When my bodybuilder clients are looking for ways to increase their plant-based protein and calories simultaneously, one of the foods that I typically recommend is hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds are a great option for a bodybuilder looking to increase their protein intake in ways other than consuming animal-based protein. As well, they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, the type of fats that help reduce inflammation. They are also energy-dense, which means they can help you add calories when bulking.
With that said, if you want to add hemp seeds to your bodybuilding diet, there is one con that I’ll mention below. As well, I’ll also discuss the optimal meal timing for hemp seeds as there are better times of the day to eat hemp seeds than others.
In this article, you will learn everything related to hemp seeds and bodybuilding, including
- The calories and macronutrients breakdown of hemp seeds
- Pros and cons of adding hemp seeds to your diet.
- Whether it’s best to eat hemp seeds before or after training.
- If hemp seeds help in muscle growth
- Tips and tricks to include hemp seeds into your diet
Hemp Seeds For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutritional Content of Hemp Seeds
You get the following nutritional content in 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds (30g).
- Calories: 166
- Carbs: 2.6 g
- Fiber: 1.2 g
- Proteins: 9.5 g
- Fats: 14.6 g
Hemp seeds, like chia seeds, are considered to be energy-dense foods. This means that you get a lot of energy (calories) in a small portion of food.
In 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds, you find 166 kcal, the same caloric content as two slices of bread.
This is an excellent option for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase when you have a hard time adding calories into your diet. Thanks to being energy-dense, you can add a lot of calories without adding too much space into your stomach (which ultimately leads to feeling full).
Remember to measure the portion sizes carefully, at any stage you are in (bulking or cutting). If you don’t control the portion sizes, you could be adding too many calories than you need, which ultimately leads to fat gain.
Hemp seeds are low in carbs and high in proteins and fats. This has many benefits for a bodybuilder, including if you want to add calories without adding extra carbs. This would be important for those bodybuilders who follow a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Also, thanks to its high protein intake, hemp seeds can help you add more protein using a plant-based approach. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds offer almost the same protein as one large egg. This is beneficial for those bodybuilders who follow a vegan diet or just simply want to balance out the amount of animal protein they eat with some plant-based sources.
Finally, most of the fats that hemp seeds contain are unsaturated. These are the fats that are healthier for your heart health.
- Related Article: Check out other foods that are high calories and low in saturated fat.
One of the benefits of hemp seeds is that it is high in nutrients, including:
- Potassium. Potassium is used during muscle contraction. In your sweat, you can lose a significant amount of potassium. Thus, it is essential to replenish it after a training session. If you don’t replenish your potassium, it can lead to muscle cramping.
- Magnesium. Sleep is an essential part of a bodybuilder’s life. This is where your muscles repair and grow. Without adequate sleep, you might find that you are not getting the gains you are after. Magnesium helps muscles relax, which can help you have a better sleep.
- Iron. It is an essential component in the formation of red blood cells. These are in charge of taking oxygen and nutrients to the organs. Without them, your muscles wouldn’t receive the nutrients it needs to grow.
3 Pros Of Eating Hemp Seeds For Bodybuilding
If you are still not convinced on why adding hemp seeds if you are a bodybuilder is worth it. Here is a list of some pros that will make you consider adding them to your next meal.
It Is A Complete Protein
One of the benefits of hemp seeds is that it offers a good amount of protein. Three tablespoons provide the equivalent amount of 30 g of chicken (1 oz).
Another benefit of hemp seeds is that it is considered a complete protein. Proteins are made of amino acids. Some can be produced in our body (non-essential), while others cannot be created (essential).
Essential amino acids must therefore come from the foods that we eat. Plant-based proteins are typically not considered complete proteins since they lack some amino acids. On the other hand, animal proteins are considered complete because they provide all the amino acids your body needs.
However, hemp seeds are considered a high-quality protein since they have all the essential amino acids you need, making it an ideal plant-based option to have.
High in Arginine
Arginine is a commonly known amino acid that bodybuilders take to increase muscle mass. Hemp seeds are high in arginine.
But, how exactly does arginine help increase muscle mass?
Arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide. This means that you need arginine to create nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a gas that helps dilate your blood vessels. This ultimately means that more blood flow can go to your muscles, providing more oxygen and nutrients for your muscle to grow.
Finally, one of the benefits of hemp seeds is their omega-3 content. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that they can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Three tablespoons of hemp seeds have 3,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. The minimum recommended daily intake is 200-500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
This means that only by consuming the 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds, you get more than the minimum of omega-3 that is recommended.
- Related Article: Beans Highest in Protein
1 Con of Eating Hemp Seeds For Bodybuilding
There is only one significant con of not adding hemp seeds if you are a bodybuilder.
Due to its high-fiber content, it can create stomach problems in some people. You might get bloating, stomach cramps, or nausea if you are not used to having high-fiber foods.
Additionally, suppose you don’t consume enough water when taking high-fiber foods. In that case, it can even make it worse instead of fighting constipation.
Remember that for fiber to pass through your body, you need to stay hydrated.
Can You Eat Hemp Seeds Before Workouts?
Hemp seeds are not the best option to have as a pre-workout snack. Before training, you need carbs to provide sufficient energy for your training session. Since hemp seeds are not very high in carbs, they might not be the best option to include.
Additionally, hemp seeds are high in fats and protein. Both molecules stay longer in your stomach because they are harder to digest. This means that if you have them before training, you might experience bloating, feeling sluggish, which ultimately leads to impaired performance.
If you want to have hemp seeds before training, I advise adding them 1-2 hours before your workout.
Can You Eat Hemp Seeds After Workouts?
Hemp seeds are a great option to have after training. They have high-quality protein that helps repair and grow your muscles. However, it might not be sufficient for a bodybuilder after training (which could range from 20-30g, or even more). Thus, try adding another protein source like Greek yogurt or a protein shake.
Additionally, since hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, it helps reduce some of the inflammation after training. By reducing inflammation, you can have a better recovery which means that your muscles can grow.
Keep in mind that after training, you need to replenish the energy lost during exercise to avoid your muscles (protein) from being used as energy. When you are thinking of adding hemp seeds, add a carb source along with it like oatmeal, strawberries, or dates.
Are Hemp Seeds Good For Muscle Growth?
Hemp seeds are the ultimate muscle-building food. Thanks to its high-quality protein content, arginine supply, and omega-3s, it leads to the best recovery you can have when bulking. They also provide a high number of calories, which can contribute to the caloric surplus needed for your muscles to grow.
Of course, hemp seeds alone won’t build muscle though. You’ll need to pair hemp seeds with other high quality protein sources and ensure you’re eating in a caloric surplus throughout the day.
- There are some protein bars made out of hemp seeds. To learn more, check out: Are Protein Bars Good For Breakfast?
Tips For Incorporating Hemp Seeds Into A Bodybuilding Diet
There are several ways that you can add hemp seeds into your diet.
Here is a list of my favorite ways that you can include them.
Add Them To Your Protein Shake
One way to use hemp seeds is to add them to your protein shakes.
You can add them in several ways:
- If you like the texture of hemp seeds, you can add them raw to your protein shake.
- If you prefer a smoother protein shake, you can add hemp seed oil or hemp seed milk to your protein shake, both offer the same benefits as having them raw.
Add Them To Your Salad
Since hemp seeds provide a crunchy texture to your foods, that is why it is an excellent food to add to your salads.
You can slightly toast them on a pan to add an extra crunchiness or just add them raw.
If you are not sure how to mix hemp seeds into your salad, here is my favorite recipe from MaxLiving.com.
Mix It With Granola
For those that love granola for breakfast or as a snack, you can add a couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds to the mix. This will increase the healthy fat intake as well as the proteins.
To have the ultimate balanced and healthy breakfast, you can create a parfait with granola, fruits, Greek yogurt, and hemp seeds.
This recipe from SkinnyMs.com combines all seeds to give you an ultimate booster. It uses chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds.
Use It As An Egg Substitute
Like chia seeds and flaxseeds, hemp seeds can absorb water making a runny egg-like mix. That is why some people use them as a substitute for eggs.
You can create an egg substitute by mixing it in a 3:1 ratio (water to hemp seeds). Let it rest for a couple of minutes, and then use it in your favorite recipe.
Here is a recipe that uses a hemp seed egg substitute ‒ It is a delicious protein pancake recipe from floraandvino.com.
Make Energy Balls
Another way to use hemp seeds is to make them into energy balls. You can do it by mixing oatmeal, dates, nut butter, and hemp seeds.
There are several recipes for energy balls. You can mix the nuts or seeds, add more fruits, or even add some honey. The best thing about them is that you can freeze them and use them any time that you want.
If you don’t know how to make energy balls, my favorite recipe from TheHonorSystem.com uses hemp seeds in their mix.
- Looking for a recipe with hemp seed, try our Peanut Butter Protein Balls.
Opt For Hemp Seed Butter
Finally, another way of including hemp seeds is in the form of butter.
You can put some hemp seed butter onto some toast and have a high-protein breakfast or snack. You can also add it on top of your favorite pancake recipe, along with some fruit.
Other Seeds For Bodybuilding
- Is Flaxseed Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- Are Chia Seeds Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
- Is Quinoa Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
Tindall AM, Kris-Etherton PM, Petersen KS. Replacing Saturated Fats with Unsaturated Fats from Walnuts or Vegetable Oils Lowers Atherogenic Lipoprotein Classes Without Increasing Lipoprotein(a). J Nutr. 2020 Apr 1;150(4):818-825. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz313. PMID: 31909809; PMCID: PMC7138686.
Murray D, Miller KC, Edwards JE. Does a Reduction in Serum Sodium Concentration or Serum Potassium Concentration Increase the Prevalence of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps? J Sport Rehabil. 2016 Aug;25(3):301-4. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2014-0293. Epub 2015 May 6. PMID: 25945453.
Cao Y, Zhen S, Taylor AW, Appleton S, Atlantis E, Shi Z. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients. 2018 Sep 21;10(10):1354. doi: 10.3390/nu10101354. PMID: 30248967; PMCID: PMC6212970.
Gawrys J, Gajecki D, Szahidewicz-Krupska E, Doroszko A. Intraplatelet L-Arginine-Nitric Oxide Metabolic Pathway: From Discovery to Clinical Implications in Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disorders. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2020 Mar 3;2020:1015908. doi: 10.1155/2020/1015908. PMID: 32215167; PMCID: PMC7073508.
Oral O. Nitric oxide and its role in exercise physiology. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2021 Sep;61(9):1208-1211. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.21.11640-8. Epub 2021 Jan 20. PMID: 33472351.
Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Belury MA, Andridge R, Malarkey WB, Glaser R. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8):1725-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229. Epub 2011 Jul 19. PMID: 21784145; PMCID: PMC3191260.
About The Author
Why Trust Our Content
On Staff at FeastGood.com, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to every email within 1 business day.