Amino Acid Profiles of Hemp vs. Whey

by Anastasia Climan Google

About Anastasia Climan

Anastasia Climan is a registered dietitian and active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her experience includes managing a medical nutrition grant for HIV, developing menus for local preschools and coaching clients on nutrition through her business, The Princess Prescription. Her numerous articles have appeared on Jillian Michaels and other health sites.


Whether you are trying to bulk up, get stronger or just improve your diet, protein powders are a convenient source of amino acids. With so many products on the market, it can be tough to decide which is right for you. The amino acid profile is often on the back label, outlining which specific proteins are in the product. Understanding which amino acids to look for can help you decide between whey or hemp protein.

Whey Protein Basics

Whey protein is derived from milk. It has a complete amino acid profile, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. This is because whey protein is an animal-based product. Two types of whey protein are commonly sold -- whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate is 29 percent to 89 percent protein, and it also contains milk fat and lactose. Whey protein isolate is a more purified milk protein. This usually has at least 90 percent protein. Although you will get the full range of amino acids from any whey protein powder, whey protein isolate gives you more protein by weight.

Hemp Protein Basics

Hemp protein is plant-based, but it nonetheless contains all eight essential amino acids. Along with protein, hemp powders usually have fiber, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals naturally found in the plant. Most brands have between 13 to 15 g of protein in 2 tablespoons. Hemp protein provides ample calories and other beneficial nutrients, along with protein. Manufacturers claim that hemp is full of antioxidants and immune-boosting properties, but these claims have not been sufficiently studied or proven effective.

Amino Acids of Interest

Both hemp and whey protein are great sources of the branched-chain amino acids. These proteins are of particular interest if you are trying to build muscle and support strenuous workouts. Branched-chain amino acids are stored in your muscle tissue and serve as immediate fuel for heavy exercise. Unlike other proteins, branched-chains do not require much processing by the liver. Along with some carbohydrate, branched-chain amino acids are arguably the most important ingredients in an exercise recovery drink.

Making Your Decision

Whey protein is considered the gold standard for having a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids. Because whey protein isolate has more protein by weight than whey protein concentrate, it is a better source of these amino acids. If you are looking for a vegan option with additional health properties, hemp is also a great choice. When considering a protein powder, it is a good idea to discuss your personal goals with a knowledgeable trainer or dietitian. Look for organic products from reputable companies for the best quality.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or