by Will Grumke July 27, 2020 6 min read
There are tons of different kinds of protein bars on the market. Protein bars are a popular way of getting more protein. They’re also a popular meal replacement snack.
But … popular or not, are protein bars good for you?
In this article, we’ll explain whether or not protein bars are good for you. We’ll also talk about several characteristics to look for in a good protein bar.
So, are protein bars good for you?
It’s really hard answering straight questions like this because the answer is almost always, “it depends.”
Not all protein bars are created equal. Their nutritional value is different. So is their protein content. Some have all-natural, healthy ingredients while others are virtually made in a lab or full of sugar.
Since there is such a variety of protein bars out there, it’s hard to say whether all protein bars are good or bad. It’d be much more accurate to talk about what makes a given protein bar good or bad than to talk about all protein bars as if they’re all the same.
So let’s focus on characteristics that make protein bars either good or bad.
That way, you can examine any brand of protein bar you find, and make a decision for yourself about whether it is good or bad for you. You can align the right protein bar with your fitness goals and find quality protein or meal replacements for your lifestyle.
We’re all looking for a tasty, high-protein snack. But that doesn’t mean you should just eat whatever you can find or what's cheap. There are plenty of bad protein bar brands out there and you should avoid them as much as you can.
Here are some characteristics that make a bad protein bar bad.
Sugar is just complex carbs broken down into their simplest form.
Your body converts sugar into glucose and puts it into your bloodstream where your body uses it for energy. If you consume too many simple carbs or sugars, then your body will turn those sugars into fat.
Fat exists to act as your body’s energy reserve.
If you’re ever in a situation where you can’t get your hands on carbs and sugar, your body will turn the fat into ketones that it can use as a substitute source of energy until you find more carbs.
If you’re constantly eating carbs and sugar, your body will keep turning that leftover sugar into fat. This means you’re going to experience unhealthy weight gain.
All of this is important because it helps you better understand why you want to avoid a bunch of added sugars, or excessive amounts of carbohydrates at any one meal. Carbs are not inherently unhealthy or bad… but the over-consumption of them is not beneficial, especially if you're eating a lot of simple carbs.
Added sugars just prevent your body from using its fat stores. Not only that, but eating added sugars usually increase your body’s fat stores over time, because they provide your body with a surplus of glucose.
If the protein bars you’re looking at have a lot of added sugars or high fructose corn syrup in them, you should put them back on the shelf and keep looking for something "healthier" with more whole grains and dietary fiber.
Remember, that doesn’t mean you have to refuse all added sugars, but try to avoid anything that looks like a candy bar with protein.
If your protein bars have a lot of added sugar, that’s a sign that those protein bars are bad. They may deliver the promised protein but it comes at a high cost of other foods you'd probably rather avoid. There are plenty of great tasting bars that come in your favorite flavors, like chocolate, and don't include much (if any) added sugar.
Just like with regular food, you want to go for quality ingredients.
Especially when it comes to the protein sourced that is used. Unfortunately, many companies will cut costs on their end by using lower quality ingredients and protein sources.
When looking at the ingredient label, make sure that the protein source used is whey protein. Whey is a complete protein source which means it will have all of the amino acids your body needs to switch into or stay in the anabolic state.
This is beneficial for both those who want to burn as much fat as possible as well as those who have the goals to build lean muscle tissue.
As you can probably figure out, a good protein bar is the opposite of a bad one. Bad protein bars have lots of added sugar, good protein bars don’t. Bad protein bars are made of synthetic ingredients, good protein bars are made of natural ones. The quality of a bad bar doesn’t justify its cost, but the quality of a good protein bar does. Looking for bars that are both made from whole grains and high in fiber is a great way to find high-quality bars.
But that’s not all you should look for in a good protein bar.
Here are some additional characteristics that make a protein bar good for you...
If you’re eating a protein bar, you’re probably doing it for one of two reasons. You’re either looking to add some extra protein to your diet without extra calories or you’re trying to cut your calories by replacing meals with protein bars. Whatever your reason for wanting quality protein bars, the bar you buy should be able to do what you want it to do.
If you’re wanting a bar that replaces a normal meal, it’s ok if it’s higher in calories, so long as it has all of the necessary nutrition you need and is still lower in calories than your usual meals.
If you’re looking for a simple protein supplement, then you probably want your bar to be as low in calories as possible. Better yet, try adding a lower calorie low-temperature processed sustained assimilating protein shake if you need to increase your protein.
Either way, ask yourself why you’re looking for a protein bar and whether the specific bar you’re looking at will do what you’re wanting it to.
If the protein in your protein bar isn’t highly bioavailable (meaning your body can’t recognize it and use it), then eating it is a waste because you aren’t getting the number one thing out of the bar that you want.
A protein that is high-temperature baked and less bioavailable might as well be treated as empty calories because your body can’t use as much of the protein. Make sure your protein bar is cooked and baked at lower temperatures.
It’ll most likely be a soft bake bar (one that is easy to bite into and chew). This means it has not been exposed to extremely high heats, and in turn, the protein is more bioavailable for your body to use.
It’s really an impossible question to answer. If you're still wondering "are protein bars good for you?" or "are protein bars bad for you?", the best answer we can give you is this: a protein bar is only good or healthy so long as it does what you want it to do, and it’s bad or unhealthy so far as it prevents you from doing what you want.
The best option is always eating high-quality real food, the next best is utilizing Level-1 to get your protein in, and then if neither of those options work… using a high-quality protein bar.
1st Phorm is proud to announce that we have developed a line of protein bars that we know you will love because they will help you meet your fitness and nutrition goals. Our bars have the protein you want and the nutritional value you need without all of the added calories and sugar that you don’t.
Check out our protein bars today and see if our protein bars are right for you and your fitness needs.
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer