Hemp Seeds & Bodybuilding: Is It The Best Seed For Bulking?

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When bodybuilding clients ask me for ways to increase their plant-based protein and calorie intake, one of the foods I recommend is hemp seeds. 

Key Takeaways

  • Hemp seeds are a good option for bodybuilders to increase their protein intake without consuming more animal products. They are also energy-dense (166 calories per three tablespoons) and may help you stay in a calorie surplus while bulking.
  • Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (3,000 mg per three tablespoons) and are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Helping reduce muscle inflammation can support recovery and long-term growth.
  • Hemp seeds are not the best pre-workout food because they don’t have many carbs. Plus, they are high in fat (14.6 grams per three tablespoons), which means they take longer to digest and may impair your gym performance.

Hemp Seeds: Overview

nutritional content of 3 tablespoons hemp seeds (30g)


Hemp seeds, like chia seeds, are considered to be energy-dense foods. This means you get a lot of energy (calories) in a small portion of food.

Three tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds provide 166 calories, more than two slices of bread.

This can be advantageous during a bulk when you need more calories and struggle to maintain a surplus for healthy weight gain.

Add hemp seeds to your diet (I’ll share six tips below) and get more energy without feeling as full.

That said, remember to measure your portions, especially when cutting. This will ensure that your calorie intake aligns with your goal of muscle gain or fat loss.


Hemp seeds are low in carbs and high in protein and fats. One benefit for bodybuilders is that hemp seeds can help them get more fats and protein without consuming extra carbs.

This would be important for those who follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

Also, thanks to its high protein content (9.5 grams per three tablespoons), hemp seeds can help you eat more protein on a plant-based diet. 

This benefits bodybuilders who follow a vegan diet or simply want to balance the amount of animal protein they eat with some plant-based sources.

Finally, most of the fats hemp seeds contain are unsaturated. These are the fats that are considered healthier


Hemp seeds are rich in several micronutrients, including:

  • Potassium (10% of daily needs for men and 14% for women per three tablespoons). Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction. Sweating excessively (such as during training) can cause you to lose this mineral significantly.  So, it is essential to replenish it after a training session. Otherwise, you might be at a higher risk of muscle cramping.
  • Magnesium (50% of daily needs). Magnesium helps muscles relax and reduces nervous system activity, which can help you sleep better. Sleep is essential for bodybuilders––it’s when your muscles repair and grow.  Without adequate sleep, you might find that you are not getting the gains you are after.
  • Iron (30% of daily needs for men and 13% for women). 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.
  • Manganese (330% of daily needs). This mineral helps activate some of the enzymes necessary for nutrient metabolism, which means it plays a role in turning the food you eat into usable energy.

4 Pros Of Eating Hemp Seeds

pros of eating hemp seeds

It Is A Complete Protein

One of the benefits of hemp seeds is that they offer a good amount of protein, with three tablespoons, the equivalent of 30 grams of chicken (1 ounce).

Another benefit of hemp seeds is that they are considered a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids your body cannot produce.

Since your body can’t synthesize these amino acids alone, you must get enough of them through food. 

High in Arginine

Arginine is a commonly known amino acid bodybuilders take. Hemp seeds are high in arginine. 

Arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide helps dilate (widen) your blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily to your muscles and deliver the needed oxygen and nutrients.

This also allows the body to flush out metabolic waste products (like lactate) that accumulate during training and promote muscle inflammation.

A practical benefit of wider blood vessels is that you may experience better muscle pumps.

Reduces Inflammation

One of the benefits of hemp seeds is their omega-3 content. 

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in your muscles and promote recovery.

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 by consuming the three tablespoons of hemp seeds, you get all the omega-3s your body needs. 

They Boost Your Calorie Intake

As a bodybuilder, you know that being in a calorie surplus is necessary for optimal muscle gain.

However, achieving that surplus every day can be challenging, which is where energy-dense foods like hemp seeds can help.

As mentioned, three tablespoons provide 166 calories, which can help you get all the calories you need more easily, especially as you get deep into a bulk and your appetite goes down.

1 Con of Eating Hemp Seeds

con of eating hemp seeds

Possibly Impaired Nutrient Absorption

Hemp seeds contain phytic acid––up to 2.8 grams per 100 grams of whole hemp seeds.

The problem is that this acid binds to certain minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium, reducing overall absorption.

It’s unclear how significant the impact is, but this likely becomes problematic when people consume foods high in phytic acid for every meal. 

As noted by writer and nutritionist Atli Arnarson (BSc, PhD):

“This applies to a single meal, not overall nutrient absorption throughout the day. In other words, phytic acid primarily reduces your mineral absorption during the meal but doesn’t have major effects on subsequent meals.”

Can You Eat Hemp Seeds Before Workouts?

Hemp seeds are not the best option to have as a pre-workout snack. 

First, they lack the carbs your body needs. According to research, you should aim for up to a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight.

Second, they are high in fat (14.6 grams per three tablespoons), which means they take longer to digest and may affect your performance in the gym.

If you want to have them as part of a pre-workout meal, give yourself at least two hours for digestion and pair them with some quality carbs (e.g., rice, pasta, and rice cakes) and protein (e.g., meat, fish, or egg whites).

Can You Eat Hemp Seeds After Workouts?

Hemp seeds can be a good addition to your post-workout meal because they have high-quality protein that helps repair and grow your muscles. 

However, hemp seeds alone would be insufficient as they only have 9.5 grams of protein per three tablespoons. 

Research recommends aiming for 0.3 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For an 80-kilo (176-lb) bodybuilder, that’s 24 to 40 grams of protein.

So, add another protein source, like Greek yogurt or a protein shake.

Additionally, since hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they might help reduce muscle inflammation after training, potentially boosting muscle recovery.

We also can’t forget carbs, which replenish the energy lost during training. Aim for 0.3 to 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight by having foods like oats, rice, pasta, or dried fruit after training.

Are Hemp Seeds Good For Muscle Growth?

While somewhat surprising, hemp seeds are a solid food for muscle growth.

Between their decent protein content, high arginine amount to support nitric oxide production, and omega-3s that can limit muscle inflammation, hemp seeds can help the body repair itself and grow.

Plus, adding the fact that hemp seeds are energy-dense and can help you eat more calories to gain weight, they can be a good addition to a bodybuilding diet.

That said, since hemp seeds contain phytic acid that may limit the absorption of certain minerals, it’s best to limit your intake to two or three tablespoons daily.

Tips For Incorporating Hemp Seeds Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating hemp seeds into a bodybuilding diet

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, 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, they can be an excellent food to add to your salads. 

You can slightly toast them on a pan to add an extra crunchiness or enjoy them raw. 

If you are unsure how to mix hemp seeds into your salad, here is my favorite recipe from MaxLiving.com.

Mix Them With Granola

For those who 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 few minutes, then use it in your favorite recipe.

Also, here is a quick tip from nutritionist and registered dietitian Cynthia Sass:

“Cold-pressed hemp seed oil can work well in chilled dishes, including smoothies, salad dressing, pesto, and cold marinated veggie sides. You can also use hemp milk as you would any other plant milk: in coffee, smoothies, cereal, or overnight oats or to make sauces and blended soups.”

Here is a recipe from floraandvino.com that uses a hemp seed egg substitute. 

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 whenever you want.

If you don’t know how to make energy balls, my favorite recipe from TheHonorSystem.com uses hemp seeds in their mix.

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 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


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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.

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