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How Much Protein Do You Actually Need in Your Protein Bar? We Did The Research For You

Protein: we’re all crazy about it. The fact of the matter is, if you’re a health-conscious person who cares about eating clean and healthy, then protein is likely something that you give a lot of attention. Though we live in a world with a new diet or meal plan hitting the scene almost every week (eat this, not that! Carbs are the enemy—no wait, they’re great! Fat is bad, no wait, it’s fine!) protein, particularly protein bars, never seems to go out of style.

Protein Bars: Our Easy & Favorite Way To Eat Protein

You don’t have to chat with a nutritionist or diet expert—just ask the average person off the street and they’ll likely bring up protein when asked about healthy eating. Almost anyone will tell you that without a doubt, eating lots of protein is key for a healthy diet. A fan favorite way to get protein is in the form of a protein bar—convenient, portable, and delicious. But have you ever stopped and asked yourself just how much protein you actually should be eating in the ideal bar? Is more always more? Is there a golden amount? Does it depend on if you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or just maintain a healthy body and stay satisfied while well-fed?

Let’s dig in. But first, why the big hype over protein in the first place, and just what does it even do for us?

What Is Protein Really Good For?

There’s a good reason we’re all so pumped about protein. At the end of the day, protein is absolutely a must for overall health and a nutrient that our body truly rely on.

You’ve probably heard the key “macronutrients,” and protein is just that. One of the three basic group of nutrients our bodies need for fuel and growth—along with carbs and fats—protein is an essential food group and has certainly earned its rightful place on our tables.

In the most basic sense, protein is a complex molecule, one that acts as a literal building block for our entire bodies. Hair, skin, nails, muscle, bone…what do they all have in common? None of them could exist, quite literally, without protein.

To break it down even further, protein molecules are built from amino acids. These chemical compounds can all be classified as either essential or non-essential—the essential ones (there are nine), are called this because we can’t create them organically in our bodies, meaning we rely on food to get them.

You’ve likely heard the advice that we should focus on eating the complete proteins, which just refers to those that contain both essential and non-essential amino acids. While there’s some merit to that notion, the most important thing is that you’re consuming quality protein from clean, wholesome sources. Not all proteins are created equal, so making sure you consume these “clean” source that our bodies can fully utilize, such as nuts, superfoods, and legumes is more important than whether you’re eating complete proteins with every meal.

Protein As Energy

For one, it delivers crucial stores of energy and strength to our bodies, keeping us full, energized throughout our day, and able to function at 100%. Along with the other two key macronutrients, carbs and fat, protein is a must to include in your meals, and is especially good at keeping satiation levels up throughout the day. This means fewer munchies and binging urges, since we’re getting quality nutrition that will keep us naturally fueled up, energized, and ready to tackle our days.

Protein and Your Fitness Goals

Ask any bodybuilder or gym rat: nowhere does protein get as much as hype as in the world of fitness.

Though no one’s disputes that protein is needed as a part of any healthy diet—whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a yogi, or your main form of exercise is chasing around your kiddos, it’s true that protein is especially important and may be needed in larger quantities if you’re an athlete looking to bulk up or transform your physique.

When we put our bodies through a rigorous workout such as a weight lifting session or spin class, our muscles undergo stress, which actually creates tons of micro-tears and rips in the muscle tissue itself. If you’ve ever felt sore the day after a workout, you’re literally feeling the tears that occurred to your muscle fiber. As soon as we leave the gym or spin class, our muscles begin the process of rebuilding, and that’s where protein comes into play.

Without enough protein in your bar or snack, the body doesn’t have what it needs to rebuild. You can think of working out but falling to eat balanced meals, ones including protein, as the equivalent of trying to run a car on an empty tank of gas.

Not only does protein play a vital role in rebuilding and repairing muscle and our overall ability to recover from our workouts each day, but protein consumption is also your BFF if weight or fat loss is your goal. Since protein keeps us energized and feeling full longer, eating enough helps us to stay satisfied, AKA better able to pass up those break room cookies or pizza we don’t really need.

Ok, So How Much Protein Is Enough?

As we’ve seen, protein undeniably plays a key role in all our health and vitality. Unsurprisingly, an entire industry has sprung up to cater to this need and make sure we’re getting enough of it, especially with the on-the-go lifestyles that leave many of us eating our food from Tupperware and in the car (more on why bars can be the perfect solution, further on).

Though we all know we should be eating it, if you ask ten people how much protein is ideal, you’ll likely get ten different answers. In other words, you’re not to blame if you’ve found yourself a little fuzzy on the question: how much protein is enough?

That’s probably because there’s no one-sized-fits-all answer to that question, since protein needs differ based on age, gender, weight, and activity level. A male bodybuilder trying to put on mass and muscle growth is going to need more protein than a toddler or a child, just like a breastfeeding woman will need more than an average young man.

High-protein diets like paleo and keto make it seem like protein is the end-all-be-all to great health, but in general, we don’t need as much as you probably think. Most health organizations recommend a (very attainable) daily amount of around .08 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, or .36 grams per pound. For those of you who don’t love crunching numbers, that roughly breaks down to around a modest 46 grams for the average healthy female, or just slightly more for men (https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/protein).

One thing to understand about this recommended daily amount (RDA), is that this number tells us the minimum we need to get to be healthy—though it actually accounts for a little more than what most of us need, just to be safe. Meaning, if we achieve the RDA, most of us are getting slightly more than we need—so you can rest assured your body is truly getting plenty, and there’s no need to go crazy on protein past the RDA range.

With this modest goal in mind, let’s talk about one of the most convenient and easily ways to achieve a large portion of it daily—with everyone’s favorite on-the-go snack, the good old protein bar, and how to chose one that’s right for your goals.

Why A Protein Bar Makes Sense

So, you’re a busy person, but still prioritize your health and nutrition. First off, give yourself a pat on the back! Secondly, you have some options. If chosen wisely, a protein bar from the store can absolutely be a wise dietary choice and a great daily snack or post or pre-workout treat. There are just a few things to keep in mind when choosing your bar.

Before we go into the good, the bad, and the things to avoid, let’s look at why a bar makes sense.

First off, convenience. Who isn’t busy these days? Though in an ideal world we’d love to be whipping up all our meals in our kitchens and never having to rush out the door, the reality is that we bet a good few of your meals each week or even day are eaten out of Tupperware, on the go, or from your car. That’s why a bar makes a lot of sense, especially if your schedule is crammed.

Another great bar “pro” is their combined nutrients and macros. A healthy bar is one with an ideal combo of healthy carbs, fats, and proteins, in one conveniently wrapped-up package. Eating this ideal combo delivers plenty of nutrients and energy to get you through your midmorning meeting, after-school pickup, or post-workout errands run. Unlike something that may be too low in calories or protein to hold you over, such as an apple or carrot and hummus, a protein bar should actually keep you satisfied for at least a couple hours, meaning if your schedule is hectic and you find yourself running around and not wanting to go hungry, it’s the ideal choice.

How much protein should your ideal bar contain?

Here’s where things get a little interesting.

Most of us would probably assume that more is more, but this isn’t the case with protein bars, or protein in general.

While the general consensus in the world of fitness and bodybuilders and even regular Jane health-conscious people is to guzzle down protein in whatever way we can get it, if that’s your approach, you may be doing more harm than good, (or at least spinning your wheels.) As discussed, the RDA is already accounting for a little extra protein than most of us probably need—you can think of those extra grams as a cushion, just to make sure you’re good. So, if you’re trying to eat more than the RDA, whether that’s in the form of way-oversized chicken breasts for dinner or protein bars with 40 + grams of protein, you’re going way overboard.

In terms of protein content, bars available at stores can vary widely—some contain less than 10 grams (many candy bars inadvertently contain more than this, though also far more calories, sugar, and fat), while those on the higher end clock in around 40 grams. For a typical healthy woman who only needs around 45 grams of protein in an entire day, a bar that contains even 5-10 grams makes a great snack. Presumably, you’ll be eating several other meals and snacks throughout the day, which will easily provide the rest of the protein you need.

And if you make sure your diet includes a well-rounded selection of whole foods you’re likely meeting the RDA for protein without even realizing it.

Whole foods to add to your diet:

  • Produce
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats
  • Leafy green veggies
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Lean meat
  • Faux meat (like Beyond Meat)

For those trying to bulk up, put on weight or muscle, or smash some serious goals in the gym, the research points to the ideal number as somewhere around 20-30 grams of protein in a bar, if you’re using that as your post-workout snack. Interesting to note, many bodybuilders have the assumption that if they can pack in 50 grams of protein after a workout, their muscles would repair better—since protein is so essential for the repairing and growth of muscles after a strenuous workout.

However, dispelling the “more is more” notion, a study compared the results of those who consumed around 90 grams of protein post workout, and found they saw no difference in results (in terms of muscle repair and growth) than those who only ate 30 grams. The same study found that the ideal range of protein to consume post workout would be around 30 grams—that amount provided ideal muscle benefits, while eating more didn’t improve the benefits at all.

Other researchers have tested this “how much protein can the body absorb” idea and also found that around 30 grams of protein will go straight to aiding muscle repair and growth. They found that eating this amount in one sitting, or up to this amount, does have measurable benefits. However, if you were to get much more than this, the protein could wind up stored as extra fat.

Bottom Line On Protein Bars?

Protein is essential, a healthy, balanced diet is key to achieving the RDA, and clean, healthy bars are the perfect convenient snack to ensure this. Make sure the bar you’re choosing is totally clean, packed with wholesome and real ingredients—nothing whipped up in a lab–and fits your protein needs.

Want to add clean, whole food protein into your diet? Perfect Bar fits that bill – try our whole food protein bars today.

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Sources:

How to Pick a Protein Bar

Karen asks: “Is there such a thing as healthy protein bars, or are they just glorified candy bars?”

When it comes to protein bars, there are scores of choices and new brands appearing weekly. Following are some tips about what to look for and what to avoid when choosing a protein bar.

But first, let’s draw a distinction between a protein bar and an energy bar. These terms are often used interchangeably to refer to any bar-shaped item that’s not an actual candy bar. And, to be honest, these terms don’t have any strict definitions. But I think of energy bars as being relatively high in carbohydrates.

Protein bars versus energy bars

Energy bars were originally designed to provide a portable source of calories, or energy, to fuel physical exertion or exercise. Carbohydrates are more quickly absorbed than fats and proteins, which take longer to digest. In fact, the simpler the carbohydrate, the faster it will be available to the muscles. And another word for simple carbohydrate is sugar. So, in order to provide quick energy during extended exercise, an energy bar is going to be high in sugar.

See also: What to Eat Before, During, and After a Workout

The rest of the time, however, we are we’re usually trying to limit the simple sugars and emphasize complex carbohydrates, instead. So an energy bar isn’t a great choice for a meal replacement.

Protein bars, on the other hand, are lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein. Although this makes them less useful as a source of quick energy during exercise, it makes them a better choice to replace a meal of snack.

If you need a meal or snack, real food would always be preferable to a highly processed bar.

Protein helps to maintain and build strong muscles and bones. After a hard workout, a combination of protein and carbohydrates can help you recover more quickly. Because it is more slowly digested and absorbed, protein also helps to regulate blood sugar and appetite.

If you need a meal or snack, real food would always be preferable to a highly processed bar. But if real food simply isn’t available, a protein bar would be a better choice than an energy bar.

What to look for in a protein bar

You have a lot of options to choose from. Here are some of the things to consider when checking out those nutrition facts labels and ingredients lists.

1. How much protein is in it?

The amount of protein in a typical protein bar ranges from 10 to 30 grams. If you’re using the bar as a snack, 10-15 grams of protein would be fine. But if this bar is intended to replace an entire meal, look for one that contains at least 20 grams of protein. If you’re really trying to maximize the muscle-building benefits, aim for at least 25 grams of protein.

See also: How Much Protein Should You Eat?

2. What kind of protein is in it?

Typical protein sources for bars include whey, egg white, soy, pea, hemp, and other vegetarian sources. In terms of protein quality and muscle-building benefit, whey and egg white are your best choices. If you prefer to avoid animal sources, soy would be your next best option. And if you don’t consume soy, then any of the other vegetarian proteins would be fine.

See also: Is Protein Combining Necessary After All?

3. What’s it sweetened with?

​Even though protein bars are formulated to take the place of a meal, they don’t make protein bars in flavors like salmon and broccoli, or steak and potatoes, or red beans and rice. Instead, we get meal replacement bars that taste like chocolate brownie sundae, peanut butter cups, or cherry cheesecake. So the question is: what’s it sweetened with? You’ll find bars sweetened with honey, coconut sugar, agave, brown rice syrup, dates, or any number of other ingredients. Don’t get too caught up in the health halo surrounding these natural sweeteners. Flip the bar over and see how many grams of sugar it contains. You’d want to count that toward your added sugar allowance, which is (in case you forgot) about 25 grams per day.

See also: How to Reduce Your Added Sugar Intake

If the bar is catering to low carb or keto diet enthusiasts, it’s probably sweetened with artificial sweeteners like sucrolose or aspartame, more natural low-calorie sweeteners like stevia or monkfruit, sugar alcohols like sorbitol or erythritol, or a combination of these. None of these are perfect, for reasons I’ve explored in past episodes.The artificial sweeteners may have a negative impact on gut bacteria. Stevia and monkfruit taste a little funny. And sugar alcohols can cause mild digestive distress. Of these, I’d lean toward monkfruit and sugar alcohols. But I still recommend consuming these sugar-free foods with the same degree of moderation you would apply to foods that contain sugar.

I recommend consuming these sugar-free foods with the same degree of moderation you would apply to foods that contain sugar.

See also: What’s a moderate intake of non-caloric sweeteners?

4. How many calories does it contain?

Calories range from around 150 to almost 400 per bar. Regardless of whether those calories are from protein, carbohydrate, sugar, or fat, they need to fit into your food budget for the day. Calorie needs can range from 1500 to 3000 a day, depending on your size, body composition, and activity level. So, when choosing a bar, consider your total calorie needs and what portion of your calories this bar will replace. As a general rule, a full-sized meal should provide 25-35 percent of your calories for the day. A snack should be closer to 10 percent of your daily calories. (And remember, snacks are totally optional).

5. What else is in there?

Once you’ve selected a bar that has the amount and type of protein you want, the right number of calories, and your preferred sweetener, take a look at that ingredient list to see what else is in there. Don’t be too dazzled by functional ingredients like adaptogens, fancy fatty acids, herbal extracts, or added vitamins and minerals. Most of these are either superfluous, unnecessary, or included in quantities that are too small to have any benefit. On the other hand, a long list of chemicals and additives is a sign of a highly processed food. Ingredient lists should read more like a recipe and less like a chemistry lab assignment.

Ingredient lists should read more like a recipe and less like a chemistry lab assignment.

How protein bars fit into a healthy diet

When it comes to protein bars, you have a lot of choices. And this guide can help steer you toward bars that meet your needs. But protein bars are never going to be an ideal form of nutrition. Choose your protein bars well, but try to save them for those times when real food is not an option.

Stuck on a plane for 6 hours with nothing but stale pretzels? Forced to spend your entire lunch break at the DMV to renew your driver’s license? Lunch was early and dinner will be delayed? Those might be times when a protein bar would come in super handy.

But you don’t have to eat a protein bar the moment you finish working out in order to maximize the benefit of your workout. For that matter, you don’t have to carry bars around with you so that you can eat one the moment you notice that you might be starting to get hungry. Your metabolism will not shut down if you go an hour without food in your stomach. In both cases, if real food will be available in the not too distant future, it’s perfectly fine to wait.

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While nutrition bars can be part of a busy, healthy lifestyle, there are a few good reasons they’re not stocked next to the kale and blueberries at your grocery store.

Many are made with cheap, low-quality ingredients and are hiding tons of sugar and additives that can cause digestive distress and prevent absorption of important nutrients says Ariane Hundt, MS, a clinical nutrition coach and fitness expert.

To help you avoid those and grab the healthiest one the next time you really need portable protein, we asked Hundt to help us evaluate close to 40 of the most popular bars on the market, based on ingredient lists, nutrient balance, sugar content, and more.

Read on for the five best and worst nutrition bars currently available, plus a bonus selection of “snack” bars that have less protein but are great for a quick pick-me-up bite when you need it.

Keep reading to see what the best and worst nutrition bars are, according to a nutritionist.

Photo: Health Warrior

1. Health Warrior Superfood Protein Dark Chocolate and Coconut Sea Salt Bar

Superfood chia seeds are the protein powerhouse ingredient in this bar, and many of its other clean, whole-food, plant-based ingredients are organic. It has 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber to balance out the sugar, plus an omega 3 boost you’ll get from the chia. “This is great for people who want something that’s crunchy and slightly sweet for a snack,” Hundt says (and for vegans!). “It’s delicious and well-balanced in terms of the ingredients.”

Photo: Quest

2. Quest Coconut Cashew

“The great thing about this one is just the high fiber and protein content,” Hundt says, referring to 17 grams and 20 grams, respectively, packed into just 170 calories. Quality ingredients like almonds, coconut, sea salt, and whey protein isolate also satisfy other nutrition requirements, although they’re not organic. One note: Hundt says to steer clear of Quest’s bars that contain sucralose, like the popular Cookies & Cream.

Photo: Oatmega

3. Oatmega Chocolate Coconut Crisp

Hundt discovered this Austin-based brand recently and fell hard for the tasty, low-sugar, gluten-free bars made with mostly organic ingredients and whey protein from grass-fed cows. This chocolatey one has 14 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and added fish oil (that you don’t taste!) for the essential fatty acids.

Photo: Bonk Breaker

4. Bonk Breaker Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein

“One of the things that athletes eat during long endurance events is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and this bar tastes almost like the real deal,” Hundt says, of this bar she recommends for right after a really tough workout (or during a super long bike ride), because of its higher sugar content. It comes with natural ingredients and 15 grams of protein and tastes “fantastic.”

Photo: Epic

5. Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry

Perfect for a Paleo eater (who loves jerky), Epic’s bars have only a few ingredients and are literally meaty. This one comes with 11g of protein from nutrient-dense, lean, organic, grass-fed bison meat and uncured bacon, and the only sugar is from dried cranberries. “It’s very clean, and sodium can be helpful after a workout to refuel lost electrolytes,” Hundt says. (Just be warned: if you’re not into chewy hunks of meat, it’s not for you.)

Five Worst Nutrition Bars

Photo: Luna

1. Luna Bar Lemon Zest

This “bar for women” has more sugar than both protein and fiber and is filled with processed soy in many forms. While some of those are organic, the very first ingredient listed (which means it makes up the highest percentage of the bar) is ultra-processed “soy rice crisps” made with non-organic soy protein isolate, AKA likely GMO soy drenched in pesticides. It also contains “natural flavor” which can disguise many unhealthy additives you don’t want. “They’re just using really cheap ingredients,” Hundt says.

Photo: ZonePerfect

2. ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter

When corn syrup is listed twice on an ingredient list (in addition to sugar), take that as a warning sign. This is another bar where Hundt says you can tell the company is using super cheap ingredients, and non-organic, processed soy is the very first one. “And then they add so many vitamins that you don’t need or want,” she says.

Photo: Think Thin

3. ThinkThin High Protein Bar Chunky Peanut Butter

Twenty grams of protein is a great number, but not when that protein is from cheap, processed sources and paired with canola oil and “natural” flavors. Also, “caseinate” ingredients (calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate), can actually suppress mineral absorption, Hundt says, and while the 0g of sugar may intrigue you, the sugar alcohols used to sweeten this bar may do a number on your gut. “All that sugar alcohol, if you eat a lot of it, it will upset your digestion, make you gassy, and give you diarrhea,” she says. Think “no, thanks.”

Photo: Powerbar

4. PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate Brownie

Hundt calls this bar “syrup, syrup, syrup” for its whopping 27 grams of sugar from a variety of sweeteners like cane invert syrup, fructose syrup, and malitol syrup. It’s also got lots of processed, non-organic soy, a combination that’s not likely to power you through any workout (or towards long-term health). “That’s going to cause you some digestive issues, for sure,” Hundt says. “I can’t see it sitting in your stomach well.”

Photo: Balance Bar

5. Balance Bar Cookie Dough

“I don’t think you need to add vitamins unless you’re trying to cover up the low-quality ingredients,” Hundt says of this bar, which she says is another example of a syrupy, fructose-laden, processed-GMO-soy bar, but boasts its “23 vitamins and minerals” to entice you. What your body will definitely absorb: tons of unhealthy oils and sugar.

Bonus Good-For-You Snack Bars

These three runner-up picks are less substantial, so they won’t necessarily fill you up or function as post-workout fuel, but they’re great for a quick afternoon snack.

Photo: GoRaw

1. GoRaw Live Pumpkin Sprouted Bar

An option for raw foodies that Hundt likes because it has “only a few ingredients and is organic.”

Photo: Kind Snacks

2. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

“It’s a well-balanced snack bar, good ingredients, and low on the sugar,” she says. And major bonus: these are super easy to find, from Starbucks to local delis.

Photo: This Bar Saves Lives

3. This Bar Saves Lives Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey

“It’s not going to be very filling, but the ingredients look pretty good,” Hundt says. “It’s a balanced bar for weight maintenance.” Not to mention its give-back mission, which is good for your heart.

Originally published July 16, 2012, updated July 1, 2019.

Speaking of portable snacks, here’s which ones fitness instructors keep in their gym bags. And these are the healthiest snacks you can find at a gas station.

I get asked this a lot…

And the question usually revolves around what I think of protein bars and if they’re an acceptable food replacement for a snack or meal.

The only problem with this question is that it assumes all bars are created equal.

That’s the real issue…

Are we talking about bars made from raw organic ingredients or are we speaking of the bars with a shelf life of 2 years that are loaded sugar, artificial sweeteners and cheap protein fillers?

Having said that, I want to break it down a little further by listing my top pros and cons for protein bars in general.

I think this will answer a lot of your questions on the good, the bad, and the ugly on this topic…

Protein Bar Pros & Cons:

Pro: Quick convenient food choice you can take on the go

Con: Not as healthy as whole food, due to processing and freshness

Pro: Can be a good pre or post workout supplement

Con: Most of the time a protein shake is still a healthier and cleaner option

Pro: Some of the newer bars have less than 8g of sugar and are made of organic and mainly raw ingredients.

Con: 90+% of protein bars on the market are terrible for you and are loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohol, corn syrup, and preservatives.

Pro: It is possible to find bars made with all natural whey protein, but you have too really search for them.

Con: Most protein bars contain GMO soy, casein, milk, or some other cheap protein source not fit for human consumption.

Pro: There are now all raw organic nut bars that can be a healthy snack every once in awhile.

Con: Most of these nut bars are not raw and have been heated – some also contain dried fruit making it very high in sugar.

Pro: You can store bars at home, in the car, your office, or in your bag so that you can always have a healthy option waiting for you.

Con: You must pre-plan and buy the healthier bars ahead of time since if you just go to a local convenience store you’ll most likely end up eating a high sugar variety.

Hopefully after reading over this pros and cons list you can see that protein bars can be a good relative choice. By that I mean, if you’re choosing between a muffin, cookie, or bagel, then a low sugar protein bar can be a great option.

My recommendation is not to plan on eating a protein bar every day, but always keep some on you just in case you get thrown off you schedule and need a quick convenient meal on the run that won’t derail you from achieving your body transformation and health goals.

In a future newsletter I’ll be back with some of my favorite brands for protein bars, and the one that I always keep in my bag at all times, just in case…

Also, if you’d like to instantly download my complete 12 Week Body Transformation System :

It includes EVERYTHING you need to achieve your goals.

Everything.

Committed to your success,

Stephen Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Voted “2011 Personal Trainer of the Year”
Author of Fatlossity, Lose5in7 Weight Loss System
Health Consultant for MTV, Men’s Health, Women’s Day, MAXIM, NutritionData, Dietcom, SELF

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In more recent years, protein bars have been given a bad rap – and for good reason: some bars are pure garbage and certainly fit the mold of a “glorified candy bar”.

BUT (there’s always a but 😉), there is a time and place for protein bars if you know what to look for.

Personally, I’m a HUGE fan of protein bars – I often keep one in my purse in the case I don’t pack enough food for work, I’m running low on energy, I have extra macros to fit in, or I’m going on a road trip/vacation. They’re one of my go-to’s for convenience, and they’re likely one of the first things you’ll see me grab in a gas station (where you’ll also see me reading the nutrition label – more on that below).

When going for a protein bar, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

1) What is the purpose of the bar: snack, pre/post-workout, or meal replacement?

If the bar is meant to be eaten for a snack (and you plan to eat again within an hour or two), stick to either half of a bar OR a full bar with around 150 calories. The Built Bar is one of the most macro-nutrient friendly protein bars I’ve come across to date.

If the bar is being used for pre or post-workout, make sure the dietary fiber is low (as it can leave you feeling a bit full/bloated and makes it harder to absorb nutrients post-workout).

2) Speaking of fiber, pay attention to the fiber content.

The recommended daily fiber intake for women is approximately 25 grams and for men is 35 grams. Dietary fiber helps you feel full longer and helps with digestion considering it can’t be absorbed by the body like other vitamins and minerals (it goes in, it goes out, so to speak).

However, too much fiber can lead to constipation and can interfere with absorption of important minerals and vitamins in other foods.

This is where the term “net carbs” comes into play. A protein bar with 20 grams of carbs including 10 grams of fiber has a “net carb” total of 10 grams, because only 10 grams of those carbohydrates will be absorbed by the body. But that topic is for a different day.

You can find more information about fiber purposes and requirements here.

3) Regarding types of carbohydrates, keep an eye on the sugar content.

THIS is where the bad rap really comes into play. When a bar claims to be a protein bar but contains 15, 20, 30+ grams of sugar, it becomes a candy bar with some protein (for reference, there are 20 grams of sugar in two Reese’s peanut butter cups – eat those instead in this case because they’re DELICIOUS).

Keep in mind, if there’s chocolate, cacao or fruit involved, the sugar count will be higher, and sometimes that’s okay. For example, Larabars are made up of all natural ingredients often including plenty of fruit. The cherry Larabar has 23 grams of sugar, but most of it comes from natural sources (dates and unsweetened cherries).

*The daily recommendations for sugar are 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 37 grams per day for men.*

4) Look at the protein content.

If the bar is truly a protein bar, there should be at least 10 grams of protein. I personally prefer closer to 15-20 grams per bar, but it ultimately depends on your protein goals.

Protein is an essential macro-nutrient, often referred to as the building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

Recommendations for protein consumption range from anywhere as low as half of your bodyweight in grams (i.e. a 150 lb person would want to eat at least 75 grams of protein per day) to as high as 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (i.e. a 150 lb person would want to be eating 300 grams of protein per day).

I personally prefer somewhere in the middle, around 1 gram of bodyweight per day especially in a fat-loss phase.

*If your goal is to get protein in, the carb and protein content of the bar should be similar*

5) Pay attention to the carbohydrate content.

Carbohydrates are another essential macro-nutrient that is primarily used for energy. Because carbs are primarily used for energy, it’s important to take into consideration both the time of day that you are eating the bar, along with the activity that follows consumption.

If it’s later in the day, you’ll want the carb content to be a bit on the low side (20 grams or less) considering you won’t be expending a large amount of energy at the end of a given day. Something like a Power Crunch bar may be a good choice.

If you’re eating a bar prior to an intense workout or a long-distance run, it’s a good idea to eat a more carb-heavy bar (that is lower in fiber!) to help keep your energized throughout the duration of your exercise. Something like a Clif Bar is a good choice.

6) Prioritize real food.

This one is important. It is always a better choice to eat whole, natural foods than it is to eat processed foods. I don’t think this one needs much of an explanation, just try not to eat protein bars all day every day, okay? Okay.

Here are some of my FAVORITE, go-to protein bars:

  • Quest: The Smore’s bar has 190 calories with 7 g Fat, 22 g Carbs (14 g Fiber, 1 g Sugar, 4 g Erythritol ), and 21 g Protein.
  • ONE: The Maple Glazed Donut bar has 220 calories with 8 g Fat, 23 g Carbs (10 g Fiber, 1 g Sugar), and 20 g Protein.
  • Zone Perfect: The Chocolate Mint bar has 210 calories with 7 g Fat, 24 g Carbs (3 g Fiber, 14 g Sugar), and 14 g Protein.
  • Built Bar: The Coconut Chocolate bar has 110 calories with 4 g Fat, 13 g Carbs (6 g Fiber, 4 g Sugar), and 15 g Protein.
  • Clif Bar: The Chocolate Chip bar has 250 calories with 5 g Fat, 45 g Carbs (4 g Fiber, 21 g Sugar), and 9 g Protein.
  • Power Crunch: The French Vanilla Crème bar has 200 calories with 13 g Fat, 8 g Carbs (1 g Fiber, 5 g Sugar), and 14 g Protein.

Note: these are not affiliate links and this post is not sponsored in any way (though I wouldn’t complain! *subtle hints*), I just figured I’d share my favs with you. Enjoy!

Til’ Next Time,

Meagan

Pros And Cons Of Protein Bars And Sports Drinks

When buying protein bars don’t be fooled by some labels which say that they offer you 100% daily nutrition. Some are great for quick energy, but some of these products are just sweet snacks that threaten your weight loss goals. The same goes for energy drinks which can be loaded with sugar and sodium.

Here are the pros and cons to know when buying meal replacement bars and energy drinks.

Protein Bars

  • Pre/after workout energy boost

You need to charge your batteries with energy to optimize strength and endurance during your workout. For post-workout replenishment, your body needs fluids, protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Because many protein bars are high in carbs and overloaded with sugars, a protein shake can be a better alternative. A shake is digested faster so you get all vitamins and nutrients that your body needs after a strenuous workout quickly and you can make them without sugar.

  • Great protein sources

Our bodies are totally dependent on protein fuel to build and maintain our muscles. You need at least 3 daily servings of protein and you can get them generously from energy bars – some small bars can have 30 g of protein like PowerBar ProteinPlus®.

  • Easy snacks for on-the-go eating

Protein bars are portable, convenient snacks – they don’t need to be refrigerated and you just tuck them into a pocket or gym bag for a quick refueling. Eat them with some real food such as a yogurt or a piece of fruit.

  • What impact they have on digestion

Many protein bars can lead to indigestion because of their lack of fiber, low water content or high concentration of filler ingredients (one is glycerin, a thickening agent for processed food). For this reason, you should drink plenty of fluids along with the bar to help you digest them. If you have any digestive sensitivities, you should stay away from protein bars that have gluten, dairy or sugar alcohols (glycerol, lactitol and sorbitol).

Try organic, vegan and gluten-free bars from The Simply Bar®.

  • They don’t have enough minerals and vitamins

A protein bar is a SNACK, not a MEAL replacement! Dieters make the common mistake of replacing meals with these bars in their diet. Vitamin B6, which is present in the majority of protein bars helps your body to absorb more energy from the carbs you eat, but it’s not enough. And most bars don’t have enough calcium and iron which are crucial to a woman’s diet. A lack of iron can make you feel tired and weak when working out.

ThinkThin® Brownie Crunch has iron 10% of DRV g, 0 g of sugar, and 20g of protein, plus it is gluten free.

  • Before you bite into a protein bar, first check the all ingredients

Numerous brands are loaded with sugar, fat and an endless list of artificial ingredients. Some are worse than candy bars. Watch out for chewy protein bars bundled with dried fruits and honey oats – they taste excellent but they are pretty high in calories and sugar. As a rule of thumb, protein should be at least half of the amount of the bar’s carbohydrates. Choose bars under 5 g sugar and 10 g of fat.

Quest Bar™ Chocolate Peanut Butter has 160calories, 20g of protein, total carbs 25g, 5g fat, 1 g sugar and contains whey protein.

Sports Drinks

  • Keep you hydrated and replace electrolytes lost through sweat

Getting enough fluid is vital for all women, especially when we work out. Sports drinks have electrolytes and vitamins that prevent dehydration and restore important minerals lost through perspiration. They are also loaded with carbohydrates which maximize your performance and provide fuel to your workout.

  • Dental damage

Colorful sports drinks taste great, but the artificial coloring and flavoring used in the drinks can cause dental problems. These drinks are also acidic, full of sugar and sodium which means that they can erode tooth enamel easily.

  • Weight gain and Bloating

The high sodium content of some sports drinks can be surprising. Too much sodium in your diet makes you retain water and get bloated. Another culprit in these drinks is sugar. Avoid Gatorade G2 Perform 02 – Rain Berry – It contains 80 calories, 21g of sugar and 160 milligrams of sodium. Try Gatorade G Series Fit 02 Perform instead, it is has 10 calories, only 2g of sugar and 110 milligrams of sodium.

For the best no calorie no sodium refresher, try Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero – it provides 100% DV of Vitamin C, and about 40 percent of some essential B vitamins.

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The Best Protein Bars, According To a Nutritionist

There are very appropriate times to consume the best protein bars, but those probably occur less than you probably think. The healthiest protein bars are great to those of us who lift weights — it’s hard to get all the muscle-repairing nutrients without eating steaks upon steaks. For those who are looking for a post-workout meal on the way to work. And for those that are replacing that rare meal after being caught in meetings or traffic — because a low-sugar protein bar is better than fast food any day.

And that’s about it. Why? This is not any nutritionist’s idea of a healthy snack.

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“I understand nowadays, everyone is always short on time and rushing from one commitment to the next, but I think people rely on protein bars too often,” says Jennifer Silverman, a New York-based nutritionist. “Depending on the bar, they might be upwards to 250-300 calories and packed with added sugar.”

Another issue with protein bars: many of them are packed with fillers. Silverman says you should avoid added and fake sugars (sucralose, erythritol, and aspartame in particular. “Instead look for bars that have ingredients you can pronounce and natural sugars,” she recommends.

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In a perfect world, a protein bar should have no more than 14 grams of sugar per serving.

It should also have about five or so grams of fiber, which helps you digest it slowly and release its energy evenly.

It should have four grams of fat.

If you are looking to shed weight, the maximum calories a bar should have is 200.

If muscle gain is your goal, a bar should have at least 20 grams of protein.

Otherwise, a protein bar should have 10 grams of protein.

You can always make your own bars, but if you don’t have time, there are some solid options on the market. You’ll note that some have more sugar than others, because ultimately, if you don’t like the taste of something, you won’t eat it, no matter how much it’s touted as being better for you. We’ve provided the nutritional info. You make the call.

Each bar is made with roughly seven ingredients, so you know what you’re eating, like dates and figs.

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Free is the name of the game here: These bars are gluten free and soy free, plus they’re vegan. Because these aren’t loaded with protein, they’re best to eat when you’re on a hike and need an energy boost.

  • Protein: four grams
  • Sugar: 18 grams
  • Fiber: four grams
  • Fat: five grams
  • Carbs: 26 grams
  • Calories: 150

These bars are made with plant-based proteins.

These bars are USDA organics, kosher, vegan, non-GMO, grain-free, and most of all, they’re gooey-good. And they’re made with just four ingredients.

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  • Protein: 11 grams
  • Sugar: 18 grams
  • Fiber: four grams
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Carbs: 25 grams
  • Calories: 210

These protein bars contain a whopping 20 grams of whey and milk protein.

These bars are meant for serious workouts and are eaten by NFL athletes. They’re loaded with protein, but are also heavy on the sugar. Still, they’re one of the most delicious protein bars you can buy, both in terms of flavor and texture.

  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: 29 grams
  • Fiber: two grams
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Carbs: 41 grams
  • Calories: 350

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Each of these protein bars contains eight grams of organic plant protein from pumpkin seeds.

We like that you can recognize the ingredients in these protein bars, and that each bar contains six grams of sugar. The chewy texture is a nice plus, too.

  • Protein: eight grams
  • Sugar: six grams
  • Calories: 170

From a mother and daughter-run company, these protein bars are made from plant-based ingredients that will fill you up.

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These protein bars are organic, gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free. They have 12 grams of protein that comes from peas and brown rice. All of the ingredients are sustainably grown, and you can choose from 14 flavors.

  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Sugar: 11 grams
  • Fiber: two grams
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Carbs: 34 grams
  • Calories: 270

This bar is rich on taste, because it’s made with honey and nut butters, but you need to refrigerate it. It stays good for one week out of the fridge.

What it lacks in convenience, it makes up for in taste. It’s creamy, crunchy, and reminiscent of cookie dough. Which makes sense, given how high it is in sugar and fat.

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  • Protein: 17 grams
  • Sugar: 18 grams
  • Fiber: four grams
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Carbs: 26 grams
  • Calories: 330

This bar has three, yes three, ingredients in it. Easy and simple.

It’s clean eating on the go. You get three ingredients and they are almonds, honey, and whey protein isolate. So there’s no need to get a chemistry degree before buying this protein bar. And you get 20 grams of protein per bar.

  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: 11 grams
  • Fiber: four grams
  • Fat: 16 grams
  • Carbs: 20 grams
  • Calories: 280

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A bar that proudly lists its main ingredients on the front, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

There are no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or fillers, plus most of the bars are gluten-free with no soy or dairy. Its 12 grams of protein come largely from egg whites, an ingredient offered by precious few other bars.

  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Sugar: 14 grams
  • Fiber: four grams
  • Fat: eight grams
  • Carbs: 22 grams
  • Calories: 210

These protein bars are full of grains, nuts, and seeds from Non-GMO ingredients.

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The same brand known for its kid-friendly granola bars has moved into protein bar-land. Each bar has 12 grams of multi-source plant protein and six grams of fiber per serving. We like that each bar only has six grams of sugar and six grams of fiber.

  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Sugar: six grams
  • Fiber: six grams
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Carbs: 18 grams
  • Calories: 230

A great-tasting bar that has 20 grams of protein that will fill up in the short term until your next meal.

There are only four grams of sugar in each bar. With six grams of fiber per protein bar, it should keep you feeling full for hours after eating.

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  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: six grams
  • Fiber: six grams
  • Fat: eight grams
  • Carbs: 24 grams
  • Calories: 230

From a trusted name in the nutritional bar world, this bar has got 20 grams of protein and you get selection of great flavors.

You won’t get more than 10 grams of fat per bar. The protein bars are also vegan-friendly, something that can be hard to find, and they taste pretty great.

  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: 17 grams
  • Fiber: three grams
  • Fat: nine grams
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Calories: 280

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You get four ingredients, and 20 grams of organic grass-fed protein per bar.

They are gluten-free and have only one gram of sugar. Each bar is only 130 calories, so you can add mass while protecting your waistline.

  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: one gram
  • Fiber: 18 grams
  • Fat: five grams
  • Carbs: 19 grams
  • Calories: 130

If you’re a fan of peanut butter, these are for you.

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Each protein bar has 20 grams of protein, and the low glycemic index means your sugar levels won’t spike and drop all over the place.

  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: zero added sugars
  • Fiber: one gram
  • Fat: nine grams
  • Carbs: 22 grams
  • Calories: 230

A low-sugar, gluten-free bar that comes in a bunch of crazy flavors, like maple glazed doughnut and almond bliss.

Each bar has just one gram of sugar and just over 200 calories, so they’re not a bad choice for those trying to lose weight. Each bar also has 20 grams of protein, so they’re not kidding around.

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  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sugar: one gram
  • Fiber: one gram
  • Fat: nine grams
  • Carbs: 22 grams
  • Calories: 230

This bar tastes delicious, has nine grams of sugar, and three grams of fiber. It has 28 grams of carbs and six grams of fat.

For nine grams of sugar, which is on the reasonable side, you get a protein bar packed with flavor. It really, really tastes good. And it has a solid eight grams of protein.

  • Protein: eight grams
  • Sugar: nine grams
  • Fiber: three grams
  • Fat: six grams
  • Carbs: 23 grams
  • Calories: 190

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Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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The best protein bars are a very convenient aid to building muscle. The whole business of getting ripped is a seemingly complex one, but as well as lifting weights and losing weight, eating to aid recovery and repair shredded fibres is essential, and protein is arguably the most important nutrient for that. And that’s where the best protein bars and snacks come in play.

Josh Dyson, a performance nutritionist at the Manchester Institute of Health & Performance (MIHP), says that those looking to bulk up should intake around 500kcal above the ‘maintenance’ level of calories, which is 2,500kcal for your average-sized bloke. So that’s 3,000 in total.

Admittedly, smashing 3,000kcal into your body isn’t exactly difficult – just visit your local Gregg’s – but getting a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) is tricky. On top of this, it’s essential that enough protein is ingested on a daily basis, especially if you are hitting the gym hard in search of more defined muscles.

James states that a rough guide sees between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kg of body mass. “This can be extended to roughly 3 grams of protein per kg of body mass for those working stupidly hard in the gym,” he says.

So, your average male will require around 20-40 grams of protein per snack or meal, depending upon an individual’s body mass, and although you can cover this by having a portion of cooked chicken breast with every meal, a bit of variety wouldn’t hurt. Having some more readily available snack options in your pocket/bag can save you from caving in under the mounting desire to have a Mars bar when you’re really hungry.

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Why should you eat protein snacks

Protein shakes are a popular source of the nutrient, as they are quick to make up and guzzle on the go but sometimes it’s favourable to have a proper snack to chew, rather than constantly relying on a liquid lunch.

Thankfully, the protein producers of this world have cottoned on to this fact and now serve up a bunch of tasty snacks, typically in the form of a bar, that cram in a load of protein and taste good.

Apart from protein bars, there are a few other options to choose from when it comes to upping your protein intake throughout the day in a convenient way. Protein balls are bitesize versions of protein bars and are really the ultimate finger food for bodybuilders and people on slimming diet.

As well as protein balls, you can also get high-protein flapjacks, another tasty snack you can have on the go. Protein flapjacks can be high in fat and sugars, due to the way they are made, so please make sure you read the label before you devour them.

You can also cover some of your protein needs using nut butters. Some of the nut butters available on the market today are very low on sugar, too, like The Protein Works’ Loaded Nuts, which only contains 12 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

If you are really keen on not taking any sugar and prefer hot drinks, we recommend taking collagen coffees into consideration. This might sounds a bit weird at first but hear us out. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and it also tolerates hot liquids as it doesn’t clump. Bulk Powders’ Collagen Coffee can basically be used as an instant coffee, has no sugar in it, not to mention, a 25-gram serving contains a whopping 18.5 grams of protein. It also tastes less bitter than regular black coffee. Please bear in mind that collagen coffee is not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

If you want to really keep track of your nutritional goals, we recommend downloading something like My Fitness Pal, which allows for every meal and snack to be inputted into an app. You will need to be extremely focussed to maintain this but hey – you’re a focussed guy!

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Best protein snacks: what to look out for

As with any pre-packaged food today, it pays to flip that sucker over and check its nutritional information. Despite being sold as healthy alternatives, some of these protein bars contain a lot of sugar and saturated fats, which is not great if you’re looking to get ripped.

Your choice of snack should be based on the amount of protein that’s packed into each bar, with a consideration taken to low sugar and saturated fat content, as well as a healthy balance of carbs.

Eating naturally is always the best option; so mixing one or two of these bars with a handful of nuts, fruit and other great sources of protein throughout the day is the best way to ensure the body receives all the nutrients it needs.

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The best protein snack bars, in order

1. Barebells Protein Bars

The best protein bar snack

Specifications

Weight: 55g Flavour: Salty Peanut Fat: 4.4g Sugar: 1.4g Protein: 20g

Reasons to buy

+Tastes great, with no chemical aftertaste+High protein content

Reasons to avoid

-Some fat content

In our humble opinion, the best balance of taste, low sugar and fat content, minimal calories and high protein content can be found in the range of bars from Barebells.

The white chocolate almond and salty peanut flavour snack bars are difficult to discern from the sort of naughty chocolate bar you’d be tempted to grab at a petrol station, but pack 20g of protein, just 1.5g of sugar and 4.4g of fat into each 55g bar.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, these puppies are a great alternative to gorging on traditional chocolate bars and nicely kill a craving without derailing the weekly nutritional regime.

They are pricey, though, so if you simply want to quickly quaff some protein, it could be worth turning towards some traditional protein powder.

(Image credit: Oatein)

2. Oatein Hype Bar

You won’t find a more delicious high protein bar

Weight: 60g Flavour: Salty Caramel, Milk & Cookies, Hazelnutty Fat: 4.9g Sugar: 1.6g Protein: 18g +Super delicious+Great texture+Modest amount of cals/bar (under 200 kcal)+Suitable for vegetarians… -…not for vegans though

• Buy the Oatein Hype Protein Bar directly from Oatein

Will there ever be a perfect protein snack? I don’t think so, partially because requirements are ever changing in the fitness industry and by the time you get used one trend, three more have already emerged in the meanwhile.

Saying this, the Oatein Hype Protein Bar comes pretty close to being the tastiest protein bar in the market today. The Oatein Hype Protein Bar is not delicious ‘considering it’s a health bar’, it is tasty on its own terms.

And it’s not only flavoursome but also very healthy too. On average, the Oatein Hype Protein Bar contains around 190 calories, under 2 grams of sugar but a very generous 18 grams of protein.

The only issue with the Oatein Hype Protein Bar is that you will want to eat more than just one bar per day. Why does it have to taste so good?

3. The Curators Jerky

Best savoury protein snack and so damn tasty

Weight: 30g Flavour: Sweet Siriracha Fat: 1.5g Sugar: 5.1g Protein: 11g +Low fat and sugar content+Lots of great flavours+Not sweet -You have to like dried meat-Not great for vegans

All of this talk of sweet stuff is enough to have the stomach flipping, but for those that crave the savoury, there is very little to compare to some good old red meat (sorry vegetarians).

The guys at The Curators aim to make beef jerky more palatable with flavours like Sweet Sriracha and Teriyaki Spice and we can reveal that they have most definitely succeeded. This is very tasty stuff.

Perhaps more importantly, a small 30g bag of cured meat contains a whopping 11g of protein and just 1.5g of fat. Despite the tasty flavour, there’s also a surprisingly low sugar and salt content too. Winner.

(Image credit: Bulk Powders)

4. Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack

Great alternative to protein bars

Weight: 85g Flavour: Chocolate Chip, Golden Syrup, White Chocolate Berry Calories: 337 kcal Fat: 12g Sugar: 12g Protein: 21g +Amazing taste and texture+High in protein+High in fibre -Relatively high sugar content

• Buy the Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack directly from Bulk Powders

Bulk Powders’ Protein Flapjack is pretty amazing, it tastes great, the texture is spot on, it’s higher in protein than many protein bars and it’s also high in dietary fibre, too. A kind of snack that you will eat because it tastes great, not because you have to.

Some of your regular, run-of-the-mill flapjacks might give your jaw muscles a workout, not the Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack, which is soft as butter – it’s an all-butter flapjack after all!

We recommend these treats to people who are working on putting on some muscle mass but would like to do it in a way that doesn’t screw up their macros completely. The extra 100 kcal – compared to the equally excellent Macro Munch bars – will come in handy for people who have fast metabolism.

(Image credit: One Pro Nutrition)

5. One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar

A vegan option, for variety

Weight: 57g Flavour: Raspberry & Chocolate, Peanut & Cacao Fat: 12g Sugar: 3g Protein: 17g +Vegan+Gluten-free+Plastic-free packaging+Low sugar content -Texture is a bit powdery

• Buy the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar direct from One Pro Nutrition

Surprisingly enough, many protein snacks – even on this list – are not suitable for vegans, regardless of how popular this type of diet is at the moment. To doctor this issue, One Pro Nutrition released its new protein bar that has many qualities on top of being suitable for vegans.

For one, it’s high in protein, mainly sourced from pea protein isolate and pea protein crispies, high in fibre AND low on sugar, of which the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar only contains less than 3 grams. It also comes free of artificial sweeteners, sugars, fillers or additives, helping muscle repair and weight loss the healthiest way possible.

The coating is made out of One Pro Nutritions vegan chocolate, the secret ingredient, which has lower GI than standard chocolate. The One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar also has Lucuma in it, a “super nutritious Peruvian fruit that supports skin health, blood sugar & cardiovascular health”, according to the manufacturer.

Being all vegan and low on sugar, there were some compromises to be made. The texture of the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar is a bit dry, although it is far from being unpleasant. In the same time, it’s very smooth and the chocolate coating helps a lot too. Even without any added sugar, the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar is one of the tastier options on the market.

(Image credit: Benefit)

6. Benefit Protein Chocolate

Best chocolate protein bar – enhance your athletic prowess with cacao

Weight: 80g Flavour: Dark Chocolate Fat: 37.6g Sugar: 9.6g Protein: 15.2g +Remarkable amount of protein for a ‘chocolate bar’+Good yumminess quotient -Best used sparingly

A recent study by Kingston University found that the epicatechin found in dark chocolate could increase the nitric oxide production in the body and therefore give athletes a competitive edge.

This 85 per cent cacao dark chocolate bar not only packs the dark chocolate benefits, it is also enriched with 19g of protein per bar.

It’s probably not a great idea to gobble down the entire pack before a workout, seeing as there’s 37.6g of fat in an 80g bar, but a couple of squares before hitting the gym could help you push it to the next level.

The Protein Works Loaded Legends

(Image credit: The Protein Works)

7. The Protein Works Loaded Legends

Serious indulgence without the associated guilt

Weight: 50g Flavour: Salted Caramel Karma Fat: 7g Sugar: 2.5g Protein: 15g +It’s like a cake, but healthy -Less protein than many rivals

• Buy the Loaded Legends direct from The Protein Works

It’s amazing that something so ridiculously delicious-looking can be fairly decent in terms of its sugar and fat content. With 15g of protein, it’s not the beefiest snack on the list, but if this doesn’t curb the sweet tooth, nothing else will.

A quick flick through the ingredients list does reveal a few naughty things, such as ‘sustainable’ palm oil and a few emulsifiers, but it’s certainly not packed with e-numbers and is a damn sight healthier than a standard chocolate bar.

Salted Caramel Karma is one of the finest sweet snacks we’ve tasted in a long time, let alone protein snacks, while Marshmallow Rock Choc has the sort of sweet appeal that sends kids into a tailspin.

If you’re the sort of person that just can’t give the cake counter a miss when out for a coffee, slip one of these in your bag.

Nutrition X Pro X Protein Bars

8. Nutrition X Pro X Protein Bars

Weight: 55g Flavour: White Chocolate Fat: 7.5g Sugar: 1.2g Protein: 19.6g +Authentic taste+High in protein+Low in sugar -Chewy

Professional athletes gobble these bars down like there’s no tomorrow and that’s because they are made to the most exacting sports nutrition standards, are low in sugar and pack a hefty protein punch.

Available in white chocolate and chocolate brownie flavour, the former tastes a little bit like the white chocolate surrounding a Magnum ice cream and nicely quash any craving for unhealthy snacks.

There is a distinct lack of E numbers and other nasty chemical, making them a great addition to an otherwise balanced diet and perfect for muscle repair following a savage workout session.

Best protein bar: Oatein Flapjack

9. Oatein Flapjack

Nicely sweet but not too naughty

Weight: 75g Flavour: Strawberry Cheesecake Fat: 4.3g Sugar: 8.6g Protein: 19g +Ludicrously tasty+Sugar content is reasonable+Big hit of protein -A bit fatty-Lots of carbs

You may have seen these guys on Dragon’s Den, where they power walked into the room and jogged away shortly afterwards with a sizeable investment from Peter Jones. Deborah Meaden may have had a few choice words to say about the branding but never mind that, as these things are delicious.There’s a sizeable hit of protein in them too and the rest of the range is also well worth checking out.

Those who want to completely ignore the sugar should probably look away now, but Oetein bars are among the tastiest on sale at the moment and do a good job of mimicking the proper filthy, protein-deprived flapjacks you’d end up regretting after stuffing them in your face.

10. Beachbody Beachbar

Best protein bar for flavour – light and sweet

Weight: 35g Flavour: Chocolate Cherry Almond Fat: 7g Sugar: 6g Protein: 10g +Genuine flavour+Light -Relatively high fat content-Lower in protein than some

• Buy direct from BeachBody in the UK: £37.79 for 15

The protein content in these tasty Beachbars may not be as high as some of the others on this list but each bar contains just 151kcal, which is great for anyone looking to sneak in a quick treat without piling on the pounds.

Available in either Chocolate Cherry Almond or Peanut Butter Chocolate, both flavours taste extremely authentic, while the recipe feels nice and light, as opposed to some of the more filling products reviewed here.

It’s worth noting the fact that each bar contains 6g of sugar, especially if you are partial to sweet things, while 7g of fat can seem like a bit much for 10g of protein.

Are Protein Bars Actually Healthy?

Whether you’re stuck in the airport or need to refuel after a long run, a protein bar can make for a great mini-meal replacement or quick snack. With flavors like chocolate coconut almond and carrot cake, they’ve come a long way taste-wise, too.

But in a day and age of chemicals and confusing food labels, it’s only natural to wonder: Are protein bars just glorified candy bars? If not and they can be part of a healthy diet, how often should you eat them compared to whole-food sources of protein, like lean meats, beans, soy, eggs and nuts?

Here, everything you need to know about what makes a protein bar healthy (or unhealthy), plus what to look for on the label should you stock up, according to registered dietitians.

WHAT ARE PROTEIN BARS MADE OF?

Generally, protein bars contain a source of protein — usually in the form of whey, soy protein isolate, rice protein, pea protein, egg white protein or nut-based protein, says Yasi Ansari, RD, a California-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

But some protein bars may not offer as much of the macro as you think, says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD, owner of MNC Nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to look where the protein ranks on the ingredient list: “The lower on the list, the less protein there is.” The type of protein matters, too. For example, soy is often found in bars to bump up protein content, but it can be a common food allergen and some people may be sensitive to it, notes Cohn. “You’d likely know this because you’d have symptoms that could range from an itchy throat and headaches to skin rashes and GI upset.”

ARE PROTEIN BARS ACTUALLY HEALTHY?

What’s ‘healthy’ depends on your individual dietary needs — whether you’re trying to up your protein intake to bulk up and improve your performance or create a calorie deficit to slim down and preserve lean muscle, for example.

It’s also important to note some protein bars not only add extra calories, but they also pack an added sugar punch, says Cohn. Think: low- or no-calorie sweeteners like sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners (which can upset your stomach), brown rice syrup or cane sugar (sometimes even more than you’d find in a candy bar, says Ansari), plus high-fructose corn syrup or corn syrup. While a bit of sugar, especially for athletes, isn’t going to be problematic, too much is linked to a number of health problems, including insulin resistance (which can lead to Type 2 diabetes), heart disease and cancer, says Cohn.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU EAT PROTEIN BARS?

How frequently it’s OK to eat protein bars is highly individual and dependent on your specific goals and lifestyle. Most people who exercise a lot have increased protein (and calorie) needs, so if you’re a competitive athlete, protein bars come in handy, considering optimal intake of protein can skyrocket from 1.2 to upwards of 2 grams per kilogram of body weight each day, depending on your training plan and intensity, says Ansari. Protein bars should be considered a supplement. Also: Research shows evenly distributing protein throughout your day is key for building muscle (Think: 25–35 grams per meal).

For vegetarian or vegan athletes who struggle to rack up plant-based sources of protein like soy, lentils, beans and grains, adding a protein bar, especially during long workouts, can also help you make sure you’re getting in enough protein, especially on busy days, says Ansari. Some vegan brands to try include No Cow, Raw Rev Glo, SimplyProtein and Pegan.

If you’re not training, it’s better to eat whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes and grains. “If you’re not working out at high intensity or for long periods of time and don’t have dietary restrictions, treat protein bars as an occasional snack for when you need to quiet your hunger bells and keep your blood sugar stable,” says Cohn. Think of protein bars as something to eat out of necessity (if you’re in a pinch when traveling or otherwise would skip a meal) rather than a daily “healthy” snack.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PROTEIN BAR

In general, the most nutritious bars have a short ingredient list and contain whole foods you can recognize, says Ansari. For example, some bars contain whole foods like dates, dried and whole fruits, nuts, nut butters, chia seeds, cinnamon and vanilla extract, she says. “Whole foods tend to have a larger variety of vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants,” adds Cohn.

“Look for a protein bar with 150–250 calories max, at least 10–15 grams of protein, 3–5 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams per serving of added sugar,” suggests Ansari. Bars from ONE, Quest Nutrition, Oatmega and NuGo Slim tend to fit the bill, she says. But keep in mind if you’re not training, you should look for one with fewer calories.

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