Finding the best protein bars for you can be tricky, it ought to have enough protein to meet your dietary objectives while avoid undesirable macros like sugar and fat. We talked to a number of specialists and nutritionists to get the low-down on how to what to look for and what to avoid when looking for the best protein bar for you.
How to Choose the Best Protein Bar
An astounding number of “protein bars” contain a similar measure of protein you’d get from a serving of chips or a sack of microwave popcorn, usually at the cheaper end of the market and this completely misses the point.
Any decent protein bar should contain at least 10g of protein although 15g or 20g is generally better. For the average person, the USDA recommends that 10-35% of your nutrition should be made from protein. A protein bar on the high-end of this scale helps balance out meals that don’t contain enough protein, especially if you’re an athlete who needs more to rebuild muscle.
A lot of protein bars contain heaps of sugar in order to make them taste palatable. Some of them contain as much as 22 grams of sugar — that is more than you’d get in a serving of Oreos. “In excess of 12 grams and you’re eating a candy bar,” in the words of Monica Auslander, MS, RD, LD/N, and organizer of Essence Nutrition in Miami. Avoiding high sugar bars helps weed out bars that essentially aren’t healthy: “If sugar is high, carbs and all out calories are probably going to be high, too,” says Sarah Mattison Berndt, RD, MS, CPT — a dietician, fitness coach, and nourishment guide for Complete Nutrition. “So sugar is a decent pointer of the wholesome status of the bar by and large.”
Furthermore, high sugar bars can cause rapid increases of your blood-glucose levels which can cause the sugar you consume to converted into fat.
Fibre and Low Carbs
Fibre isn’t particularly glamorous these days, but recent studies have pointed to it’s importance. Dietary fibre plays an important role in digestive and gut health, it also encourages you to feel full. “fibre adds to satiety although it’s a truly undervalued dietary segment,” says Emily Braaten, MS, RD, LD. “Most Americans aren’t getting enough.” The USDA suggests 14 grams of fibre for each 1,000 calories consumed — or around 1.4 percent of all-out calories. You should cut any protein bar that does not meet this benchmark. Too many net carbs, then again, can cause blood sugar spikes and lead to increased craving. “In a perfect world, I like to see close to 15 grams of net carbs,” says Dr. Joe Feuerstein, MD and partner teacher of clinical prescription at Columbia University.
When it comes to protein bars, what looks great on paper can end up tasting fairly grim. If your protein bar doesn’t taste good, you’re not going to eat it. Any good protein bar will taste good and suit your palette. These days many protein bars are produced using sweeteners like xylitol, stevia or maltitol. Contrary to popular myth, these artificial sweeteners are the public health hazard they’ve been painted as for years and have been stringently tested to ensure their safety.
On the other hand, eating too much sweetener can provide some people with a laxative effect. While it won’t be dangerous, it might be a touch uncomfortable!
One to watch out for: High in fat and calories
One trade-off with many otherwise brilliant quality protein bars if their fat count and calorie count. Many bars use substitute fat in instead of sugar to provide depth of flavour, especially when it comes to chocolate-like flavours. Any bar that contains over 30% of it’s calorie count in fat might taste delicious, but it certainly won’t be the healthiest. Consider a product like this as the occasional treat, rather than your go-to snack.