Is Hemp Protein Good for Bodybuilding?

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Bodybuilders have greater dietary protein needs than the average athlete or gym goer due to their intense training. Protein powders are a convenient way to get in more protein without having to eat large quantities of food each day. While most bodybuilders have traditionally used animal proteins such as whey, plant-based proteins such as hemp protein provide an alternative for bodybuilders who are vegetarian, vegan or sensitive to other types of protein.

Hemp Basics

Hemp protein is a complete protein that is also a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp is a vegan protein that is also hypoallergenic and suitable for people with egg, dairy, gluten and soy allergies or sensitivities. As a source of the branched-chain amino acids that aid in the growth and repair of lean muscle mass, hemp protein is a suitable choice for consumption post-workout.

Bodybuilding Requirements

Bodybuilders typically take in between 1.5 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to Go Ask Alice! of Columbia Health. Most adults should get between 12 percent and 15 percent of their daily calories from protein, while bodybuilders generally need between 13 and 18 percent. Although you can meet these needs by eating lean meats, eggs, beans, cheese and fish, many bodybuilders prefer the convenience of drinking a protein shake. Shakes may also be more readily absorbed than heavier foods and can be easier to digest for people with sensitive stomachs.

Amino Acids

Hemp contains all the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, making it a complete protein. But it is lower in lysine, tryptophan and most notably leucine, the amino acid primarily involved in muscle protein synthesis needed for muscle growth in bodybuilders. In contrast, animal-based proteins such as whey have higher levels of leucine, making whey a top-rated choice among bodybuilders, reports "Australian Iron Man Magazine."

A Possible Alternative

Despite having lower leucine levels, hemp may still be an appropriate protein of choice for vegetarian and vegan bodybuilders. Other vegan proteins such as soy may cause digestive distress in some athletes since soy is a common allergen. Nonvegan whey and egg-based protein powders are also common allergens and can cause digestive upsets such as bloating in some people. Brown rice protein, another vegan selection, is not a complete protein since it doesn't have all the essential amino acids.