What is the Best Protein Bar?
Protein Is the name of the game nowadays. Over the last few years, high protein options are everywhere. From protein chips to protein ice cream, people are looking for ways to up their protein and the Bar industry has noticed. The protein bar section at my local Kroger now has its own aisle now which is filled with new bar choices every week. So, I decided to compare 20 gram protein bars sold at my neighborhood gym and grocery store. I chose 20 Gram protein bars because there are seemingly hundreds of options out there, and yet I still came up with 15 different bars that met this requirement. For a complete listing of Bars, scroll down to the table below.
So what makes a good protein bar? There are a bunch of ways to answer this question. Taste and ingredients should definitely be considered. I also concentrated on the protein source used, fat and sugar count compared to protein, and the amount of dietary fiber. I didn't include price since it fluctuates a lot depending on where you shop.
Let me say at the start that I did not find a clear best overall protein bar in my comparison. There are too many factors to consider, all of which should be subjectively weighted depending on the situation and person. For example. Having a bar after a hard workout vs just having one as a snack are scenarios that would both result in different bar choices. Also dietary concerns could limit a person's choices even further. Although there is no way to pick the absolute best of the group, I did learn a few things about protein bars.
1. The Taste Test
No surprise here. Of the 5 bars my friends taste tested, the bar with the highest fat and sugar content was the best tasting, while the bar with the lowest amount of sugar and fat ranked last in taste. Here goes the ranking from First to Worst: Cliff Builders Protein Bar, Muscle Milk Protein Bar, Quest Bar, Combat Crunch Bar, PowerBar Whey Protein Bar. Also, bars with more fat and sugar usually resulted in a more pleasing texture. Bars with less sugar and fat were very dense and harder to chew. In full disclosure, I didn't have everyone try all 15 bars, the peeps were pretty full after just 5. Therefore, this is a very unscientific taste test conclusion.
2. The fiction of "Net Carbs"
Some bars advertise "net carbs" on the front of the package as a way of attracting consumers looking for low-carb options. These companies take the total amount of carbs, subtract the amount of dietary fiber, and call the result "net carbs". The truth is that there is no legal definition for a "net carb" and there is no scientific support for this formula. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates the amount of total carbs and fiber contained by food products which must be disclosed on the nutrition label. Anything outside that label is subjective and is NOT backed by science. Same thing goes for...
3. Sugars versus Sugar Alcohol?
A lot of Protein bar companies are also substituting sugar with sugar alcohol. This way, companies can advertise their bars as low sugar options, and reduce the sugar amounts disclosed on their nutrition label while maintaining a certain taste profile. Some scientist say that sugar alcohols affect the blood stream in a different way compared to regular sugar, which is why it's different than regular sugar. The problem is, there isn't a lot of research on the affects of sugar alcohol vs regular sugar. I am by no means an expert in this field, but it is something to keep an eye on when choosing a protein bar.
4. For 20 G of protein, these are NOT low calorie options.
Each of these bars carry between 190-290 calories, which sounds like a lot especially if you are eating these bars to supplement your daily meals. There are tons of other lower calorie protein bar options out there, but a lot of those bars didn't have at least 20 grams of protein. If you are looking for a significant source of protein while keeping everything else at a minimum (i.e. Calories, Fat, Sugar) using a protein powder might be a better option.
5. Look at the ingredients/Protein Source
The protein source used by each company varies from bar to bar. Most of the bars listed below use a combination of whey and soy based protein blends to achieve the concentration of protein. I imagine its hard to get this amount of protein in a bar without using high whey/soy based blends. However, some people can be sensitive to these sources, especially whey or milk based protein bars. So pay close attention to the protein source. Also, some bars have way more artificial ingredients than others.
In Conclusion, it is impossible to find The Best Protein Bar that fits every situation. That being said, the bars I would choose for myself would be the Combat Crunch and Quest Bar. For me, I prefer the tastes of both bars, and they have a low amount of sugar. Both options also provide a good amount of fiber which helps to keep me satiated between meals.
Leave a comment below if I left your favorite protein out of my comparison. The world of protein bars is Ever changing. I'll more than likely revisit this topic in the future. Maybe one day, I will find The Best Protein Bar Ever. Until then, keep getting those gains!