Skinny Yoked has existed now for well over 5 years. The blog was originally designed to document personal fitness goals but quickly turned into a catch all natural bodybuilders diary. Over the last 5 years, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on various different supplements, from pre-workouts to protein powders to multi-vitamins to SARMs. Everything is done in the pursuit of achieving a “skinny yoked” physique, that is, to look jacked without looking bloated or fat.
While the journey to fitness Valhalla is an eternal one, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about bodybuilding, diet, and training along the way. One thing is for certain, to build muscle you need higher levels of protein than people who do not lift weight.
Importance of Protein Supplementation
Protein is necessary for muscles that are damaged during weight lifting to repair themselves and to grow. Don’t worry, we aren’t advocating dropping whole foods for protein powders. Whole foods should ALWAYS be your first and largest source of protein.
This isn’t just because we are hippies and like things “el natural”, but because whole foods come packed with other vitamins, minerals, and even fiber that your body uses in a synergistic fashion to rebuild itself bigger and stronger. Protein powder, while high in amino acids, lacks many of these other vital components.
However, the concept that you can achieve top 10% physique status solely via consuming whole foods is just as big of a myth as not needing them at all. If you want to go into more detail check out the post we have dedicated to the debate of whole foods vs. supplementation and why there should be room for both in your life.
Choosing a Protein Type
OK brochacho, I get it, need me some protein, so why not just go to Costco/GNC and get the cheapest option if it’s all about amino acids anyways?
First things first, and this is an important one: not all protein powders are created equal. Protein can be derived from a myriad of different sources. There are a few general buckets that protein supplements fall into:
Plant-derived proteins come from plants are are considered one of the most natural forms of protein. They can be made of chickpea, green pea, lentil, rice, flax, oat, or even hemp. Traditionally the cons of plant proteins are varied flavors, gritty consistency, and high price points compared to dairy-derived products. The pros include the fact that they are (usually) sustainably produced, are animal-friendly, and are usually much softer on the gastro-intestinal tract.
Dairy-derived proteins are the most common and best selling protein type. These come in the form of whey concentrate, whey isolate, whey hydro-isolate and cassein proteins. There are infinite blends available as well which mix concentrate with isolate, or cassein with concentrate in an effort to develop a formula that maximizes the absorption time during digestion. All dairy proteins are created as a bi-product of cheese manufacturing and thus are sourced originally from cows.
The cons of dairy protein include difficulty in identifying quality (because of the sheer volume of whey companies), varying consistency, and the potential for gastro-intestinal distress, i.e mud butt. The pros include cost effectiveness, as these are some of the CHEAPEST protein options on the market, flavor options (being popular means more variety in flavoring), and some of the most complete amino acid profiles found in processed protein supplements.
This is probably the most obscure category, but is definitely big enough to warrant it. Animal derived protein powders today usually fall into two groups: egg product and animal product. Many popular protein blends, like BSN’s Syntha-6 for example use a blend of whey and egg proteins, apparently because they digest at different rates. There are also companies that make protein powders from beef. The Beef Standard and Carnivor are two of the more popular beef protein powders. Drinking liquid chocolate beef is definitely an interesting experience to say the least..
The cons of animal sourced proteins include higher price points, questionable ingredients (collagen vs real flesh), and confusing flavor profiles. They are also clearly not animal-friendly and thus not an option for vegetarians or vegans. The pros of animal proteins are more complete amino acid profiles.
All of the above protein types come in different blends with added ingredients like fiber, creatine, or some sort of carbohydrate base, which usually makes them “mass gainers” because of their higher caloric totals and are designed primarily for hard-gainers with high metabolisms who need extra calories, or for serious lifters who go hard on their winter bulking.
So with all of these different proteins, which one is best?
Best Protein Powder of 2021: The Plant Era Vegan Protein
Surprising even myself, I have recently had the opportunity to try The Plant Era plant protein and I was blown away by what I discovered. The Plant Era is a Denmark-based supplement company specializing in plant-sourced protein powders.
Now, before you yawn and go order your 500th tub of cheap ass whey concentrate hear me out. This is one of the best protein powders I have ever used in my 7+ years of bodybuilding.
And before you even think it, no, I am not even vegan nor have I ever been. The reasons for my declaring The Plant Era the best protein powder of 2021 has nothing to do with moral/personal beliefs on ethics, although I do respect nature and understand the importance of consuming less meat as a species for sustainability reasons.
Who Are The Plant Era?
The Plant Era was founded by Nicholas Orsini, who while training for an Ironman found the current protein powder offerings unsatisfactory. Mr. Orsini is not only an Ironman competitor but has also cycled across the entire United States on a plant based diet.
The company is based in Denmark but ships worldwide an they ship QUICK. I received my order in Portland OR within a week of getting my order in. They currently have two products for sale, a dark chocolate plant protein powder and a strawberry basil protein powder.
That’s it. It has been my experience, in life, that when a company focuses on doing fewer things but doing them well they generally end up with a higher quality product as opposed to companies that try to do too many things at once.
The Plant Era proteins are 95% organic, gluten free, contain zero added sugars, are enhanced with vitamin B12, contain 21 grams of protein per serving, and contain zero artificial additives. Oh and they are 100% vegan.
Why We Love Them
As highlighted above, I’ve deemed The Plant Era the best protein powder of 2020 mostly because I was caught completely by surprise at the quality and flavor of the product. I’ve tried dozens of plant based proteins before, but they always had the same problem: horrid flavors and nasty textures. This has included other raw pea and rice protein powders.
The Plant Era also uses rice and pea but they’ve somehow managed to create a smooth and creamy texture comparable to even the richest dairy-based products.
For me, BSN Syntha-6 has one of the best flavor profiles in the mainstream protein industry. Sure, it may be a little carb/sugar heavy for some, and the price point per gram of protein isn’t the most attractive in the world, but their flavor profiles are fantastic. The Plant Era meets and even exceeds even Syntha-6 when it comes to flavor and texture, not to mention the vegan/organic feel-good advantage Plant Era has over BSN.
At the end of the day though, flavor is not the most important factor for bodybuilders when choosing a protein. While flavors help, if you consume serious quantities you inevitably get to a point where you get sick of the flavor and just slam it down anyways, and so, we’d be remiss to suggest The Plant Era is the best protein of the year on flavor alone.
Digestive health is one of the most over-looked elements within the bodybuilding community. So many people spend a fortune on pre-workouts, amino-acid intraworkouts, and whey based protein powders without stopping to evaluate their overall gut health.
To put it bluntly, if you’re shitting your guts out with diarrhea on the regular then your gut health is not in check and you’re probably not absorbing as many nutrients (or water) as necessary and thus hindering your own gains in the gym. Having fiber in your diet helps slow digestion, aid in more complete digestion, assist in nutrient absorption and prevents diarrhea.
And this is what The Plant Era offers over other dairy and animal based supplements. In my first two weeks of using plant era over the whey concentrate I had on hand I noticed a significant improvement in the quality of my bowel movements.
Don’t take my word for it. These massive blokes at Animal break down the importance of digestion when it comes to lifting heavy weight and making solid gains:
Being born and raised in Wisconsin I’m not stranger to dairy, but in excess, such as in consuming whey drinks daily for years, even my gut isn’t always able to hold up to the lactose onslaught.
My stomach felt better, my bowel movements were regular, I felt lighter, less bloated and had more energy and actually looked forward to drinking my post-workout shakes with The Plant Era.
It is this combination of A) great taste and B) improved digestion that really wowed me with this new protein. Am I ready to go full vegan? No. However, if consuming plant based proteins can help keep my gut in check, keep me more productive, allow me to digest more nutrients and achieve my fitness goals in a more efficient manner, then I’m all about it.
If you’ve been curious about vegan proteins The Plant Era has a few great guides (all with scientific citations for claims) explaining the benefits (better than I do) here:
- The Case for Plant Based Diets
- Plant Based Diets & Athletic Performance
- Plant Based Diets & Sustainability
Skinny Yoked Summary
The world of supplements is a vast and dizzying one. Not a year goes by when some company releases some new technological nutritional advancement designed to help athletes better achieve their goals. Usually these supplements over-promise, under-deliver and taste like ass.
The Plant Era bucks this trend in a surprising and refreshing manner. They focus on doing one thing and they do it well. The strawberry-basil protein is one of the most natural, most wonderful tasting protein powders I’ve ever had in 7+ years of bodybuilding.
The unique focus on being vegan also means improved digestive health, which means you can focus more on feeling good and training at 100%. Finally there is the sustainability factor, with an ever-increasingly damaged earth it’s nice to see a sports supplement company not only make gestures towards sustainability but actually bake it into their corporate mission.
If you’re sick of shitting your guts out and want a protein with a flavor you actually look forward to drinking I highly recommend you check out The Plant Era.