein powder contains all nine essential amino acids, which help repair and build lean muscle. 

Is hemp protein better than whey protein?

Which protein powder is better will depend on your dietary needs and preferences. Hemp protein is plant-based, and whey is an animal protein. Hemp may contain more nutrients like fiber and minerals, while whey is higher in leucine, an amino acid that plays a crucial role in muscle protein synthesis. Hemp protein is generally easier to digest for individuals who are lactose intolerant or have sensitivities to milk-based products.

RELATED: Best Lactose-Free Protein Powder

Is hemp protein powder anti-inflammatory?

Hemp protein may have anti-inflammatory effects due to its polyunsaturated fat, mineral, and antioxidant content. These components may help contribute to reduced inflammation in the body, but the extent of the anti-inflammatory impact can vary among individuals.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

References

  1. Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR, Hirsch KR, Church DD, Kviatkovsky SA, Roberts MD, Stout JR, Gonzalez DE, Sowinski RJ, Kreider RB, Kerksick CM, Burd NA, Pasiakos SM, Ormsbee MJ, Arent SM, Arciero PJ, Campbell BI, VanDusseldorp TA, Jager R, Willoughby DS, Kalman DS, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Effects of essential amino acid supplementation on exercise and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2023 Dec;20(1):2263409. doi: 10.1080/15502783.2023.2263409. Epub 2023 Oct 6. PMID: 37800468; PMCID: PMC10561576.
  2. Tang CH, Ten Z, Wang XS, Yang XQ. Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(23):8945-8950. doi:10.1021/jf0619176
  3. Viribay A, Burgos J, Fernández-Landa J, Seco-Calvo J, Mielgo-Ayuso J. Effects of Arginine Supplementation on Athletic Performance Based on Energy Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1300. Published 2020 May 2. doi:10.3390/nu12051300
  4. Salleh SN, Fairus AAH, Zahary MN, Bhaskar Raj N, Mhd Jalil AM. Unraveling the Effects of Soluble Dietary Fibre Supplementation on Energy Intake and Perceived Satiety in Healthy Adults: Evidence from Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised-Controlled Trials. Foods. 2019 Jan 6;8(1):15. doi: 10.3390/foods8010015. PMID: 30621363; PMCID: PMC6352252.
  5. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713.
  6. House JD, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 2010;58(22):11801-11807. doi:10.1021/jf102636b
  7. Ahmed ATMF, Islam MZ, Mahmud MS, Sarker ME, Islam MR. Hemp as a potential raw material toward a sustainable world: A review. Heliyon. 2022;8(1):e08753. Published 2022 Jan 13. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e08753
  8. Cattaneo C, Givonetti A, Cavaletto M. Protein Mass Fingerprinting and Antioxidant Power of Hemp Seeds in Relation to Plant Cultivar and Environment. Plants (Basel). 2023;12(4):782. Published 2023 Feb 9. doi:10.3390/plants12040782
  9. Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul;4(8):118-26. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.70902. PMID: 22228951; PMCID: PMC3249911.
  10. Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1251-65. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01530h. PMID: 26797090.
  11. Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health [published correction appears in Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 May;47(5):615]. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(5):565-572. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0550

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