The crowded supplement market, full of products claiming to give you an advantage or a boost during your workout, can be a challenge to navigate. Finding the products which work best for your body can take some degree of trial and error. When it comes to your body’s most basic requirements, though, there’s no need for guesswork. Exercise scientists and health professionals alike will tell you that for building muscle and recovering fully after every workout, protein is the only thing for the job.
You may already understand the role protein plays in body building and muscle development. For those who don’t, it’s simple: when you work out, the stress your muscles experience causes their fibres to break down and degrade. During your post-workout recovery period, the body uses proteins and their amino acids to rebuild and strengthen your muscles. The proper protein intake is essential for developing mass and boosting your ability. However, it can be difficult to consume enough protein through your regular diet. That’s where protein powders and other supplementary products come onto the scene.
Not all proteins are the same, though, and protein products derived from different sources can vary quite a bit. Let’s consider the case of the very popular whey protein versus the up and coming hemp protein. We’ll look at some basic facts about both, how your body uses these proteins, and whether there’s anything particular to note about them. First, let’s look at products derived from the hemp plant.
Hemp is also known as Cannabis sativa, but it’s a far cry from the strains of the plant used recreationally and medicinally around the world. Instead, hemp plants contain only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC. The seeds of these plants, it is now known, contain a wealth of nutrients, including proteins with a complete amino acid profile.
In other words, they’re the ideal proteins for building muscle. These seeds are ground into a powder as it is hard to eat them otherwise. You can then use hemp protein powder to mix shakes, smoothies, and other pre- and post-workout treats.
Aside from its solid amino acid profile, what else can you expect to get out of using hemp protein? Nutritionally, it has a whole host of positive aspects. Best of all, it’s easy to digest. That’s because hemp seeds contain certain proteins called albumin and edestin. These proteins are known as “soft globular” proteins (similar to the protein you find in eggs). Your body more easily absorbs these water-soluble molecules, translating to a higher bio-availability for the nutrients it contains. For most people, that means a gentler product your body can more easily absorb and put to work quickly.
Fatty acids, also important for boosting gains during body building, exist in abundance in hemp as well. You’ll find both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Because our bodies require an outside source of these fatty acids — which play a vital role in recovery — using hemp protein as a source is a good idea. Finally, hemp also contains a significant amount of dietary fibre, something many of us lack in our diets.
For some individuals, hemp proteins can cause a mild upset stomach. A slow introduction of the powder into your diet can help to mitigate this effect. Everybody is different, though, and hemp protein may not be ideal for you. For many, though, it serves as a vegan-friendly and highly potent protein.
Unlike hemp powders, whey doesn’t come from a plant at all — it comes from dairy products, usually cheese. When dairy producers introduce enzymes to their milk, the whey proteins separate from the curds. This protein is then processed, dried, and ultimately flavoured before it winds up in a jar on a health store’s shelf. Some speciality wheys feature more intensive efforts in their production, such as only using milk from grass-fed cattle.
As with hemp protein, powders made from whey contain a complete amino acid profile. There’s a reason why whey is one of the most popular protein products on the market — it works well! Many body builders and athletes see consistent success with the nutritional profile whey offers. A particularly important amino acid, leucine, is present in larger amounts in whey than in hemp. This acid plays a particular role in triggering the creation of new muscle tissue.
Some powders contain added nutrients, such as the fatty acids already naturally present in hemp. These nutrients can serve to build out a more complete profile. Overall, whey powders are good for what it says right on the tin: delivering protein to your body. What it lacks in dietary fibre and EFAs, though, it makes up for with its rich amino acid content.
Because whey protein products derive from dairy, some individuals will experience a reaction to them. Lactose intolerance occurs in a small but significant portion of the population. For these people, whey protein can cause an upset stomach and feelings of bloating. Otherwise, though, most people will not have any issues with whey.
So, which is superior — hemp or whey? In the end, the answer may rely on personal preference. Each requires a slightly different tailoring of your diet, but both provide all the essential amino acids your body needs to repair muscle tissue properly. Hemp benefits from its digestible globular proteins, while whey provides a slightly more complete profile of nutrients.
Hemp is the clear choice for vegans and the lactose-intolerant, while whey’s wide availability and plentiful flavourings may win over others. The important thing is to remember how essential protein is to your body’s development. When you’re pumping iron as hard as you can, make sure your body has the materials it needs for rebuilding better and stronger.
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