Have a protein bar conundrum?
The most crucial aspect of any fitness routine is definitely the “diet” part. You can work your ass off in the gym every day and undo it all by stuffing your face with empty calories. While the healthiest diet is full of freshly prepared lean proteins and vegetables, most of us don’t always have time for this. Sometimes you need to be able to grab a quick meal replacement, and a high-quality protein bar can fit the bill without wrecking your diet…IF you pick the right one.
With so many options available, it’s important to remember that not all protein bars are created equal. The good ones are fortified, have great macronutrient ratios, and are made of quality ingredients, while others are basically candy bars loaded with artificial sweeteners and chemical ingredients. The following are my five favorite protein bars, and the five you will never find in my purse…because they are shit.
Protein Bar Winners!
1. Clif Builder’s
In my opinion, Clif Builder’s Bars are the best tasting protein bars on the market. They contain no artificial flavors or sweeteners, no GMOs, and no partially hydrogenated oils. What they do have is 270 calories divided into an excellent macronutrient ratio: 20 grams protein, 8 grams fat, and 30 grams carbs. They are also low-glycemic and loaded with 23 vitamins and minerals. Builder’s Bars come in eight awesome flavors – chocolate peanut butter is my fav (did I mention they are delicious?).
2. Promax Bar LS
Promax Bars have always been a favorite meal replacement of mine, but the new low sugar (LS) version is even better. These are the first bars on the market sweetened with stevia, so they contain only 9 grams of sugar instead of the 15-21 found in other leading bars. Promax bars contain no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, maltitol, or gelatin. They are also gluten-free, kosher, and vegetarian. The peanut butter chocolate bar has 220 calories (18g protein, 32g carbs, 7g fat) and a whopping 14 grams of fiber. The four available flavors are chocolate fudge, chocolate peanut butter, mocha latte, and peanut butter cookie dough.
3. Quest Bars All Natural Line
Quest Bars are another great tasting protein bar option. I love these because they are lower calorie than most comparable bars, and contain no sugars, artificial sweeteners, gluten, or soy. They do contain erythritol, a sugar alcohol, but unlike other sugar alcohols, erythritol does not cause digestive upset. The protein blend is composed of whey and milk protein isolates and the macronutrient ratio is ideal: 20g protein, 25g carbs, and 5g fat in the 160 calorie chocolate peanut butter version.
4. Power Crunch
Remember those crispy wafer cookies layered with creme that you had to ditch when you decided to (sigh) eat healthy? That is exactly what Power Crunch bars taste like. If you’re looking for a sweet treat that tastes and crunches like a cookie, you want to check these babies out. They are made from easy-to-absorb hydrolyzed whey and contain just 5 grams of sugar and no sugar alcohols. Although they are a higher fat option (12 grams), they are still only 200 calories with 14 grams of protein and just 10 little carbs.
5. Powerbar Protein Plus 20g
Finally, I’m a fan of Powerbar’s new streamlined version of their Protein Plus bar. The 20g version contains 20 grams of protein, compared to the 23 grams in the original. This is a minor difference when you look at the caloric comparisons: the 20g version has 210 calories, while the original has 290. It’s a great balanced bar that contains no artificial sweeteners and is pretty tasty and filling for just 210 calories.
Protein Bar Losers!
1. Snickers Marathon Protein
I’m not gonna lie – these are delicious. They’re made by Snickers though, so they have to be tasty…and not so good for you. The bars do contain a decent 20 grams of protein, but they are also packed with 22 grams of sugar and 10 grams of fat (5 of which are saturated). The Snickers Marathon Protein bar is also pretty high in carbs (40 grams) and has a lame vitamin and nutrient profile. You can get a lot more bang out of 290 calories somewhere else.
2. Oh Yeah!
The shame of the Oh Yeah! bars lies in the caloric density and saturated fat levels – each bar has 340 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat (14 total!). Of the 32 grams of carbohydrates, just 2 are fiber and the bars contain a heavy dose of sugar alcohols (14 grams) that might send you running to the potty.
Oh I’ll never forget the first time I had a Detour bar, years ago. I remember raving to my friends about how delicious it was and insisted that they all go out immediately to buy them. That was long before I knew anything about the crap that is in them. A regular 3 ounce bar contains 350 calories, 11 grams of fat (6 grams saturated), 30 grams of protein, and 32 grams of carbs (only 4 of which are fiber). The bar only has 11 grams of sugar; however, it is sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener that causes digestive problems for many. In addition, its vitamin and mineral profile is weak, with just 15 and 4 percent of the daily values of calcium and iron, respectively.
4. Met-Rx Big 100 Colossal
Okay, these made the worst list because they are too damn big. Each bar contains 400(!!) calories, 10 grams of fat and 47 grams of carbs (that’s like a plate of pasta, folks!). They have 31 grams of protein, but considering the number of calories, that really isn’t that much. They are sweetened with sugar alcohols and sucralose, which can lead to a total digestive nightmare if you have sensitivities.
5. Muscle Brownie
These are tasty little treats, and if you’re looking for a dessert substitute, the Muscle Brownie could work. It is not a good protein bar though. Each 2.8 ounce bar is considered 2 servings (and trust me, if you’re over the age of 3, it is really one), so the whole brownie contains 340 calories, 12 grams fat, 38 grams carbs, and only 20 grams of protein – with almost no vitamins or minerals. They do not contain any artificial sweeteners, which is great, but each brownie packs 24 grams of sugar.
What are your thoughts? Please be sure to leave your comments below!