Hemp Protein vs Whey Protein: Pros and Cons

hemp protein

Whey protein has always been the most popular and commonly used protein source (and supplement, in general) among bodybuilders and gym rats alike. But recently, a number of new types of protein shakes have hit the market, and one of the more interesting of them is hemp protein. Hemp protein, made from processed hemp seeds, is gaining traction and is increasingly growing in popularity. Let’s compare hemp and whey and determine how the benefits stack up.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is available in powder form and comes from cow’s milk which actually contains two proteins: whey and casein. Other constituents include water, lactose and milk fat. Whey is filtered out during the process of cheese production and normally dried into a powered form as a dietary supplement. This provides iron and calcium, and the protein in whey is a combination of essential and non-essential amino acids. Whey consists largely of alpha-lactalbumin and beta-albumin and is considerably high in branch-chain amino acids.

Whey protein is concentrated by filtering out ash and lactose, resulting into a product that can be as high as 80 percent protein. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that a scoop of whey protein powder contains 17 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. Just like its hemp counterpart, whey aids in repairing muscle tissue, provides energy and helps in hormone regulation.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. It does not have the ‘properties’ of the kind of hemp that you may be thinking of! The protein is extracted from the seeds of the plant, so, it won’t make you high! Hemp protein contains 25 percent protein and 30 percent fat, with more than 80 percent of the oil consisting of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The Hemp Industries Association claims that hemp seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, fiber and B vitamins. It also contains two essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6.

The protein in hemp comes primarily from albumin and edestin, two proteins that are easily digested by the body and rich in amino acids. Hemp contains all the essential amino acids, with high levels of arginine. It is regarded as a high-quality protein since it has the same amino acid profile as egg white protein and soy protein. A scoop of hemp protein contains 111 calories and 14 grams of protein. Hemp has the same number of calories per scoop as whey, but contains less protein and approximately 4 grams of fat.

Hemp vs Whey Pros and Cons

Now, that the facts are down and out, let’s take a look at the side box truth. Whey is very popular because it is affordable, readily accessible and it works. Multiple studies showed that whey protein products help in muscle recovery and growth. Whey is a complete protein, making it a welcome addition to a post-workout drink. However, there are a number of significant downsides to whey that’s worth noting.

Digestibility Issues. Whey protein contains lactose, which is problematic for a growing number of people. As a matter of fact, it is believed that up to 65 percent of the world’s population has an impaired ability in digesting lactose after infancy, a condition called lactose intolerance. It can cause diarrhea, flatulence, and feeling bloated. A common misconception is that the lactose in whey is discarded during the extraction process. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Another pressing concern is that a lot of supplement-blended whey protein powder products contain filler proteins or non-essential amino acids like L-Taurine and L-Glycine, which the body cannot digest or absorb and does not provide any nutritional value to the body. They are included in the products just to increase the protein concentration since they will test as amino acids during food quality analysis.

Whey is Heavily Processed. Sure, you can buy raw whey protein, but majority of the products in the market today are heavily processed. This severely degrades whey’s nutritional quality. Manufacturers pack whey products with artificial sweeteners just to make them palatable. Sucralose and acesulfame potassium are commonly found in many whey products. To go with these artificial sweeteners, some whey protein supplements have been found to contain heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead. These find their way in through the artificial additives and as byproducts of the manufacturing process. Bear in mind that protein powders are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Since they are categorized as dietary supplements, manufacturers are not required to test their products to ensure their safety.


Both whey protein and hemp protein can meet your dietary protein needs. Ounce for ounce, whey contains more protein, less calories and carbs than hemp. However, hemp contains heart-healthy unsaturated fat, which are beneficial for disease prevention. Hemp also contains a significant amount of fiber which helps in bowel regulation. According to the American Heart Association, most adults ingest more protein than necessary. This is a concern because the association discourages high-protein diets. Food products derived from hemp seed contribute to a healthy diet, and the United States Department of Agriculture encourages Americans to consume plant-based foods because they have the potential to reduce the risk of a number of diseases.

Hemp protein is a smart choice when it comes to in between meals and just before going to bed when you need a steady supply of protein. Moreover, hemp protein is ideal for vegetarians or for those who are lactose intolerant. Hemp is lactose free and it is easier to digest so you avoid bloating and cramps that’s associated with protein consumption. Finally, the use of a product that undergoes as little chemical or mechanical processing as possible is the winner in the quest for a healthier lifestyle, positive health changes, and quality fuel for the body.