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REVIEW: Barebells Protein Bar

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January 16, 2024
REVIEW: Barebells Protein Bar

In my quest to find the best protein bar on the market, today I’m breaking down Barebells Salted Peanut Caramel soft bar.

But first things first…

Who is Barebells?

According to their website:

We believe in happy eating in tandem with healthy living. We offer a whole range of protein bars – all equally Barebellicious. What are you craving today? The brand was launched in Sweden 2016 and offers a selection of protein bars that never compromise on flavor. Four amazing years later, in 2020, we thought it was about time to offer our yummy bars to the US market as well.

So, protein bars that are delicious, I mean “barebellicious”.

But does their delicious flavor come at a health cost?

Time to find out.

Barebells Macros

Serving size: 1 bar (55 g)

Calories 210

Total Fat 10g

Sat. Fat 4.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholest. 10mg

Sodium 210mg

Total Carb. 21g

Dietary Fiber 5g

Total Sugars 2g

Sugar Alcohols 9g

Protein 16g

Barebells Ingredients 

We're goingthe breakdown of Barebells' ingredients, unveiling a label that, despite its Swedish roots, doesn’t live up to the elevated standards traditionally associated with products from this region. Basically it's not Ikea for protein bars.

From questionable additives to less-than-premium sources, we're digging deep into each ingredient , revealing a composition that falls short of the expectations of high quality set by their own website.

Ignoring the fact that the first ingredient listed is maltitol, the full ingredient list doesn’t look all that bad. At least they include some real food ingredients like roasted peanuts and cocoa butter. But, looking at everything in more detail, there’s certainly some problems with their ingredient choices.

So, let’s break these ingredients down into an easy to read list.

  1. Maltitol, 
  2. Milk Protein Blend (Calcium Caseinate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate), 
  3. Hydrolyzed Bovine Collagen, 
  4. Dry Roasted Peanuts, 
  5. Water, 
  6. Polydextrose, 
  7. Glycerin, 
  8. Cocoa Butter, 
  9. Milk, 
  10. Unsweetened Chocolate, 
  11. Contains Less Than 2% Of Each Of The Following: Xylitol, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Peanut Butter, Whey Protein Isolate, Salt, Butter (Pasteurized Cream, Salt), Gelatin, Defatted Peanut Flour, Sunflower Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Cocoa, Sucralose.

As might already know, the FDA requires food manufacturers to list their ingredients in order by weight.

Which means that the Barebells Salted Peanut Caramel soft bar is filled with more maltitol than protein. Not a good start for a protein bar.

Maltitol

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol (artificial sweetener) — used by manufacturers to add sweetness without the added calories that come with regular sugar. 

It can be found in nature in some fruits and vegetables, but that’s not what manufacturers are putting in your protein bars. It has fewer calories and a lower GI than sugar but just like sugar, it doesn’t have any real nutritional value. 

Basically junk.

But maltitol has another problem: diarrhea.

According to this 2019 paper: “the excessive consumption of polyols causes gastrointestinal symptoms and laxative effects in healthy patients.”

A 2016 paper written for dentists said this about maltitol: “A study carried out with maltitol indicated that 30 g maltitol in chocolate caused no significant symptoms in young adults, while 40 g caused mild borborygmus and flatus, but no laxation. In another experiment, a 45 g dose of maltitol caused transitory osmotic diarrhea in 29 of 34 subjects (85.3%).”

So, eating a little bit of maltitol might be fine. But eating too much will definitely cause a lot of gas, and maybe diarrhea. And the fact that it is the first ingredient listed on this bar means there is A LOT of maltitol.

Milk Protein Blend

This is a common ingredient found in most protein bars. But Barebells version is a little different because they use more Calcium Caseinate than Whey Protein Concentrate. 

If you don’t know the difference between whey and casein, these are two types of protein found in milk. Whey is the fast digesting protein whereas casein is the slow digesting one. 

Neither is better or worse than the other.

In fact, most cheese is made up of casein. 

But if you’re lactose intolerant, this is a no go.

Same thing if you’re vegan.

Hydrolyzed Bovine Collagen 

Most of your body already has collagen in hair, skin, nails, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and intestines. You know, the stuff that helps you move.

But as you age, your body’s ability to make collagen decreases. 

So, the collagen is a nice touch here but it’s too small of an amount to have any real impact.

Polydextrose

We’re gonna skip the water and peanuts, and go straight to polydextrose. 

Polydextrose is a polysaccharide made of randomly bonded glucose polymers. So, it’s basically a carbohydrate. And according to WebMD, it’s not digested by the body.

So, why do manufacturers use polydextrose?

Because it is a bulking agent, stabilizer, thickener, and humectant. It’s also a soluble prebiotic fiber. 

But most importantly, it can be used to replace sugar, starch, or fat. Plus help in reducing calories in the food (because you can’t digest it).

Glycerin

You might have heard of glycerin as a skin care ingredient, which it is. But it’s also used as a food additive.

Why?

Well, glycerin helps preserve moisture, prevents sugar crystallization, and adds bulk, smoothness, softness, sweetness, and texture to foods.

And it’s also a sugar alcohol just like maltitol. Which means it can also give you gut problems like maltitol if you eat too much of it.

Final Verdict

“The Barebells Soft Bars are truly candy bars disguised as protein bars.” 

— Matt from Protein Snack Finder

Matt believes that if you’ve never had a protein bar before, this is the perfect bar to start with. But I disagree with him.

Barebells bars are filled with sugar alcohols and cheap synthetic ingredients. It’s clear that their original goal was to create a candy bar with protein.

Which is why I don’t recommend Barebells’ soft bars. 

But if you’re looking for a real protein bar with real ingredients, go here.

Tejesh Reddy

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