What Kind of Protein Should I Buy?

Is one of the most popular questions I get asked daily.

I’m going to make this post short and sweet: if you’re reading it, you already know the importance of consuming enough protein daily. And if you’re concerned about the best type of whey protein, then you’re definitely concerned with overall health, body function, and your immune system. GO YOU!

Over the last decade I think I have tried every type of protein and almost every brand of protein.

So don’t let me waste your time. Protein is, in my very humble opinion, the most important macronutrient that we consume. I can moderate my carbs and fats depending on working days and lift cycles but I will ALWAYS fill up on protein, no matter what day or time of day. And NO, it does NOT make you FAT. 

Type of Protein

When it comes to protein powders, I have tried hemp protein, egg protein, soy protein, and even salmon protein. But the only two types of protein that I really recommend are whey protein and casein protein.

Brand of Protein

Let me tell you what I LOOK FOR in a GOOD PROTEIN:

  • A short ingredient list
  • A protein without acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) or one that won’t spike my insulin early in the morning
  • Ingredients I can pronounce
  • Hydrosolate or Isolate Whey
  • Good taste and mix-ability

It probably doesn’t look like I’m picky by this list, but let me tell you, this is hard to find.

Here’s what I have found, tried, like, and suggest to you:

Dymatize ISO 100

Is pure, contains very little added ingredients, tastes awesome, and won’t spike my insulin. I have tried most of the flavors and even spent a short time obsessing over the Cake Batter flavor, but typically I stick to ordering Gourmet Vanilla or Gourmet Chocolate. I drink the ISO early in the morning because the whey doesn’t spike my insulin (something you want to avoid early in the day), and the chocolate goes so well with my coffee shake. (Coffee, coconut oil, cream, and chocolate whey is INCREDIBLE, by the way.)

What else can you do with this protein? ANYTHING. You can mix it with almond milk, Greek yogurt, put it in a smoothie…it makes everything taste awesome. If you want a great-tasting protein powder that mixes well and isn’t filled with crap ingredients, get this one. It borders on the more expensive side, but it’s 100% worth the investment. I order the 5 pound container–about $60+ and it lasts me 2-3 months, depending on how much I use each day.

Muscletech’s Anabolic Halo

At first, I was skeptical of this protein powder. It looked too “gimmicky” for me. It’s one of those “all-in-one” products that not only includes everything you need to take in a given lifting day, but promises incredible results too.

An all-in-one formula designed to be taken once daily to drive muscle growth, strength and recovery while training hard. The new and improved formula is designed to eliminate the confusion of which products to take and having to remember to take them several times a day. –MuscleandStrength.com 

But Erik was curious and said he knew a lot of people who swore by it, so I bought some for us.


I love the chocolate flavor (though the Wild Cherry isn’t bad and is currently on sale) and even more so, I love having a protein + carb shake to sip on during heavy lift days. I’ve always read that you should be drinking a protein shake in between lifts, so this has been a great change for me. On days where I lift longer than an hour, it’s really nice to be able to sip on protein and carbs, feel like I’m still fueled to continue lifting, not to mention that I’m supporting my muscle growth and recovery instantaneously.

What’s so great about this Halo? 

Here’s what the company touts:

Get More for Your Money: 7 Products in 1 ($200 Value)

  • Replaces Protein Shake (Value of $40.00): 40-gram multi-phase protein system that supplies fast, medium and slow-digesting proteins, which replaces your need to take other protein powder supplements. This is critical for building muscle.
  • Replaces Recovery Shake (Value of $27.00): Eliminates the need to take a separate post-workout powder as it is the first and only all-in-one formula to contain tart cherry concentrate, which provides a number of powerful phytonutrients that are protected by a specialized skin matrix to ensure potency. These phytonutrients in tart cherries are shown in an emerging body of research to help improve muscle recovery after training through the reduction of post-workout pain.
  • Replaces Creatine Drink (Value of $40.00): Some creatine drinks deliver as little as 750mg of creatine per serving, which is not shown in research to support muscle growth and strength. This is why Anabolic Halo® delivers a full 5-gram clinically validated dose proven in human research to increase muscle growth and strength fast.
  • Replaces Electrolyte Drink (Value of $28.00): The full-spectrum Anabolic Halo® formula supplies essential electrolytes such as calcium and magnesium. There is no need to buy an additional electrolyte beverage.
  • Replaces Amino Acid Drink (Value of $30.00): Supplies 6 grams of BCAAs, which help fuel your skeletal muscles, support muscle glycogen resynthesis and reduce the amount of protein breakdown. Anabolic Halo® also provides a 2-gram dose of L-alanine. L-alanine is the second-most used amino acid after L-leucine in protein synthesis. The formula also delivers a 2-gram dose of taurine, which aids cell volumization.
  • Replaces Glutamine Shake (Value of $15.00): Supplies 5 grams of an advanced glutamine and glutamic acid blend to help restore plasma glutamine levels that may have been depleted after periods of intense training.
  • Replaces Carbohydrate Drink (Value of $20.00): Formulated with a multi-stage carbohydrate blend that features fast- and slow-digesting carbohydrates, Anabolic Halo® promotes muscle glycogen replenishment and cell volumization, removing the need to consume a separate carbohydrate energy drink.

And here’s what I tout:

I recovered every single day, built more lean muscle, and stopped being so damn sore! 

I didn’t realize that Halo was as awesome as it is until I forgot to use it one day. I had been supplementing with Halo for a couple of months. I felt awesome every day. I thought I had broken through some sort of lifting plateau where I could truly handle both volume and intensity 5+ days a week without feeling any wear and tear on my body. I was lifting intensely every single day. Crushing some big CrossFit conditioning workouts. Even mastered some gymnastics movements I had been struggling with for a very long time. And I would wake up the next day feeling better than before. And after suffering YEARS of shoulder pain, I didn’t even feel that any more. I remember telling Erik that I just flat out felt awesome.

Then one day, I didn’t strength train. (Well, I thought I wasn’t going to, I should say.) It was an “off” day from lifting but I dropped into my CrossFit gym to do whatever the workout of the day was. You know, just a little extra conditioning. Well the workout ended up being a group workout–one that lasted about 30 minutes–and in a nutshell–it was a workout in which we back squatted up to 155 lbs, deadlifted up to 185 lbs, and strict pressed up to 95 lbs. Repeatedly. Not “super” heavy but heavy enough so that the amount of reps really added up. I still didn’t take any protein or Halo because I just didn’t think I needed it. The next day? I was the sorest I had been in MONTHS. And when I realized I did all that lifting without Halo, I knew then why I had been so successful recently. All the clout that Halo offers…well…it works.

I don’t make any money off this company–I’m not affiliated with Muscletech. I don’t want you to think I’m being spammy. I’m not. I genuinely refuse to lift without any other protein, unless I find something better. In that case, I’ll edit this post and let you know what I’ve found. (This is my first edit update–adding Halo–since publishing in 2014.)

Progenex Recovery and/or More Muscle

Progenex has its name ALL over the CrossFit community, so naturally I’ve tried it. It’s comparable to the Dymatize but a bit more expensive. Progenex is supposed to reign supreme when it comes to aiding muscle recovery and the athlete’s ability to push through several workouts. A two pound package will cost you about $59. And it’s taste ratings are also a lot higher with most of my friends and I know a couple of people who SWEAR by Progenex’s Recovery. Me personally? I don’t see a difference between Dymatize and Progenex, so I don’t use it. BUT if taste is really that important to you, Progenex might be your winner. Plus they have some really cool swag you can buy to show off your recovery skillz.

Optimum Nutritiongold_standard_casein

If your only concern is just adding more protein into your diet, Optimum Nutrition might be your winner. It’s much cheaper than Dymatize and Progenex but it’s still a VERY good brand. It might contain more fillers/ingredients than the others, and it might even spike your insulin if you care about that, but if you don’t, try Optimum. It mixes well and there are several flavors to choose from. Erik likes the casein (milk-based) protein powder that ON produces. I’ve bought it a couple times as well. It mixes really thick like a pudding, so you can “eat” it at night before bed.

elitecasein_2Wait, what did you say about Casein Whey? 

Casein is a milk-based protein powder and most people drink it at nighttime because of its slow digestibility. Casein protein can digest for up to 7 hours. That’s seven hours of metabolic burn while you sleep! Plus there are several studies that link casein to better muscle recovery post lifting. Like I said above, Erik likes to drink Optimum Casein. I have experimented with Optimum, as well as with Progenex’s Nighttime Cocoon Casein, and Dymatize Elite Chocolate Casein. My pick? I’m a Dymatize girl. I really like the Progenex Cocoon, but it’s too expensive. For two pounds of Progenex, I can buy five or more pounds of Dymatize. And to me, it tastes the same and the consistency isn’t thick like it is in Optimum. I actually like to heat my casein up at night and drink it like hot chocolate. Really, there isn’t much better for a chocolate nighttime snack.

Where Do You Buy this Stuff?

Duh, through Strong Figure! We have affiliated ourselves with a few companies that we believe in, support, and have been purchasing from for a very long time. We thought, “Hey, if we like these companies so much, we might as well offer them up to our readers too!” And that’s what we’ve done.

Because we believe in only supporting the best, we’ve affiliated with

  • Quest Nutrition (Have you tried these bars yet?!)
  • Reebok (Workout clothes and Spartan Races)
  • Rogue (Equipment, nutrition, supplements, accessories, clothes, everything…)
  • Amazon (If you can’t find it at a good price anywhere else, you can probably find it on Amazon)
  • Muscle and Strength (Your supplements! Ask me in the comments section which ones are my faves)
  • Vitamin Shoppe (the leading on-line retailer in all your vitamin and mineral needs)

Here’s where I’d suggest going for your protein: 

DYMATIZE, MUSCLETECH, and OPTIMUM NUTRITION: Order here through Muscle and Strength. This is such a fantastic company. Make sure you check out the specials–you can usually get some free products!

PROGENEX: Order it here through ROGUE! And Rogue usually has deals where if you buy three things, your order ships for free! I am guilty of owning a $12 Rogue men’s wallet for this purpose. Shipping was probably less expensive…but hey…

What’s your favorite type of protein? Anything we didn’t mention? Drop us a note in the comments below!



  1. eatsandexercisebyamber says

    Great article Steph. Wondering about the gluten free and lactose free aspects of those proteins. I personally LOVE isopure! Gluten free and lactose free and IBS approved :) sending you an email now! You’ll see why!