Are Protein Bars good for you?
Yeah they’re largely fine. The notion of things being good or bad for you is flawed anyway.
A mars bar a day, in a calorie controlled diet, isn’t bad for you.
4 protein bars a day that take you over your caloric maintenance limit will make you gain weight.
But that still doesn’t mean protein bars are bad or good for you.
So protein bars can make you fat and mars bars can make you skinny.
There’s a protein bar on the market for every type of diet. If you’re on a low carb diet (like it’s 2008 again) then there are low carb, high protein bars that will help you hit your macros.
If you’re looking to gain weight there are 4-500 calorie bars made of good quality ingredients that will provide you with good quality macros and micro nutrients.
If you find a protein bar that’s 25% or more sugar, less than 30% protein and made of low quality ingredients, then that’s a bad bar.
What makes a good Protein Bar?
The whole point of eating a protein bar is to avoid excess sugar. There really isn’t anything wrong with eating a chocolate bar if you can comfortably fit it into your macros.
But it’s a lot easier to eat a whey based bar, that’s low in sugar and calories.
The main problem with sugar isn’t the excess calories (carbs, and therefore sugars, are 4kcal / gram). It’s that sugar is a) addictive and b) much less filling than good quality carbohydrates or calories.
Excess sugar’s impact on heart health, obesity and diabetes is well documented.
If you want sugar eat something sugary. But protein bars should be a low sugar treat you can fit into your everyday diet and lifestyle.
High Protein (& Calorie Content)
Honestly if your protein bar isn’t providing around 30-40g of protein per 100g then there really isn’t much point.
It goes without saying that the majority of your protein should come from good protein sources. Eggs, good quality meat etc if you can eat that sort of thing. Legumes, beans and meat substitutes if you can’t.
Protein bars should be supplementary and more of a ‘treat.’
If you’re looking to gain weight, then go for protein bars around the 400kcal mark. If you’re looking to lose or maintain weight, then lighter bars that are lower in fat and carbohydrates are a much better option.
I’d stick around the 200kcal mark at the top end.
Dietary fibre consumption is absolutely crucial for your health. Firstly fibre is a carbohydrate that the body can’t digest.
Most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, but fibre isn’t. It helps regulate the body’s use of sugars and helps to keep hunger in check.
So obviously you should eat it. Multiple studies have found that diets high in fibre reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Whilst correlation doesn’t equal causation, it’s a pretty well-established fact you need around 30g of fibre a day.
(Mainly) Naturally Sourced Ingredients
Look protein bars aren’t going to be all natural. They (largely) need sweeteners to some extent if you’re looking to avoid excess sugar. They also need preservatives to stay in date and to not melt when travelling.
That shite people peddle about ‘I don’t eat anything if I can’t pronounce it‘ is a load of old pish. Literally everything you eat has preservatives or something else you can’t pronounce.
But I want the majority of ingredients to come from natural sources so I know I’m getting good quality protein, fats and carbohydrates. If they can provide additional fibre and micronutrients then we’re rocking and rolling.
Christ what’s the point in eating anything if it doesn’t taste good.
I don’t like bars that taste like a chocolate bar with added whey protein. I also hate the companies that don’t understand that excess whey can make the bar too rubbery.
Quick note to some of those PHD bars. Awful stuff.
You’re going to have to get a little down and dirty. If you like nuts and chocolate well you’ve already narrowed it down. For me the bar has to be moist, not have a protein-y aftertaste and taste as natural as possible.
The Best 10 Protein Bars in 2019
To work out the above table we not only (deliciously) taste every one on the list, but we also scour the web from at least 5 review sources for each bar. We then average the score whilst factoring in our own opinion.
Our opinion is obviously more valuable than everyone elses online. But we ALWAYS try every bar on the list.
My Protein Sandwich Cookie
Winner of ‘The Best Protein Treat’ in the UK in 2018, the My Protein Sandwich Cookie is glorious.
At only 130kcal per cookie it’s the most diet-friendly treat on the list. Whilst the protein content isn’t as high (7g) given it’s a small-sized bar, you can’t go wrong with this wallet and macro-friendly treat.
The Chocolate and Cream is delicious!
Detour Lean Muscle Bars
Made with a high quality protein blend and perfect for candy bar lovers, Detour Bars are absolutely delicious.
The Chocolate Candy Crunch flavour incorporates M&Ms into the mix. If you’re telling me that doesn’t make you at least a little turned on it’s going to be a rough ride.
The smaller bars have 14g of protein and only 8g of sugar. Not bad. Perfect for the candy bar enthusiasts.
The larger lean muscle bars have a whopping 32g of protein and come in 3 main varieties – Cookie dough, Cookies n’ Cream Crunch and Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch.
Bulk Powders Macro Crunch
With 20g of protein and only 3g of sugar per bar, Bulk Powders Macro Munch Bars are absolutely delicious.
Personal favourite flavours are the Millionaires Shortbread and Birthday Cake. The soft baked consistency belies it’s whey protein reliance and each flavour genuinely tastes authentic.
At nearly 9g of fibre per bar, you’ll help your body’s use and regulation of sugar intake, keeping hunger and blood sugar in check.
They are a little more expensive than most other Bulk Powders products, but don’t let that fool you. They’re a top quality bar that’s worth every penny, cent or yen.
Oh Yeah! Bars
At 20-25g of protein and 1g of sugar per bar, Oh Yeah! bars are definitely diet-friendly.
However – the original bars are a whopping 390kcal per bar. They’re an enormous bar tbf (85g – around 30-40% bigger than the average) and the nut variations in particular don’t skimp on the fat. Up to 20g of fat per bar.
Much like Carb Killa’s, they’re not the most natural bar on the market. The below ingredient list is for their Chocolate & Caramel Original Bar.
But they do taste sensational!
One of the all-time bodybuilding staples. Jam-packed with 20-21g of protein per bar, high-fibre and (mostly) delicious. Quest bars are revolutionary!
At 20-25g of carbohydrates per bar (around 60% fibre – that’s a lot, trust me. You’ll be shitting regularly) and only 1g of sugar, Quest bars are a macro friendly treat.
The flavours are exceptional, but my all-time favourites are below:
- Birthday Cake
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- Cookies and Cream
- Peanut Butter Brownie Smash
- Blueberry Muffin
I haven’t tried every flavour, but it’s on my to-do list. I’d highly recommend the variety pack!
I’m not vegan by any means, but that shouldn’t put you off. Pulsin bars have the consistency Quest bars could dream of.
The macros aren’t as good as other protein bar varieties, but they do offer around 13g of protein per bar and have a beautifully natural taste to them.
Typically made up of a pea and rice protein blend, they are incredibly natural as protein bars go. And you can tell.
The orange chocolate chip (my personal favourite) uses cacao butter, chocolate chips and a tiny drop of orange oil (amongst other ingredients) which is fucking magnificent.
Grenade Carb Killa
At usually around 17g of carbohydrate and 2g of sugar per bar, Carb Killa’s are hard to argue with.
Whilst the name is absolutely disastrous, the bar itself more than makes up for it. I would say if you’re after an all-natural, nutritionally balanced ‘healthy’ bar, then this probably isn’t the one for you.
The ingredient list below doesn’t exactly bring the word health to the fore. But I’m a fan and you should be too.
Because they are genuinely tasty. Birthday Cake and Jaffa Quake (sorry, again I didn’t name them) are the best.
Clif Protein Bars
I first came across Clif Bars in their original form when I read about their backstory. Gary Erickson, the creator and keen cyclist, used to go out for long rides and despair at the disgusting quality of energy snacks available.
So he commissioned his mum to bake a good one. And Clif Bars were born.
And you should all love that kind of back story. And trust in a brand built on this kind of expertise.
With 20g of protein per bar and no hydrogenated oils or sugar alcohols, Clif Protein Bars are delicious and nutritious.
At 288kcal per bar, they’re at the higher end of the calorie range for protein snacks.
I personally love the Chocolate Peanut Butter bar. The natural ingredient list gives this an edge over most other protein bars and a real winner for me.
Marketed as the simplest protein bar on the market, Rise Bars are arguably the most wholesome bar on this list.
They have vegan and whey protein options (I haven’t tried the vegan option, but it’s a safe assumption it will taste clean, wholesome and delicious) both beautifully simple.
The Honey Almond and Snickerdoodle options are my personal favourites. Only 3-5 ingredients and 15-20g of protein per bar – you really know EXACTLY what you’re getting. And that’s to be celebrated.
Perfect for fans of simplicity.
Bounce Balls are a delicious alternative to those who prefer a more natural protein snack.
The flavour profiles are excellent and they do taste a lot more natural than most other bars on the market. The Cacao and Orange and Coconut and Macadamia really are excellent. As is the new Dark Chocolate flavour.
They’re definitely higher in sugar, carbohydrates and fats than most other protein bars on this list, but that’s what happens when you don’t rely on sweeteners and artificial flavouring.
If you’re a wholesome, nature-loving bar fiend then you should definitely bulk buy these protein treats.
The Best Low Carb Protein Bar
Grenade Carb Killa is my favourite low carb bar. The flavours really are excellent and they label themselves as ‘the ultimate indulgent, guilt-free snack.’ I’d say that’s hard to argue with.
Quest bars are a close second. The range of flavours is absolutely exceptional and they’re a high-fibre, low-sugar dream. The only downside is some flavours (I’m looking at you Chocolate Chip Oatmeal) are a bit shit.
But I can tell you about that, so don’t worry!
The Best Vegan Protein Bar
Pulsin bars are the only vegan bar on my top 10 list. Although Rise Bars also do a vegan option.
The consistency of Pulsin bars is absolutely exceptional. The natural flavour profile rocks and every single bar tastes exceptional. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
The Best Tasting Protein Bar
This is where it gets tricky, but I’ll try to break it down by taste types.
Candy Bar Lovers: Detour Lean Muscle Bars
All Natural Fans: Rise Bars
Fruity Fanatics: Pulsin (and Quest Blueberry Muffin)
Chocolate Fiends: Grenade Carb Killas
The Best Bar for Weightloss
Grenade Carb Killa and My Protein Sandwich Cookie. The My Protein cookie is a 130kcal protein snack. Carb Killa’s taste fantastic, but are a little calorie dense to just have as a snack if you’re really trying to lose weight.
But both are very easy to fit into your macros.
Quest bars deserve an honourary mention because they’re the shit and they only have around 4g of net carbs.
The Best Bar for Muscle Gain
Detour Lean Muscle Bars are enormous. 32g of protein per bar and up to 420 kcal per bar.
One word: Massive.
Low sugar and ideally suited for muscle growth given the high whey protein content and good quality carbohydrates on offer.
The Best Gluten Free Protein Bar
Pulsin bars are kicking. We’ve established that. But they’re also gluten free. Look at how awesome they are below!