Protein bars are a convenient and effective way to improve the protein intake in your diet. They have a soft texture and are very satisfying. Available in various flavours, these food supplements are a perfect snack to consume between meals or after physical training.
People usually related protein bars with sport and increased muscle, but this is not the only use of these tasty little products. Thanks to their ability satisfy hunger, protein bars reduce appetite and soothe “something sweet” cravings. Did you know that these foods can help you achieve a healthy weight?
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Ranking: The best protein bars on the market
- 2.1 No. 1: Optimum Nutrition Protein Stix Bars
- 2.2 No. 2: Carman’s Gourmet Protein Bar: Coconut, Yoghurt & Roasted Nut – 5 Pack (200g)
- 2.3 No. 3: Paleo Thin: 20g Protein Bar (Egg White) (Sunflower Butter) (150 Calories) (1 Net Carb) (12 Bars)
- 2.4 No. 4: CLIF BAR Crunchy Peanut Butter, 12 x 68g
- 2.5 No. 5: Julian Bakery – PrimalThin Protein Bar Sweet Cream – 12 Bars
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about protein bars
- 3.1 What are protein bars exactly?
- 3.2 What are the typical ingredients of protein bars?
- 3.3 Are all protein bars healthy?
- 3.4 What are the differences between protein bars and whey protein powder supplements?
- 3.5 Do protein bars really help increase muscle mass?
- 3.6 In what situations is it recommended to consume protein bars?
- 3.7 Why are protein bars recommended for weight loss?
- 3.8 What is the recommended daily allowance for protein bars?
- 3.9 Can a protein bar replace a main meal?
- 3.10 Can people with diabetes consume protein bars?
- 3.11 Are there any dangers to protein bars?
- 3.12 What types of protein bars are there?
- 4 Shopping Criteria
- 5 Summary
- In addition to providing excellent quality protein, protein bars also contain carbohydrates and fats. Basically, the higher their protein content and the lower their fat and sugar levels, the better the bar.
- Protein bars are made from protein components of animal or vegetable origin. Animal proteins include whey protein, casein and collagen hydrolysate. Plant sources of protein are include peas, cashew nuts and hemp seeds.
- Protein bars help increase muscle mass if they are consumed as part of a balanced diet in conjunction with a physical training program.
Ranking: The best protein bars on the market
Protein bars have a reputation of being healthy, however sometimes their nutritional composition is more like lollies than a nutritious food. To make matters worse, advertising also confuses consumers. To help you in your purchase decision process, we have built a ranking of the best protein bars on the market:
No. 1: Optimum Nutrition Protein Stix Bars[amazon box=”B07B161LV8″ description_items=”0″]
Number 1 on our list of protein bars in Australia are these delicious little bars by fitness brand Optimum Nutrition. Each bar contains 12g of protein and only 1g of sugar whilst also promising a great taste & texture.
The available flavours are: caramel, coconut and nougat and the can be bought in either a 9 pack or a 12 pack of bars. If you’re looking for a healthy protein bar that’s great to eat on the run, then this is a great option for you.
No. 2: Carman’s Gourmet Protein Bar: Coconut, Yoghurt & Roasted Nut – 5 Pack (200g)[amazon box=”B074T95RRG” description_items=”0″]
Carmen’s is a renowned food and health brand in the Australian consumer market. Their products are reliable and always made from only the highest quality ingredients. The gourmet protein bar offering from Carmen’s is no different. This tasty bar packs 10g of protein per bar and is guaranteed to satisfy your hunger.
As well as being gluten free, this protein bar does not contain any artificial colours or flavours. In a pack of 5, this is a great option for each work day to satisfy those after-lunch cravings or re-fuel after the gym.
No. 3: Paleo Thin: 20g Protein Bar (Egg White) (Sunflower Butter) (150 Calories) (1 Net Carb) (12 Bars)[amazon box=”B01N1M6J1P” description_items=”0″]
Paleo Thin offer this fantastic protein bar with a whopping 20g of protein in each bar. Made in a dedicated gluten free facility, kids & adults alike will love the taste and health benefits of this bar.
This product contains soluble prebiotics to improve digestion and curb appetite up to 4 hours meanwhile new “Stay Fresh” technology preserves bars up to 18 months. With no added sugar, this protein bar is a great option.
No. 4: CLIF BAR Crunchy Peanut Butter, 12 x 68g[amazon box=”B0061WGN98″ description_items=”0″]
The #1 Energy Bar in USA & Canada is available in Australia and aren’t we stoked about this! Made with 70% organic ingredients and packaged in this cute little packet, this energy bar is the perfect after sport snack to replace those calories.
Containing peanut butter and tasty peanut pieces, this bar is so tasty you’ll probably want to eat them all in one day! With 11 vitamins and minerals, this is a healthy option for your post-workout snack.
No. 5: Julian Bakery – PrimalThin Protein Bar Sweet Cream – 12 Bars[amazon box=”B01MRATBD9″ description_items=”0″]
Fitness brand Julian Bakery offer this delicious sweet cream taste protein bar that is naturally preserved using “Stay Fresh” technology. With only 4 simple ingredients: grass-fed year round whey, organic sunflower butter, organic tapioca fibre and monk fruit (extract) there are no hidden sugars or added nasties.
With 20g of protein per bar and only 1g of sugar, this health supplement is pure quality. Arriving in a pack of 12 bars, this product would make any fitness junkie pretty darn happy.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about protein bars
Even if you purchase the best protein bar in the market, if you don’t know when, how and in what quantity to consume it, you will end up wasting the product or, much worse, damaging your health. In this section we will discuss all the key aspects related to the composition and consumption of protein bars.
What are protein bars exactly?
Protein bars are supplements specifically designed to increase the protein intake of the diet, both in quantity and quality. Protein bars contain proteins of good biological value that come from milk (Whey protein, milk protein isolates and concentrates, calcium caseinate), collagen, soybeans, seeds or peas.
Simply speaking, proteins are chains of amino acids. A protein has a high biological value when it contains all (or almost all) of the amino acids essential to humans. If any of these amino acids are missing, the proteins that will repair or build body tissues, including muscle, will not work effectively.
The protein content is mixed with other macronutrients, such as fats, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber to form bars and give them a pleasant taste. The nutritional value of the protein bar will depend on the quality and proportion of fats and sugars combined with protein.
What are the typical ingredients of protein bars?
The majority of protein bars belong to the processed food category and unfortunately their components are far from natural. However, vegan bars are usually made with 100% organic ingredients. Protein bars may contain the following compounds:
- Proteins: the bars incorporate high quality animal and vegetable proteins to ensure the supply of all amino acids essential to human health (tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, valine and lysine).
- The sources of protein are whey protein (whey), milk protein (concentrated or isolated), calcium caseinate (milk), hydrolyzed collagen, soy protein, pea protein, seed protein (hemp, amaranth), among others.
- Carbohydrates: some simple sugars are used and in the bars of better quality, polyols (alcohol sugars). Polyols do not damage teeth, nor do they raise the level of glucose in the blood (glycaemia). In addition, they provide only 2.4 calories per gram, meanwhile simple sugars provide 4 calories per gram.
- Fats: mainly present in protein bar coatings, which are usually made from dark or white chocolate. The problem with this is saturated and hydrogenated fats (trans fats) are used to make the bar more tasty, but this has a negative impact on its nutritional quality.
- Dietary fibre: this component is extremely important because it increases the filling value of the protein bar and helps suppress appetite. In addition, the fibre slows the absorption of sugars from the bars and consequently prevents blood glucose peaks in people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
- Flavours, Flavourings and Colourings: Foods with an intense flavour and aroma (e.g. cinnamon or cocoa) are often added to the natural and organic bars to please the senses of the body. However, manufacturers of processed protein bars sometimes abuse artificial additives.
|Protein||Whey protein, milk protein concentrate (whey + casein), milk protein isolate, calcium caseinate, egg white protein, hydrolyzed collagen, legume protein (peas), whole grain protein (brown rice) and seed protein (amaranth, quinoa, hemp)||Watch out for soy protein! Most soy is transgenic with chemical pesticides and fertilizers are used in its cultivation|
|Carbohydrates (Sweeteners)||Sucralose, isomaltose, sorbitol, coconut nectar, xylitol, maltitol||High fructose corn syrup, sucrose (common sugar) and glucose|
|Fats||Coconut oil, olive oil and cocoa butter||Palm oil and palm kernel oil. Hydrogenated oils in general|
|Other ingredients to give flavour and aroma||Natural apple aroma, natural vanilla, cocoa, dark chocolate, cinnamon, nuts, dried fruits and seeds||Milk chocolate, white chocolate, lollies and jellies|
Are all protein bars healthy?
As you can see from the table above, there are healthy and unhealthy ingredients. Each person should carefully read the nutrition label of the various brands of protein bars to choose the ones that provide the most protein and are reduced in sugars and fats.
What are the differences between protein bars and whey protein powder supplements?
Both whey protein powder and protein bars improve the availability of essential amino acids needed to build new muscle fibres. Whey protein is obtained from whey, while bars combine all the different types of protein sources (milk, soy, collagen, peas).
Most protein bars contain whey protein as their major protein component. It is an ideal nutrient to consume after training, as it is digested and utilised quickly by the body. The amino acids of proteins absorb into the blood stream quickly to be used in the fusion of new muscle proteins.
Many protein bars often contain casein (in the form of calcium caseinate), a slowly digested milk protein, which prevents muscle loss by providing amino acids in the medium and long term. So, if the bar combines whey protein and caseinate, it ensures amino acid availability at all times.
|Whey Protein Powder||Protein Bar|
|Taste||It can be neutral, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla or peanut butter||Not available in neutral flavours. The most common flavours are: chocolate, caramel, vanilla and strawberry|
|Form of consumption||It should be mixed with water, milk or vegetable drinks before consumption||It is made ready to eat|
|Minimum amount of protein per serving||21 grams||15 grams|
|Protein source||Cow’s milk whey||Cow’s milk (whey and casein), egg white, collagen, peas, seeds and soybeans|
|Filling level||Low, because although it contains proteins, it does not contain fibre||High, provides protein and fibre, both key nutrients to increase fullness|
|Digestion and spreading of protein (and its amino acids)||Fast||Slow|
Do protein bars really help increase muscle mass?
Protein bars guarantee that all the amino acids needed to incorporate new proteins and thus muscle mass will be available. However, without physical training it is impossible to build muscle, even if protein bars are consumed daily.
It is important to consume protein bars at the right time to promote the development of muscle mass. The ideal window of consumption is 30 to 45 minutes after the end of your training routine because the body spreads out the protein more efficiently during this period.
During the consumption window, proteins are broken down into amino acids, which reach the muscle to stop the muscle degradation initiated by physical exertion. They are also used by the body to repair damaged muscle fibres and to amalgamate new muscle proteins. As a result, muscle growth occurs.
In what situations is it recommended to consume protein bars?
In the previous section we explained that protein bars help to increase muscle mass if they are accompanied by a physical training routine. It is important to note that it is not a good idea to exceed the consumption of protein. Protein bars are recommended for:
- People wanting to lose weight: protein bars satisfy hunger due to the proteins and dietary fibre they contain. In addition, thanks to their tasty content, they resemble sweets, serving to calm sweet cravings.
- Older adults: the diet of older people may be low in protein, either because of a decreased appetite or problems chewing meat, one of the key food group that provides protein. Soft bars are a good complement at this stage of life and are more appetising than smoothies.
- Individuals who want healthy and nutritious snacks: protein bars should be stored at room temperature and can be taken anywhere. That’s why they’re an excellent way to keep a healthy snack handy.
Why are protein bars recommended for weight loss?
Protein bars are recommended as a COMPLEMENT to your weight loss meal plan. Their usefulness for losing weight lies in their capacity to fill you up, which reduces the appetite and lowers food intake throughout the day. In addition, the delicious flavour mitigates the desire for desserts, lollies and other sweets.
What is the recommended daily allowance for protein bars?
Protein needs vary between people, depending on their age, sex, physical activity (type, intensity, frequency, training time), height, among other measures. However, it is advisable to limit yourself to just one protein bar a day with weight value of between 30 and 60 grams.
Can a protein bar replace a main meal?
No, in no way can a food supplement replace a main meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A balanced and varied diet, rich in fresh and natural foods, is essential for maintaining health.
Protein bars can be eaten as a healthy snack between main meals.
Can people with diabetes consume protein bars?
This depends on the nutritional composition of the protein bar. With such an enormous variety of protein bar brands, the responsibility as a consumer is to read the nutrition label carefully. Diabetics should seek bars that are high in fibre, low in carbohydrates and contain polyols as sweeteners.
Are there any dangers to protein bars?
Protein bars do not usually have too many dangers, although it is important not to exceed the recommended amount. Manufacturers of these products often state on the label that “excessive consumption of protein bars can have a laxative effect”. This is due to the presence of alcoholic sugars (polyols).
Too much protein can lead to kidney or liver overload. Therefore, people with kidney or liver disease should consult their doctor before consuming protein bars.
What types of protein bars are there?
According to their ingredients, protein bars can be divided into two main groups: animal origin and vegetable origin. Animal origin bars use milk proteins (whey and casein), egg white and collagen as sources of amino acids.
Bars suitable for vegans are made from proteins from legumes, seeds or cereals. Both types of protein bars are capable of supplying all essential amino acids.
As we’ve discussed so far, it’s not easy to find a healthy and nutritious protein bar. Most bars are made with whey protein, but sometimes an excess of fats and sugars is added. These are the basic purchasing criteria you should take into account when choosing your protein bar:
- Nutritional Composition
- Presence of allergens
- Origin of ingredients
Protein bars come in different flavours: chocolate, raspberry, strawberry, cookies and cream, caramel, banana or vanilla, among others. Some may have an artificial or excessively sweet taste, so you may have to try different brands until you find a protein bar that pleases your tastebuds.
Protein bars should provide a minimum of 12-15 grams of protein per serving and should be of high biological value. In addition, protein bars reduced in sugars, high in fibre and with less than 8 grams of fat should be chosen. Vegan bars may have a slightly higher content of fat, but it is the unsaturated type.
Presence of allergens
Allergens are often present in protein bars, both of animal and plant origin. The most common allergens are peanuts, soybeans, gluten, eggs, sesame seeds and nuts. Those suffering from celiac disease, food allergies or lactose intolerance should read the nutritional label carefully to avoid them.
Origin of the ingredients
For protein bars suitable for vegans, their ingredients are not only from a vegetable origin, but in most cases are also 100% organic. For those people who want to eat a diet based on natural foods, even if they are not vegan, 100% organic bars are the best option.
Bars made from milk proteins generally cannot be consumed by lactose intolerant people, even if their label says otherwise.
Protein bars promote an increase in muscle mass and promote physical recovery when consumed after training, as they guarantee a sufficient supply of essential amino acids to the body. However, protein bars are also great for losing weight and enriching the diet of older adults.
Despite all their advantages, this food supplement is not always made with top shelf ingredients. Sometimes it’s just a snack disguised as healthy food. That’s why it’s your responsibility as a consumer is to find out about their ingredients and their nutritional value.
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(Source of featured image: Trebizan: 53689866/ 123rf.com)