We met superstar endurance athlete, 11-time Ironman finisher, and sports dietitian Marni Sumbal MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N through an event with Clif Bar, so we had tons of questions for her about just that: bars. Sports nutrition can be confusing, so we wanted some clarification.
We throw protein and nutrition bars into our gym bags, but when is the right time to choose a bar over a piece of fruit, cup of yogurt, or serving of meat? What time should we be eating these bars? Who are they made for? (And yes, we asked her all these things, and she wasn’t fazed by our barrage of questions.) Here’s the scoop!
- When should you eat protein/sport bars?
- When should you NOT eat bars?
- How do you choose the right bar?
- When should you fuel up?
- When Is the Best Time to Eat Protein for Optimal Benefit?
- 15 Best Healthy & Low-Sugar Protein Bars in 2019, According to Dietitians
- What makes a protein bar “healthy”?
- The nutritional criteria for the best protein bars.
- The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:
- The Best Healthy Protein Bars
- 1. Best Overall: RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
- 2. Best Tasting: KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter
- 3. Best for Muscle Gain: ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Plant-Based Protein
- 4. Best Vegan: GoMacro Macrobar Protein Paradise, Cashew Caramel
- 5. Best for Weight Loss: Primal Kitchen Almond Spice
- 6. Best Whole Ingredients: ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar, Coconut Almond Chia
- 7. Best Meat Bar: Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
- 8. Best for Men: Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
- 9. Best for women: Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars
- 10. Best Paleo Protein Bar: EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon
- 11. Best Keto-friendly: Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar
- 12. Best for Fiber: Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie
- 13. Best Indulgence: Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
- 14. Most Natural: Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
- 15. Best Whey: Naked Nutrition Peanut Butter
- If you wonder which protein bars are not good for you, here are the 7 worst protein bars:
- Real food vs protein bars
- What are the benefits of protein bars?
- Things to avoid in protein bars
- What to look for when buying protein bars?
- 10 best protein bars in 2020
- Is It Bad to Eat a Protein Bar Every Day?
- How do you gain weight quickly and safely?
- Things to consider when picking a protein bar:
- Read the nutrition labels!
- Why not make your own?
- Proteins & Weight Loss
- Choose Wisely
- 5 Rules for Identifying Good Protein Bars
- Rule #1: Sugar is NOT the first ingredient of a good protein bar
- Looking for more advice about Nutrition?
- Rule #2: Good protein bars have 10 grams of protein — or more.
- Rule #3: Aim for less than 15 grams of sugar
- Rule #4: Watch out for sugar alcohols
- Rule #5: Look for protein bars with fewer than 400 calories.
When should you eat protein/sport bars?
- In a pinch. “For sport bars, I see these as emergency or planned situations — either you need something in the belly to control blood sugar or to honor biological hunger when you are delayed in the car, at the office, or in a meeting or traveling,” said Marni. “I would suggest use bars sparingly but always with a purpose — bars should never replace real food when you have the opportunity to eat real food.”
- During a long bike ride or workout. On the road for a while? Don’t let yourself go hungry — bars are easy to eat when you’re constantly moving and don’t have time to stop.
- When your appetite is suppressed. Have you ever done some intense cardio and then just couldn’t fathom stomaching a meal? This is the perfect time to grab a bar. “Perhaps you can’t stomach a full meal; you can nibble on a bar instead after a hard workout.”
When should you NOT eat bars?
“I encourage athletes to use real food for protein, as it is the best way to obtain the nutrients and amino acids found in protein,” said Marni. “I encourage 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal. The protein can be from meat (animal protein) or plant , or a combination of both.” She also noted to not stress about ensuring that each protein you consume is a “complete protein,” suggesting that you “eat a variety of protein throughout the day, and the amino acids will add up as the day progresses.”
How do you choose the right bar?
Marni suggests bars that actually have a decent amount of carbohydrates to ensure you’re maintaining energy levels, but with a balance of all three macros. “Choose a bar with carbohydrates and a little protein and fat — most bars are nut and fruit based which provides a nice combination of nutrients.”
When should you fuel up?
Whether it’s a bar or another “energy-dense” food as Marni would put it, you should be eating 20 to 45 minutes before your workout (if your exercise time is under 90 minutes). Post workout, she suggests refueling with a recovery snack within 45 minutes of your workout. This is where bars come in — if you can’t get home to grab or make food in that window, bars come in handy.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts
When Is the Best Time to Eat Protein for Optimal Benefit?
We know that protein is a key part of the mix of nutrients–including carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals—we need to stay healthy. Protein breaks down into amino acids that build, fuel and repair cells, and can help fend off disease and infection. Foods high in protein curb hunger and weight gain and are essential to power your day. Find protein naturally in whole foods like grains, seeds and legumes. For a handy and tasty source of plant-based protein, try Munk Pack’s protein cookies.
Experts Say We Need More Protein
Most of us do not eat enough protein, according to a Protein Summit of more than 40 dietary experts who met in Washington D.C. in 2013. Reports suggest we should consume up to twice the government’s recommended daily amount (RDA) for protein to achieve optimal health benefits. So, instead of the RDA’s 10 percent of total calories for protein, adults should consume 15 to 25 percent of their total calories in protein. Experts at the Protein Summit recommend that you space out your protein intake across the day, to include all three meals as well as snacks. So, when is the best time to eat protein for the maximum benefit? That depends on your health goals—whether you are trying to lose weight, build muscle or maintain muscle strength.
Best Time to Eat Protein to Lose Weight
A high-protein diet can help boost your metabolism and curb appetite. Include lean and plant-based protein with every meal. High-protein plant sources as beans, soy and green leafy veggies are great options.
A high-protein snack between meals can help reduce your appetite—and calories consumed—in the next meal. Instead of a bag of chips or a candy bar, try a cup of coconut milk yogurt or a Munk Pack Protein Cookie.
Pre- and Post-Exercise: Supporting Performance and Recovery
Experts generally recommend avoiding eating immediately before a workout so you don’t experience GI issues when muscles compete with your stomach trying to digest food. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should eat protein and carbs one to three hours before a workout, depending on your body’s tolerance. Pre-workout options include:
- Coconut milk yogurt with berries
- Apple and peanut butter, or
- Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes
After exercise, your body needs to replenish fuel and repair muscles. Carbs will replace the fuel, while protein rebuilds and repairs muscles. Try to eat within 15 minutes after an intense workout. Post-workout options to consider:
- Hummus and veggies in a whole-grain wrap
- TLT: Tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich
- Munk Pack Protein Cookie
Eat More Protein at Breakfast and Bedtime to Prevent Muscle Loss
Research shows that as we age, we lose as much as 3% to 5% muscle mass per decade after age 30. In older adults, loss of muscle mass, called sarcopenia, can contribute to falls and bone fractures. Spreading protein intake across the day can help to prevent muscle loss. Because most of us eat more protein later in the day, experts recommend increasing protein at breakfast to 25-30 grams to help even out protein intake. For example:
- 1 slice whole wheat toast
- Top with ¼ avocado, tofu scramble, and 3 tsp hemp seeds
Similarly, eating more protein before bed can help to supply protein for muscle recovery over-night. A handful of nuts before bed, particularly for older adults, may be beneficial.
Whether you are looking to lose weight, maximize your workouts or preserve muscle mass, it’s important to consume at least 15 to 25 percent of your total calories in protein, spread out over your day. Wise timing of protein consumption can help enhance your health and wellness. As with any major dietary changes you are contemplating, check first with your health care provider.
To learn more about Munk Pack protein cookies, visit munkpack.com.
15 Best Healthy & Low-Sugar Protein Bars in 2019, According to Dietitians
Whether you’re looking for a nutritious, on-the-go option to tide you over between meals or a portable snack to maintain muscle mass between workouts, low-sugar, high protein bars are often the answer to your nutritional needs.
“Protein bars are great for traveling, pre- or post-workout snacks, and as a snack to keep blood sugar balanced during busy days,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Krista King, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, of Composed Nutrition. “They are convenient to keep with you at your desk or in your bag for a quick snack on-the-go. They can also be a great addition for a fast and easy breakfast on-the-go,” she adds.
When determining if eating protein bars is good for you, the protein source, how much there is, and what other nutrients it’s paired with all need to be taken into consideration.
That’s why we asked nearly a dozen nutritional experts for help in determining what criteria make the best protein bars.
What makes a protein bar “healthy”?
If you’re looking to further your better-body goals, you may consider eating high protein bars. While it might sound beneficial, unfortunately, most of the protein bars in the market are loaded with sugar alcohols or saturated fat and lack fiber.
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition tells Eat This, Not That! that they key in selecting a clean and healthy protein bar is to “look for a nice balance of healthy fat, protein, and fiber to help keep you satisfied. Choose a protein bar with between 200 to 400 calories and up to 20 grams of protein per serving.”
It’s not just macronutrients that matter when it comes to determining the best protein bar. Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, of To The Pointe Nutrition says ingredients are equally important. “Look at the ingredient list and identify transparent foods like nuts, whole grains, and fruit.”
Angie Asche, MS, RD, CSSD owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition adds that she looks for good sources of protein, “like whey protein isolate, pea protein, brown rice protein, and eggs.”
The nutritional criteria for the best protein bars.
Not just any protein bar landed a spot on our list of best protein bars. We compiled a list of over 100 protein bars so we could compare their nutrition and ingredient information. With the help of dietitians, we came up with specifical nutritional and ingredient criteria we had to follow to select the best protein bars:
- 8 grams protein minimum: To qualify as a “protein bar,” each bar had to have no less than 8 grams of protein. Hillary Cecere, RDN of Eat Clean Bro, a meal delivery service, recommends aiming for 15-20 grams of protein if you’re looking to gain muscle and 7-12 grams of protein for a satiating snack.
- 13 grams sugar maximum: The best protein bars have no more than 13 grams of sugar.
- 3 grams fiber minimum: When it comes to fiber, Fine recommends opting for a protein bar with 3 or more grams per bar or serving. “However, caution with those boasting more than 10 grams of fiber as these are likely loaded with isolated fibers that can cause stomach discomfort,” says Fine.
The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:
- High-quality protein sources: We prioritized protein bars that sourced their protein from high-quality isolates and concentrates (such as grass-fed whey protein) as well as whole food ingredients (like nuts or antibiotic-free meat). “Nuts, nut butters, grass-fed meats, egg whites, and seeds are my favorite whole food protein sources for a protein bar,” Cecere says.
- Natural sweeteners: “Last, in regards to added sugar, check ingredients and choose options with natural sources of sugar like cane sugar or fruit. Whole fruit (in comparison to fruit juice and fruit concentrate) is not considered an added sugar,” says Fine.
- Whole-food ingredients: Whether they’re used to flavor or sweeten, the best protein bars only use whole food or natural ingredients—no artificial ingredients allowed.
- Healthy fats: Fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and they also help to keep you satiated. We prioritized protein bars that contain healthy fats from nuts and seeds rather than those that use vegetable oils as fillers and binders.
- Low to no synthetic or isolated fiber: “Ingredients I watch out for and advise athletes avoid (especially around the times they’re training as they can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain) include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like maltilol, erythritol, and xylitol, and large amounts of synthetic fibers like soluble corn fiber or chicory root,” adds Asche.
- No sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols have risen in popularity recently because they are a low-calorie way manufacturers can sweeten protein bars; however, dietitians advise against consuming large quantities of this ingredient. “In some people, sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress,” says Cecere.
The following 15 low-sugar, best protein bars met our nutritional requirements and deserve a spot in your pantry. After discovering the best of the best, keep reading to uncover the protein bars that are Not That!s below.
The Best Healthy Protein Bars
1. Best Overall: RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
1 bar (52 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
If you want to feel like you’re eating a decadent salted brownie while meeting all your protein needs, you’ve met your match with an RXBAR. Dubbed a favorite by many of the experts we spoke to, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian, particularly likes the simplicity of ingredients: “RXBAR does a nice job of making bars out of recognizable ingredients. They are very straightforward on their packaging and tell you that each bar contains dates, nuts, egg whites, and flavors. My personal favorite is the Chocolate Sea Salt, and I find that the 12 grams of protein really keeps me full.”
$38.88 at Amazon Buy Now
2. Best Tasting: KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 bar (50 g): 250 calories, 18 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 12 g protein
With creamy nut butter and crunchy peanuts, this healthy snack bar packs in a respectable amount of digestion-aiding fiber and muscle-maintaining protein.
$15.36 at Amazon Buy Now
3. Best for Muscle Gain: ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Plant-Based Protein
1 bar (56 g): 220 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (14 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein
Say “aloha” to a toned body when you include this bar in your diet. And don’t worry about the 24 grams of carbs: “Carbs actually help protein get into the muscle fibers,” says Isabel Smith MS, RD, CDN and founder of New York-based Isabel Smith Nutrition.
$29.99 at Amazon Buy Now
4. Best Vegan: GoMacro Macrobar Protein Paradise, Cashew Caramel
1 bar (60 g): 260 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 35 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 11 g protein
Asche notes that “excellent option for athletes looking for a vegan protein bar.” You can thank the vegetarian dynamic duo of organic sprouted brown rice protein and organic pea protein for those 11 grams of protein. This bar is also loaded with healthy fats from cashews and flax seeds, which are a great plant-based source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Plus, it’s really one of the tastiest protein bars out there.
$25.75 at Amazon Buy Now
5. Best for Weight Loss: Primal Kitchen Almond Spice
1 bar (38 g): 200 calories, 16 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 8 g protein
If you want to lose weight, you’ll want to keep your blood sugar balanced to remove thos dreaded spikes in blood sugar that can leave you hungry. “This bar has 8 grams of protein and minimal sugar, which helps keep blood sugar balanced by preventing a blood sugar spike (and subsequent drop),” says King. “This flavor, specially, contains cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar levels, making it a great addition for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin sensitivity, and those with PCOS experiencing blood sugar irregularities.”
$24.99 at Amazon Buy Now
6. Best Whole Ingredients: ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar, Coconut Almond Chia
1 bar (62 g): 260 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (10 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 10 g protein
Unlike their chewy, Play Doh-like bars, this thinkThin bar gets most of its protein from whey, almond, and sunflower. protein and is sweetened with real dark chocolate.
$16.49 at Amazon Buy Now
7. Best Meat Bar: Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
1 bar (28 g): 70 calories, 3.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein
Organic, grass-fed beef isn’t cheap for a reason. Testing shows that when cattle graze on their natural food instead of inflammatory corn, their protein consists of more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA): fats that have been utilized in weight-loss pills.
$35.88 at Amazon Buy Now
8. Best for Men: Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
1 bar (56 g): 250 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein
If you’re hungry for a delicious protein boost without sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners or zero-calorie sweeteners, this bar will become your go-to. It’s the perfect blend of creamy nut butter and crunchy cashews.
$9.58 at Amazon Buy Now
9. Best for women: Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars
1 bar (36 g): 180 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 8 g protein
“Pumpkin seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, essential fatty acids, and minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium,” says King. And these nutrients are particularly important for women’s health. “Zinc plays a crucial role in hormone balance. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help ease period pain, it helps to balance excess androgen levels (like testosterone) that are often seen in PCOS, it helps to clear the skin, plays a vital role in thyroid hormone synthesis, and helps ease the stress response. Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels, in the production of hormones, supports the thyroid, and calms your nervous system to help ease the stress response.” Plus, as women are more prone to osteoporosis, adding magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds to your diet will help the formation and maintenance of healthy bones.
$14.99 at Amazon Buy Now
10. Best Paleo Protein Bar: EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon
1 bar (43 g): 150 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 8 g protein
These Paleo, gluten-free bars are made from hormone-free pork and not much else. These high protein snacks are loaded with protein, so enjoy one after your workout to rebuild the muscles broken down during your gym sesh.
$25.99 at Amazon Buy Now
11. Best Keto-friendly: Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar
1 bar (45 g): 220 calories, 14 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
With nine grams of net carbs, Bulletproof’s bar is a bit higher than your average keto protein bar, but it’s a worthwhile carb expenditure. Its protein comes from grass-fed collagen, a trendy protein derived from bovine or marine sources (in this case, it’s from grass-fed cows). It’s particularly beneficial because it “helps to boost collagen production in the body, which has benefits for hair, skin, nails, joints, and gut health,” says King. Plus, this bar is rich in MCT oil, which studies show can prevent long-term weight gain due to increased energy expenditure.
While this bar is great for those following the Bulletproof or cyclical keto lifestyle, King also likes to recommend it in general for a snack for those working on blood sugar balance.
$34.95 at Amazon Buy Now
RELATED: No-sugar-added recipes you’ll actually look forward to eating.
12. Best for Fiber: Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie
1 bar (60 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (16 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
It might remind you of Fear Factor, but eating insects is the next big thing. And did we mention that they pack a nutritional wallop? In terms of high-protein snacks, crickets have about as much protein as chicken breast but with three times the calcium. And in this bar, they provide a big chunk of the protein in this bar.
$27.95 at Amazon Buy Now
13. Best Indulgence: Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
1 bar (45 g): 170 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (2 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Gluten-free and made with real chocolate, this Luna protein bar won’t just maintain your better body, but it will also help crush those dessert cravings in a healthy way.
$13.07 at Amazon Buy Now
14. Most Natural: Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
1 bar (60 g): 260 calories, 13 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 15 g protein
Just four simple ingredients make up this bar that tastes addictively similar to lemon shortbread: organic cashews, coconut nectar, pea protein, and lemon extract. That’s it. Don’t you love simple high-protein snacks?
$25.99 at Amazon Buy Now
15. Best Whey: Naked Nutrition Peanut Butter
1 bar (52.5 g): 210 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (6 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 15 g protein
Do you hate reading through ingredient lists on the back of protein bars wondering when you’re going to run into a sketchy ingredient or something you know you should avoid? Us too. Which is why we’re giving extra points to Naked Nutrition’s Naked Bar. This protein bar is made of just five fully transparent ingredients (no “natural flavors” here). Fuel your active lifestyle with this grass-fed whey protein powered bar.
$ 29.99 at Naked Nutrition Buy Now
If you wonder which protein bars are not good for you, here are the 7 worst protein bars:
Even though these low-sugar protein bars meet the same low-sugar, high-protein requirements as our best protein bars, they don’t meet other important nutritional marks.
The following worst protein bars landed a spot on our list of bars to avoid for numerous reasons:
- They contain more than 10 grams of sugar alcohol, which can have laxative-like effects.
- The protein is from highly-processed sources rather than whole foods.
- The higher fat content is from inflammatory vegetable oils rather than healthy fats like nuts and seeds.
- They contain artificial flavors and/or sweeteners.
1. ThinkThin Chocolate Strawberry
1 bar (60 g): 240 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 22 g sugar alcohol), 20 g protein
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a deal with this sugar-free bar. To compensate for the lack of sugar, thinkThin loads this bar up with sugar alcohols—22 grams exactly. One of those is maltitol, a low-calorie, plant-based sweetener that a study in the International Journal of Dentistry found to be associated with stomach and abdominal pain as well as excessive internal gas and flatulence. Not something that makes us want to eat these high protein snacks.
2. Nature Valley Coconut Almond Protein Chewy Bars
1 bar (40 g): 190 calories, 12 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
It may look like your favorite of high protein snacks, GORP (good-old fashioned raisins and peanuts) in a bar, but what you’re really eating when you chomp down on this Nature Valley bar is more fillers than whole foods. It looks like roasted peanuts and coconut, but more of the protein and fat you see in the nutritionals is from soy protein isolate and palm oil than whole foods.
3. SimplyProtein Bars
SimplyProtein Crispy Lemon Bar
1 bar (40 g): 150 calories, 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (7 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 15 g protein
SimplyProtein Baked Chocolate Chip Bar
1 bar (40 g): 210 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (13 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 11 g protein
These bars may be high protein snacks, but their ingredient lists read more like supply lists from a chemistry lab than foods from your pantry: soluble tapioca fiber, vegetable glycerin, and “natural” flavors. None of the ingredients are harmful to your health, but why miss out on the additional health benefits and micronutrients you get from whole foods for the same amount of protein?
4. ZONE Perfect Nutrition Bar Dark Chocolate Almond
1 bar (45 g): 190 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Don’t be fooled by the name of this bar; the “dark chocolate” is less of what you’d picture in an 85 percent dark chocolate bar and more sugar, alkalized cocoa powder (which renders all antioxidants useless), milk powder and fractionated palm kernel oil (instead of healthy-fat-rich cocoa butter). Not ideal in terms of high-protein snacks.
5. QuestBar Protein Bar Cookies & Cream Flavor
1 bar (60 g): 200 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (15 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 2 g erythritol), 21 g protein
Don’t believe everything you read. QuestBar describes this bar as being made “with real cookie crumbles and delicious white chocolate cream,” but according to the ingredients, the only place that cream could be lurking is in “natural flavors.” Not to mention, the bar may be almost sugar-free, but it’s made with a laundry list of additives and chemicals, including artificial sweetener sucralose, and the only whole food is almonds.
6. Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter
1 bar (50 g): 190 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g sugar alcohol), 20 g protein
Is 20 grams of protein worth having to eat fractionated palm kernel oil, artificial sweeteners, disodium phosphate, natural flavors, and laxative-like sugar alcohols? We think not and say no thanks to this protein bar.
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The creation of the protein bar began with fitness enthusiasts trying to squeeze out every last bit of muscle mass they can make. Today, protein bars are used by fitness enthusiasts, amateurs, those trying to lose weight, and even the elderly trying to maintain muscle mass as they age.
Protein bars have evolved over the years. Flavors are getting more creative and better tasting. Ingredients are getting more sophisticated and even the protein has been upgraded.
When you shop for protein bars, it can be very intimidating. There are so many different brands boasting that they are the best of the best. Some have muscle clad men on the box pumping iron, others have slim swimsuit models, and some are tailored to interest those looking for vegan, organic, and otherwise health-conscious shoppers.
How do you sift through the plethora of bars to find the right protein bar for you? Well, that’s the purpose of this article. Hopefully, when you are finished reading, you’ll be able to distinguish which bars aren’t worth your money and which should be in your shopping basket. We will go over what to look for and what to avoid depending on your desired end result.
Jump straight to the list of 10 best protein bars in 2020 based on a collaborative effort between ourselves and reviews from fitness experts and enthusiasts.
Table of Contents
Real food vs protein bars
Natural foods are always the best source of nutrition for our bodies. They are more easily absorbed and digested to be used fully by our bodies for its intended purpose. Supplements, on the other hand, aren’t as easily absorbed by our bodies but can help to fill any nutritional gaps we might be facing from our real food diet.
Vitamins are an example of this. Many people take a daily vitamin to help supplement what they don’t get in their regular diet. It can be hard to get all of the recommended vitamins and minerals by just eating. The vitamin supplement can help but won’t replace the nutrition you get from real foods.
Since most vitamins are made with synthetic substances, it can be difficult for the body to absorb them properly and they have also been known to create some negative side effects. There is a study to prove this fact and how Americans can fall prey to advertisements and the placebo effect. It is important to choose your vitamins wisely. Read the label and pick one that is made from natural sources.
The same is true of protein supplementation. It is always best to get the bulk of your protein from whole foods like lean meats, legumes, and vegetables but sometimes it can be hard to get enough protein from your diet, especially if you are stressing your muscles with exercise.
Our busy lives can get in the way of our nutrition. If you suffer from this, don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. Sure, it would be better to eat a plate of delicious vegetables or a nice thick steak but it isn’t always easy to get these.
Cooking is time consuming and when you’ve had a long day at work, you really don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. Picking up an unhealthy meal or snack on the way home is too tempting. No cooking and easy cleanup. Convenience is the American way.
Sometimes you don’t even have that option if you are on the road away from a useable kitchen. Also, even if you can cook, real foods are perishable and you have to pack them in containers that keep them at a safe temperature. Otherwise, you risk getting food poisoning. Then you need to find a place to warm them. This is not convenient, to say the least. Who has an oven or microwave available 24/7?
Protein bars can help to fill this gap. When used properly, protein bars deliver protein to your muscles at the perfect time for optimal muscle. They are very useful for busy people and those looking to sculpt lean muscle mass.
What are the benefits of protein bars?
A high amount of complete protein
A reputable protein bar company will focus on delivering high quality and absorbable protein. Many companies pack a wallop with their protein content. You can find some with vegan protein such as soy or pea protein if this is your diet of choice. Most on the market contain whey protein concentrate because it is cheap and abundant but some contain whey protein isolate which is one of the quickest to absorb. There is also casein protein and milk protein which is a mixture of casein and whey. Whatever the protein source, these bars often contain more than 15 grams of protein that your body can use. That is like eating half a steak. Who can do that at the gym?
Protein is a very hunger-fighting nutrient. How does it work? When your body breaks down protein, it creates a chemical called phenylalanine. This chemical triggers hormone that kill hunger. This can come in very handy when you are trying to lose weight but keep your muscles. Many times a low-calorie diet without enough protein will, in fact, help you lose weight but also breaks down your muscles. This makes it easier to regain your weight later because it slows down your metabolism. Protein can also help to reduce those crazy cravings you have at night and keep you on track nutritionally. Check out the amazing results of this study.
There is nothing more convenient than grabbing a snack out of your pocket and filling half your daily protein needs. Some protein bars are covered in chocolate so you might want to find a different location to store them but they are still very convenient. They are easy to eat, small enough to stick anywhere, individually wrapped and don’t need refrigeration.
We already discussed how you can keep these bars in your pocket. Of course, not everyone wants to have bulky pockets. (Is that a bar in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?) But you can keep these bars anywhere; in your gym bag, in your car, in your desk drawer, or in a backpack while you are hiking. Until you are ready to put these in your mouth, you can literally put them anywhere.
Sometimes the hours between meals can seem like an eternity. Snacking can be dangerous when you are trying to watch your calorie intake. Many snacks are full of fat and high in calories and if they aren’t they can leave you feeling less than satisfied. Protein bars are usually under 300 calories. Some have more calories but they are used as a meal replacement bar. (See next point.) If they aren’t you might want to check the ingredients list for fat and/or choose another bar. Also, remember point #2? These bars will not leave you feeling unsatisfied. They are guaranteed to stick with you until your next meal.
Protein bars that have more than 300 calories are often used to replace a meal. This helps to keep calorie consumption down and since they are so convenient, they help to save time. I wouldn’t recommend doing this often because most protein bars don’t contain much more nutrition than protein. Even if you can find a protein bar with a good list of included vitamins and minerals, chances are they aren’t from a natural source. Again, there are exceptional bars you can find that will be all natural but be ready to fork out a little extra cash.
Protein provides a great source of energy to both your body and your brain. It increases glycogen levels in the body which is a great source of energy for performing high-intensity exercise.
Help build lean muscle mass and strong bones
Protein bars can be eaten at the right time, either before, during, or after a workout depending on your needs. Before you workout, it provides energy to your muscles to help them get through the workout and even work harder during. If you are doing a longer than a normal workout you may need to provide your body with protein to keep this effect going. After a workout, eating a protein bar will help your muscles repair themselves from all the stress you just put on them. Protein is the building block nutrient. It helps to repair and strengthen muscle and bone mass. This helps to make your body a strong fortress, healthy against muscle atrophy, bone frailty, and an unattractive body frame.
Can help lower blood pressure
Since protein bars are such a convenient way to increase your protein intake, they can help you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Protein is proven to help keep these two areas in check.
Things to avoid in protein bars
- Beware of bars that say they are sugar-free but are loaded with sugar alcohols. These can cause bloating and gastrointestinal issues that you just don’t want to deal with.
- Don’t buy bars that are basically a candy bar with protein added to it. Check the sugar content and fat content.
- Make sure that there are no trans fats in your protein bar as these have no benefits from eating and are harmful to your health.
- Stay away from any ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, fructose, maltose, dextrose, maltodextrin, saccharose, sorghum, brown rice syrup, sucrose, carob syrup, or fruit juice concentrate and any flours besides wholemeal flours.
- Don’t buy bars that have a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. This means they are full of synthetic preservatives and additives that you don’t want to put into your body.
What to look for when buying protein bars?
When you find yourself staring blankly at the aisle of protein bars, it’s important to know what you want to get out of your protein bar. Then you can start to do your research and make a wise decision. The following aspects of a protein bar are points to consider when doing your shopping.
Total calorie count
This number is important because calories have an impact on our body. If your calorie intake is too low you won’t build enough muscle mass but if your calorie intake is too high, the excess calories will be stored as fat.
Even if you don’t want to gain fat, having enough calories in a snack to make it satisfying is important. The optimal calorie count for a protein bar that will be eaten as a snack is around 200 calories if your goal is to lose weight. Finding a protein bar with plenty of protein and fewer than 200 calories is hard so if you find one, grab it.
If you are looking to build muscle, higher calories in a post workout bar will help you gain muscle mass quicker. Studies have proven that fact. The extra protein will definitely help. Studies have also proved this. Of course, you still don’t want to go overboard but as far as I know, there aren’t any protein bars on the market that are over 500 calories, so you should be safe.
Depending on the kind of carbs you are eating, carbs can be a good source of energy or very, very bad. Healthy carbs like quinoa, legumes, and whole grains will give your body a boost with the protein to make for a perfect afternoon pick me up. Bars with higher amounts of carbohydrates are great to eat after a really draining workout to help your body get through the rest of the day.
These complex carbs are digested much slower than the unhealthy simple carbohydrates and give a slow release of energy that the body can use as its being released leaving no unused energy to store as fat. If you are looking to lose weight, you would want to limit even the healthy carbs to anything under 25 grams.
If you are looking to gain muscle mass you need those extra carbs. Try to get about twice as much carbs as protein in your bar for optimal gain.
On the other hand, there are carbs that will sabotage your energy levels. These carbs will spike your blood sugar levels and will be quickly followed by a crash. This crash in energy will cause your body to crave high-calorie foods and you will find yourself overeating. This study shows you why. These types of carbs are either added sugars or refined grains, meaning that they have almost all the fiber and nutrients taken out of them.
Most people hear the word fat and scream running for the hills but there is actually a real reason to eat fat as long as they are the healthy fats that your body will use instead of pack onto the side of your legs or add it to the belly pooch.
Healthy fats in protein bars usually come from nuts and seeds. These have omega 3 fatty acids that have many health benefits and help you feel full and satiated for longer so having them in your protein bar will help you stick to your diet and be productive the rest of your day.
If your main purpose for eating a protein bar is for post-workout fuel, you shouldn’t have much fat in them at all as this will slow your carbohydrate absorption by a few hours.
Obviously, we want high doses of high-quality protein in our protein bars. It can be hard to decide how much protein we really need because of so many varying factors such as age, gender, activity, and diet but as a rule of thumb, your protein bar should contain at least 12 grams of protein.
This protein should be from a good source, preferably as unprocessed as possible. There are many different types of protein like whey protein and casein protein which are both milk based. Whey protein is very quickly digested while casein protein is slowly digested. Whey is good for pre or post workout and casein is great when you need the protein to be released slowly to feed your body over an extended period of time, such as before bedtime.
Soy protein and pea protein are both vegan and vegetarian. There is also egg protein which is almost fat-free but still a good source of protein.
Because sugars make protein bars taste good, it will be very hard to find one without any sugars whatsoever but the type of sugar it contains is important as well as how much of it is in there. Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or other natural sugar are the best source of sugar but sugars can come in many different disguises so read the ingredients well. As little sugar as you can find in a bar, the better but the best bars would have 10 grams or less.
Taste is always important. There is no point in buying a protein bar that you can’t bear to get down your gullet. If you are dreading the pain of swallowing the chalky protein bar, it isn’t worth it. Save yourself the punishment and find a bar that tastes at least ok. There are many bars that are delicious and nutritious. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find one.
In an effort to make protein bars more palatable, some companies use less than healthy ingredients. They can load up on artificial sugars and processed flavorings. To keep the bars from getting stale over time they will use more processed ingredients. In order to keep cost down, companies will opt for GMO products and non-organic protein. It can be difficult to find a perfect bar but you have to weigh the consequences. Protein is important but not to the detriment of your healthy nutrition so be sure to take a close look at the nutrition label to avoid any potential side effects.
The ingredients in your protein bar should be simple and easy to understand. If you can read the label quickly and don’t find ingredients that are long and sounds more like the name of a disease rather than something that should be eaten, you’ve found yourself a good wholesome bar. Now all you have to do is make sure the nutrients match your goals and you are all set!
10 best protein bars in 2020
Below we put together a list of top 10 protein bars for men and women based on a collaborative effort between ourselves and reviews from fitness experts and enthusiasts.
Whether you want to pack on some muscle mass or drop some fat, you will certainly find a protein bar that fits your needs.
1. Garden of Life Sport Protein Bar
These bars contain 20 grams of pea protein and brown rice protein which puts many whey protein bars to shame. It will definitely help deliver all the necessary nutrients your body needs to gain muscle mass. They also contain 300 calories and 33 grams of carbs to help pack those pounds on and come with 10 grams of fat and 9 grams of fiber. They are available in peanut butter chocolate, chocolate mint, chocolate fudge, and sea salt caramel flavors. Overall being organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan these protein bars are a great choice.
Why we like it
- Good for muscle building
- Organic ingredients
2. The Perfect Bar
These bars have many different flavors, all with a different set of ingredients but they all have the same benefits when it comes to helping your body recover from a grueling workout. They have just over 10 grams of protein to feed your muscles. It may not sound like a lot so if your goal is to gain weight you can simply have 2 bars at once. These bars also contain superfoods and healthy fats that will lubricate your joints and help you protect your body from the stressful workout. Ingredients include almonds, flax seed oil, honey (which comes with many different health benefits), and coconut. Read our full review for more info about this bar.
- Good for muscle building
- Great ingredients
3. Rise Protein Bar
These bars are around 300 calories each and have 4 grams of fiber and around 20 grams of carbs. They are higher in fat than some bars but the sources of fat are healthy. They contain up to 20 grams of protein in each bar and are great for gaining weight and muscle mass. The protein comes from whey protein which is rapidly used by muscles, which is what you need after a strenuous workout. These bars are some of the healthiest bars available with very simple yet healthy and tasty ingredients. Read our full review for more info about this bar.
- Good for muscle building
- Whole-food ingredients
4. RxBar Protein Bar
These bars use egg whites for their protein. Although eggs lose many of the nutrients when you take out the yolk, the egg whites alone still provide plenty of potassium and magnesium and are basically pure protein. With the ingredients being mostly whole foods, the bars are high in vitamins and minerals. The dates and almonds give your body a boost of natural energy which will help you to complete a great workout. RxBars are 210 calories each and contain 12 grams of protein. The flavors available include chocolate sea salt, chocolate coconut, chocolate chip, peanut butter, mixed berry, mint chocolate, maple sea salt, blueberry, and peanut butter chocolate. Read our full review for more info about this bar.
- Good for muscle building
- Whole-food ingredients
5. Oatmega Protein Bar
These bars are impressively healthy and have integrity. Most bars with this quality of ingredients are much higher up in the price range but these bars are affordable to the average consumer. With a wide range of flavors you will never get bored with the taste, just switch it up and keep enjoying the next one. Packed with 14g of protein, omega 3s, 7g of fiber and still only 5g sugar this is the perfect snack during the day. Read our full review for more info about this bar.
- Good for weight loss
- Low sugar
6. QuestBar Protein Bar
These bars use a blend of fast digesting whey protein and slow released milk protein to help feed your muscles before and during your workout. They come in many different flavors so there is something for everyone. They are great to take with you on the road or wherever you’re going as they aren’t covered in chocolate so you can stash them in your bag or pocket and not worry that they will melt. Read our full review for more info about this bar.
- Good for weight loss
- Low calories
- Low sugar
7. SimplyProtein Whey Bar
These bars contain only 140 calories which is great if you’re trying to lose weight. They deliver 15 grams of whey protein in each bar. They come in apple cinnamon, banana butterscotch, chocolate mint, and coconut flavors. These bars use chicory root fiber, or inulin, as a sweetener but it has more than just a flavor benefit to it. This journal talks about how inulin helps lower your cholesterol and triglycerides and much more. These bars won’t hype you up on sugar only to let you crash in the afternoon so they are perfect for a long work day.
- Great for weight loss
- Low calories
- Low sugar
8. ProBar Base Protein Bar
The 20 grams of protein delivered by these bars are through soy protein isolate. They are gluten-free and GMO certified. ProBar base protein bars contain 280 calories, 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of sugar.
- Good for muscle building
9. Luna Protein Bar
These bars pack a punch with goodness as well as good taste. 12g of protein keeps you full and low calories are great if you’re trying to lose weight. Made with natural ingredients and full of vitamins these protein bars will keep you feeling at your best during those dieting times. Read our full review for more info about this bar.
- Good for weight loss
- Low calories
10. MuscleTech Mission1 Baked protein Bar
These protein bars offer you full flavor with zero artificial additives or colors. Sweetened with stevia it has zero sugar alcohol and comes with 20g of 100% isolate protein. There are no sources of gelatin or collagen as you benefit from 17g of fiber and 4g of carbs. This is a great tasting bar and can be used by those gaining weight as well as those losing weight.
- Low calories
- Low sugar
- High fiber
Is It Bad to Eat a Protein Bar Every Day?
Photo: StockFood / Getty Images
I’m just going to say it: I’m addicted to protein bars. I have one every day.
Sure, in the scheme of things, there are far worse food obsessions. But over the past year, I’ve been working on cleaning up my diet by prioritizing whole, fresh foods, and I had one last thing holding me back. Yep, protein bars.
They’re just so easy to eat on the go, and they can often pack 20 grams of protein into one tasty package. After chatting with some other health-minded friends, I found out that I’m not alone in my love of protein bars. And I’m also not alone in having an inkling that they’re probably not the healthiest food choice to make on the reg. (BTW, people are cooking with protein bars and it’s amazing.)
So, how bad is it *really* to eat a protein bar every day?! I talked to nutrition pros to find out if protein bars are really healthy or not.
Like anything else, it depends on who you ask. Some dietitians are very pro-protein bars; others are anti, but here’s the general consensus: “I would classify protein bars as a supplement or a processed food,” says Jill Merkel, a registered dietitian who focuses on sports performance. “Therefore, I would recommend protein bars only after doing a thorough diet assessment and making sure the client or athlete is getting enough whole foods first.” (Related: I Gave Up Processed Foods for a Year and This Is What Happened)
That being said, Merkel still thinks protein bars can have a place in a well-rounded diet, especially since they’re so convenient. “I would prefer a client or athlete has a protein bar to consume post-workout or for a midday snack rather than have nothing.” If it’s unlikely that you’re going to tote a whole foods snack with you wherever you’re going, then go ahead: grab the protein bar.
And while most dietitians agree that whole foods are generally better, protein bars can still help people make healthier choices overall. “The best diet is one that an individual can stick with,” points out Gabrielle Fundaro, Ph.D., a nutrition consultant for Renaissance Periodization.
Yes, protein bars are processed, but that doesn’t automatically make them “bad.” “Absolutist or black-and-white approaches to dieting, where some foods are ‘bad’ or ‘dirty,’ actually lead to much lower rates of adherence to the diet,” says Fundaro. “If a person uses a daily protein bar as part of an overall nutritious diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, whole grains, and other lean protein sources, there’s no reason to remove it or force them to replace it.” (Woohoo!)
Of course, if the protein bar was adding extra calories and causing unintended weight gain, or causing stomach issues because of processed ingredients, then Fundaro says she’d probably recommend looking into an alternative snack or post-workout fuel option.
How to Choose a Healthy Protein Bar
So basically, it’s fine to eat protein bars on the reg, provided that you’re getting enough whole foods at your other meals. But that doesn’t mean every protein bar is created equal. Here’s what to look for if you’re going to eat one.
Calories: “First, look at the calories and serving size,” says Fundaro. “Some popular protein-style cookies, for example, contain two servings per package and about 500 calories total. This may approach one-third of the daily energy needs of a small, sedentary female.” In other words, you want to make sure that if you’re eating a protein bar as a snack, it actually has a “snack-size” number of calories.
Protein: If you’re eating protein bars to up your protein intake rather than just as a convenient snack, then this one is key. “Many nutrition bars on the market these days are actually energy bars rather than protein bars,” Merkel points out. In other words, they have plenty of calories, so will likely provide you with energy, but are not high-protein enough to be considered protein bars. “Depending on one’s overall calorie and protein needs, a good place to start is at least 10g of protein for a satisfying snack. For an athlete post-workout, I would recommend aiming for 15 to 30g of protein, depending on their body size.”
If you’re really focused on protein intake, “the ideal bar is going to provide at least 10g of protein for every 100 calories,” says Emmie Satrazemis, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at Trifecta.
Fat: “Be sure to check the fat content and see if more of the calories are coming from fat or protein,” advises Satrazemis. “A lot of bars are made with nuts, nut butter, and seeds, which rack up fat and calories quickly. These are healthy fats that can help fill you up a bit more, but if you are looking to a protein bar as a workout recovery snack, fat can slow the absorption of carbs and protein you need, and you’d want to opt for a lower-fat alternative.”
Of course, if you’re doing keto or a high-fat, low-carb diet, then a bar higher in fat will be a better choice for you.
Sugar/Carbs: “When it comes to sugar, the ‘net carbs’ labeling can be pretty confusing, and the sugar alcohols used in many low-carb bars can cause gas and bloat,” says Fundaro. “Sugar alcohols include xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and erythritol. While they come from plant sources, they aren’t readily digestible by humans. Look for a bar that has at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugars.”
Protein Bar Alternatives
If you’ve decided you want to swap your protein bars for whole foods (at least some of the time), there are tons of choices-many are even vegetarian.
“Protein bars are not the most nutrient-dense source of protein you can get,” says Satrazemis. “There are a lot of other options that can give you a great source of protein for fewer calories, and they typically contain other important nutrients as well.” For reference, the average high-protein bar is between 200 and 250 calories and has about 20g of protein.
Instead, Satrazemis suggests these options, which also have about 20g of protein each:
- 1 cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt (100 calories)
- 5 hard-boiled egg whites (85 calories)
- 2 ounces grass-fed jerky (140 calories)
- 3 ounces grilled chicken and 2 tablespoons hummus (150 calories)
- 1 cup of edamame (200 calories)
Lastly, you always have the option of making your own protein bars. “In this case, vegan protein powders actually make the best protein addition; rice and pea protein bake very well,” says Fundaro. “You’ll find this to be the most cost-effective option, as well.” Here are nine protein bar recipes to try ASAP to get you started.
How do you gain weight quickly and safely?
The following nutrient-rich foods can help a person to gain weight safely and effectively.
Share on PinterestProtein shakes can help people gain weight easily and are most effective if drunk shortly after a workout.
Milk offers a mix of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins.
It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
The protein content of milk makes it a good choice for people trying to build muscle.
One study found that after a resistance training workout, drinking skim milk helped to build muscle more effectively than a soy-based product.
A similar study involving women in resistance training showed improved results in those who drank milk following a workout.
For anyone looking to gain weight, milk can be added to the diet throughout the day.
2. Protein shakes
Protein shakes can help a person to gain weight easily and efficiently. A shake is most effective at helping to build muscle if drunk shortly after a workout.
However, it is important to note that premade shakes often contain extra sugar and other additives that should be avoided. Check labels carefully.
A range of protein shakes is available for purchase in health food stores and online.
A cup of rice contains about 200 calories, and it is also a good source of carbohydrates, which contribute to weight gain. Many people find it easy to incorporate rice into meals containing proteins and vegetables.
4. Red meat
Consuming red meat has been shown to help with building muscle and gaining weight.
Steak contains both leucine and creatine, nutrients that play a significant role in boosting muscle mass. Steak and other red meats contain both protein and fat, which promote weight gain.
While a person is advised to limit their intake, leaner cuts of red meat are healthier for the heart than fattier cuts.
One study found that adding lean red meat to the diets of 100 women aged 60–90 helped them to gain weight and increase strength by 18 percent while undergoing resistance training.
5. Nuts and nut butter
Consuming nuts regularly can help a person to gain weight safely. Nuts are a great snack and can be added to many meals, including salads. Raw or dry roasted nuts have the most health benefits.
Nut butters made without added sugar or hydrogenated oils can also help. The only ingredient in these butters should be the nuts themselves.
A range of nut butters is available for purchase online.
Share on PinterestWholegrain breads contain complex carbohydrates and seeds, which can promote weight gain.
6. Whole-grain breads
These breads contain complex carbohydrates, which can promote weight gain. Some also contain seeds, which provide added benefits.
7. Other starches
Starches help some of the foods already listed to boost muscle growth and weight gain. They add bulk to meals and boost the number of calories consumed.
Other foods rich in starches include:
- winter root vegetables
- sweet potatoes
- whole-grain cereals
- whole-grain breads
- cereal bars
Beyond adding calories, starches provide energy in the form of glucose. Glucose is stored in the body as glycogen. Research indicates that glycogen can improve performance and energy during exercise.
8. Protein supplements
Athletes looking to gain weight often use protein supplements to boost muscle mass, in combination with resistance training.
Protein supplements are available for purchase online. They may be an inexpensive way to consume more calories and gain weight.
Share on PinterestSalmon is rich in healthy fats, omega-3, and protein.
Six ounces of salmon will contain about 240 calories, and salmon is also rich in healthy fats, making it a good choice for those looking to gain weight.
It also contains many nutrients, including omega-3 and protein.
10. Dried fruits
Dried fruits are rich in nutrients and calories, with one-quarter cup of dried cranberries containing around 130 calories.
Many people prefer dried pineapple, cherries, or apples. Dried fruit is widely available online, or a person can dry fresh fruit at home.
Avocados are rich in calories and fat, as well as some vitamins and minerals.
12. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a high fat, high-calorie food. It also contains antioxidants.
A person looking to gain weight should select chocolate that has a cacao content of at least 70 percent. A range of dark chocolate is available for purchase online.
13. Cereal bars
Cereal bars can offer the vitamin and mineral content of cereal in a more convenient form.
A person should look for bars that contain whole grains, nuts, and fruits.
Avoid those that contain excessive amounts of sugar. A range of low-sugar cereal bars are available for purchase online.
14. Whole-grain cereals
Many cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
However, some contain a lot of sugar and few complex carbohydrates. These should be avoided.
Instead, select cereals that contain whole grains and nuts. These contain healthy levels of carbohydrates and calories, as well as nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants.
Eggs are a good source of protein, healthy fat, and other nutrients. Most nutrients are contained in the yolk.
16. Fats and oils
Oils, such as those derived from olives and avocados, contribute calories and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. A tablespoon of olive oil will contain about 120 calories.
Cheese is good source of fat, protein, calcium, and calories. A person looking to gain weight should select full-fat cheeses.
Full-fat yogurt can also provide protein and nutrients. Avoid flavored yogurts and those with lower fat contents, as they often contain added sugars.
A person may wish to flavor their yogurt with fruit or nuts.
Pasta can provide a calorically dense and carbohydrate-rich path to healthy weight gain.
Avoid bleached pastas, and opt for those made with whole grains.
Protein is mostly known for sustaining energy and building muscle, but are protein bars good for weight loss as well? The answer is yes if you choose a protein bar with an optimal nutritional value that will help you achieve your goals. So, it’s important to understand how much protein you should be looking for, the number of calories and fibre and how much sugar that won’t be harmful to your goal.
Protein can have great effects on your metabolism, appetite and body weight as the high thermic effect burns calories in the digestive process. Self-control can be a difficult task when trying to lose weight, isn’t forbidden fruit always the sweetest? Snacking in between meals and indulging on harmful foods is a hard habit to break, but what if you didn’t crave those things? What if there was a natural option that would keep you satisfied and fuller for longer so you’re not longing for that next treat, but content until your next meal.
The answer is protein. Consuming protein can reduce the levels of ghrelin in your body, otherwise known as the hungry hormone and help you reduce your food intake naturally to a healthier level.
Things to consider when picking a protein bar:
Trying to lose weight can be a challenge on its own, so you want your food to be on your side too! While a lot of protein bars may appear to be healthy, it’s in your best interest to not be too trusting. Always check the nutrition label for important factors that could either benefit or hinder your weight loss goals, like sugars, additives, calories and fats.
Look for a bar that is high in protein and low in calories with a substantial amount of fibre to help keep you satisfied between meals and boost your energy levels.
Read the nutrition labels!
Check the amount of protein
Look for the number 20! For a pre or post workout snack bar, there should be at least 20 grams of protein, too much can be difficult to digest in a single sitting and can lead to weight gain.
Check the calories
It’s best to eat protein bars as a healthy snack instead of regular meal replacements, so try to find a protein bar with 220 – 250 calories.
Check the fibre
Fibre will help keep you feeling fuller for longer so that you don’t go snacking on unhealthy foods in between meals. The optimal amount of fibre is 3 – 5 grams per bar.
Check the fat
Your ideal protein bar should contain 10 – 15 grams of total fat. Watch out for artificial sweeteners and unhealthy fats that can hold you back from your weight loss goals.
Check the sugars
Be on the lookout for the level of sugar, you don’t want to be deceived by eating a protein bar with the nutritional value of a candy bar. The ideal portion is less than 5 grams so make sure you’re not loading up on unnecessary sugar or any artificial sweeteners that can often cause bloating, cramps and gas.
Check the type of protein
Is it dairy or plant-based? If you’re sensitive or allergic to a particular type of protein, be sure to pick one that suits your dietary needs.
Why not make your own?
Sometimes, if you want something done right you’re better off doing it yourself. Making your own protein bars at home might be the best option if you have a little spare time during the week so that you can create a batch that matches your dietary requirements and optimal nutritional value. Luckily, any Happy Way protein powder can be used to make any protein-filled recipe you like!
Give our raw oat and choc slice protein bar a go-to snack on after a hefty workout to help grow, maintain and repair body and muscle tissues. It is recommended to consume post-workout foods like a protein bar within 45 minutes after you finish your session to decrease the impact of muscle soreness.
The perfect bite size snack and popular food choice for fitness enthusiasts are protein balls. These can be an awesome substitute and are super easy to make! Try our cacao mint cookie dough protein balls recipe for the cutest post-workout snack packed with a punch of essential nutrients.
Not only are protein bars good for weight loss, but they are also great for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Protein filled recipes are a healthy choice for the long term, even after you’ve reached your weight loss goals, protein can help maintain your strength, muscle and body composition.
During your weight loss journey, don’t forget to take a holistic approach, protein shakes and bars have amazing benefits but you should make sure you’re focusing on all areas with a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and a positive outlook.
Our Happy Way fatburner collection is great for pre-workout to give you an energy boost and improvement in metabolism. While benefiting your performance and fitness goals, it’s doing wonders for your body with the highest quality raw ingredients and superfood supplements. Plus, they’re vegan-friendly and are free from preservatives artificial flavours and sweeteners. Want to know how do fat burners work? Our experts have the answer – what to look for, how to use them, along with extra advice to maximise fat burning.
To help get to your goal weight, have a read of our 3 Essential lifestyle changes for a flat belly. We’ve got so many awesome recipes to help you lose weight, gain muscle, increase energy, whatever you’re looking for in a protein recipe, you can make it with Happy Way.
The body requires protein as one of the foundational blocks in order to serve the basic function of developing muscle mass. Muscle protein synthesis is carried out in the liver which is a storehouse of several such essential components which build muscle mass.
Protein bars aimed for building muscle mass should be higher in calories as well as in good quality, bioavailable protein. This is because a higher amount of calories carry that protein sparing action which provides good satiety feeling as well as protein is saved from being utilized for supplying energy for bodily needs.
The higher amount of calories can be obtained through essential fats from nuts & oilseeds; and through a combination of simple & complex carbs such as oats, granola & dried fruits. A protein bar offering 30-40 gms of protein & approximately 400-450 calories is a good pick for individuals opting for gaining muscle mass.
Proteins & Weight Loss
Usually, protein works magic in a weight loss plan because it increases satiety & provides the feeling of fullness for a longer period of time. This ensures that we don’t binge of high-calorie snacks to satisfy those in-between hunger pangs. So, in this way, proteins help us maintain compliance with a ‘low calorie’ diet.
Another advantage of proteins in weight loss is that it helps us maintain our muscle mass and inducing more of fat mass to be lost through the whole process.
Choosing protein bars for weight loss have to be done wisely. Opt for a protein bar with calories in the range of 200-250 kcals. The protein content should not be less than 15 gms, so proteins in the range of 15-20 gms per bar.
Fibre is also equally important for ensuring satiety along with the proteins. So the bar should contain minimum 3-5 gms of dietary fibre. This shall abstain us from going for another same bar. Be wary of food components such as inulin & oligosaccharides as they can cause bloating in some individuals, and mask the weight loss results.
Read Also: Treat Yourself With Protein Bars As Comfort Food
The market today is flooded today with several bars carrying the tag of ‘protein bars’ but in actuality, they are loaded with refined sugars & harmful fats. Also, several protein bars which do contain the good amount of proteins are often not chosen by consumers since they taste quite bland.
But, the bottom line discretion which we need to use is that of choosing protein bars containing total sugars, whose calories should be less than 1/3rd of the total calories of each bar. This amount of sugar is acceptable.
Also, choose proteins bars which contain mostly natural ingredients & minimum additives & preservatives.
Here’s the first thing you need to know when you go browsing the health bar aisle looking for options that are actually good for you:
Not all protein bars are created equal.
And — if we’re being blunt — most bars that are labeled as being “healthy” have more in common with a candy bar than a handful of kale or a protein shake.
This is the health industry, where it’s much easier to slap buzzwords on a label than, you know, actually provide you with what you need.
But rather than let you be frustrated by marketing tactics (they exist in every business and with every product), we want to make your life easier. Because there are many good protein bars on the market.
We’re here to make it easy for you to identify the real deal from the real duds.
That doesn’t mean you have to earn a Ph.D. in nutrition. Just follow these five rules and no matter what bar you select, you can feel good that you aren’t wasting your time (and calories) on a crappy candy bar.
5 Rules for Identifying Good Protein Bars
Rule #1: Sugar is NOT the first ingredient of a good protein bar
This rules seems obvious, but here’s why it’s so important:
1. Most people don’t look at the actual ingredients. They just scan things like “calories” or “protein.”
2. Most people don’t know the order of ingredients reflects the quantity in a product. If sugar is first, that means there’s more sugar than any other ingredient.
3. Sugar has lots of different names so it’s easily to be fooled. So if the first ingredient is dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or turbinado, well, that means “sugar.”
And don’t think that just because a bar looks like it’s made up of whole foods that it’s lighter on the sweet stuff.
“Even if you see these nuts and raisins through the label, the bar a sugar coating,” says Valerie Goldstein, a registered dietitian and owner of Eating to Fuel Health. “It just looks like a glob of nuts, so it looks very innocent. But even these ‘whole food’-looking bars have to be held together by something. Usually that’s sugar syrup.”
If you want to make sure the bar really is healthy, the bar’s primary ingredients should be a protein source, a fruit or vegetable, or healthy fat source like nuts.
Protein, fat, and carbs consumed with fiber (which you’ll get from fruits or grains) all take longer to digest than simple sugars, so they’ll keep you feeling fuller, longer. That means you don’t need sugar to be energized; you just need a good source of fuel.
The benefits of having good “primary” ingredients (the proteins, fruit/vegetable, or healthy fat source) are part of what distinguishes a good protein bar from a snack bar. Those nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on your weight and waist line too.
For every 10 grams of fiber you eat, you’ll have as much as 4 percent less fat around your belly. Monounsaturated fats, like those found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish, have been shown to help people lose belly fat, according to a 2013 study. And a research review published in Nutrition in 2015 found that Americans who eat a high-protein diet have lower BMI and waist circumferences.
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Rule #2: Good protein bars have 10 grams of protein — or more.
This rule comes with what should be an obvious “if.”
If you’re using the bar as a protein supplement or meal replacement, you want at least 10 grams—or, ideally, even more,
“The biggest thing I tell people is, ‘Know how you plan to use the bar,’” says Anthony D’Orazio, director of nutrition and physique at Complete Human Performance, LLC. “If I’m looking to replace protein specifically, I’m looking for around 20 grams of protein,”
That means the bar’s first ingredient will likely be a protein source. Whey isolate, casein, pea, or egg protein are all high-quality choices.
Soy crisps will appear on a lot of protein labels and “count” as protein, but they aren’t the highest quality source. So if “soy crisp” is the first ingredient, even though a bar might have a high amount of protein, it’s probably not the best choice.
If you’re not using the bar as a protein supplement, you can get away with having the lower protein total. In fact, D’Orazio sometimes supplements his breakfast with a lower-protein bar that’s higher in fat and carbs. Why?
“I’m using it as a quick source of healthy fat,” D’Orazio says. “The main ingredients are peanut butter, rolled oats—ingredients people would recognize.”
Rule #3: Aim for less than 15 grams of sugar
Remember how we said many protein bars are really just candy bars disguised as something good for you?
Well, here’s the proof.
Did you know that Gatorade’s Whey Protein Bar has 29 grams of sugar? And CLIF Builder Bars have 1 more gram of sugar 21g) than they do protein (20g)? Compare that to the Met-RX Big 100 Colossal bar. Lots of protein (30g). But loads of calories overall (400), and 32g of sugar.
What in the what?
Before you freak out about sugar, know that it’s not the terrible villain it’s made to be. And there are many great bars out there (RX Bar comes to mind) with more than 10 grams. The catch? If the bar contains more than 10 grams of sugar, most of that should come from fruit or other natural sugar sources like lactose.
Why are natural sugars better?
Lactose from milk products and fructose from fruits, like all sugars, contain 4 calories per gram. But unlike refined sugars, these natural sugars come paired with the other nutrients you get from fruit or dairy—things like Vitamin C, potassium, calcium, Vitamin D, and other things that help your body function.
Good protein bars are oftentimes defined by their nutrients. It’s what helps separate a healthy bar from a candy bar. And refined, added sugars don’t deliver the added nutrients.
Added sugars also can hurt you in the long run. People who consume more than 21 percent of their daily calories from added sugars have double the risk of death from heart disease compared to people who consume just 10 percent of their calories from added sugars, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine.
Rule #4: Watch out for sugar alcohols
No, the bars don’t have booze in them. Sugar alcohols are a category of artificial sweeteners.
They have names like xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and glycerol. You’ll find them in all kinds of things labeled “sugar-free.” And for some people, they can lead to a pretty unhappy stomach, depending on how you react to them.
“That’s real person-specific. I personally don’t have an issue with them, but they can give other people digestive issues,” D’Orazio says.
Just as with the whey concentrate, he says, you have to pay attention to how the ingredient affects you. If the bar produces something less like a feeling of fullness and more like a feeling like you have to run to the bathroom, then you’re going to want to steer clear of it.
Rule #5: Look for protein bars with fewer than 400 calories.
Good protein bars are supposed to be supplements—something you use to shore up a weak spot in your diet, just like protein powder or a multivitamin. They’re meant to supply nutrients, protein, or calories you might not otherwise get from your diet, or if you find yourself busy and missing meals.
When a bar weighs in at 400 calories or more, that’s more calories than you’d get from eating a Whopper, Jr. or half of a Chipotle bowl. And a bar isn’t necessarily “healthier” than those options.
For example, some popular bars have 200 calories only deliver 6 grams of protein, but a hard-boiled egg will give you 7 grams! And it’s less than 80 calories. So if you can eat whole food, eat whole food. But of course that might not always be possible.
“Maybe it’s difficult to pack a meal because you’re on a job site and don’t have access to a refrigerator,” D’Orazio says. In those cases, bars do offer you some advantages. “They’re portion-controlled and pre-measured. They supply the sort of nutrition you might not get at a drive-thru window.” (But even then, the 400-calorie “rule” is still a good guideline to follow.)
“It’s hard to overeat if you only bring what’s necessary. If you plan to eat two bars—and you bring two bars—you can use them as a tool to help control yourself. You control your intake with a mobile package of food.”
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