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What Makes a Good (and Healthy) Protein Bar?

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May 11, 2022
What Makes a Good (and Healthy) Protein Bar?

What Makes a Good (and Healthy) Protein Bar?

Nowadays, you can easily buy protein bars from just about every market. A protein bar can help you build muscles, fuel your workouts, curb your appetite, and accelerate the muscle repair process after exercise, and it’s always great to have multiple options available.

However, it makes it very difficult to choose the best product simultaneously. That’s why we have come up with this guide that will allow you to understand what makes a healthy protein bar.

So, if you’re interested in nutrition shopping and want to buy a protein bar that provides you with the best results, read this post till the end.

What is a Protein Bar?

A protein bar is a nutrition bar with a high proportion of protein to fats and carbohydrates. Consuming a protein bar is an excellent way to add minerals, vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates to your diet to support your muscles.

Many people confuse protein bars with energy bars. However, there are many differences between energy bars and protein bars. As the name implies, a protein bar comes with high protein content, and it can also serve as a meal substitute. On the other hand, an energy bar provides you with an instant energy boost, and it’s loaded with sugars and carbohydrates.

Characteristics of a Healthy Protein Bar

Choosing a healthy protein bar doesn’t have to be a challenging task. All you need to do is make sure that the product you choose comes with the following characteristics.

Less Added Sugar Content

Most people who want to buy a protein bar for a post or pre-workout snack mainly focus on the product's protein content. That’s why most of the time, they overlook the added sugar content, which can be up to 30 grams in some products. That’s equal to a typical candy bar.

According to the American Heart Association, men should not consume more than 30 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugar in a day. The number is even lower for women, about 25 grams or six teaspoons.

So, if you consume a protein bar that contains 30 grams of added sugar, chances are the overall intake of your added sugar will exceed the recommended amount. That’s because a protein bar isn’t the only thing that we eat throughout the day and other foods can also have added sugar.

A healthy protein bar shouldn’t have more than 10 grams of added sugar and you need to consider this factor while buying one for yourself.

Protein Content

There is no point in a protein bar that doesn’t offer adequate protein. That’s the main ingredient of the product and a healthy protein bar should provide at least 15 to 30 grams of protein if you’re trying to gain muscle. However, if you’re just looking for a satiating protein bar, you can go with the product with at least 10 grams of protein.

Carbohydrates

A healthy protein bar should also have whole grains and carbohydrates primarily for two reasons. First, carbohydrates allow the protein you consume in your protein bar to dissolve and digest faster to promote muscle building.

Secondly, the combination of carbs and protein slows down the digestion process of carbohydrates, and the whole grains combat that. That provides you with an energy trickle effect for the rest of your day. Other than that, whole grains also come with fiber that helps you achieve a healthy weight. That’s why you should not avoid a protein bar that contains carbohydrates and whole grains.

Post-Vs. Pre-Workout Ingredients

A healthy protein bar is what suits your unique needs. A protein bar that offers protein, as well as quick-digesting carbs, will work the best if you’re planning for a thorough workout. It’ll provide you with the sufficient energy that you need to perform an intensive exercise.

However, pre-workout is when you should minimize fat, fiber, and high protein intake because these nutrients might inhibit digestion and harm the way you feel during your exercise.

A healthy protein bar for a post-workout should offer a combination of high-quality protein and carbohydrates to accelerate the recovery process.

Fiber

Feeling bloated is frustrating and no one enjoys it. A protein bar should offer fiber to promote food movement in your digestive tract. Additionally, a healthy protein bar must have at least 5 grams of fiber. It is important to note that some products available in the market offer 10 grams of fiber. Most of these protein bars contain isolated fiber, leading to stomach discomfort.  

Leucine Food Sources

Leucine is one of the three essential BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids), and it provides you with the energy you need to perform the exercise. It’s the highest substance present in dairy protein, and it’s also found in beans, whole eggs, and pea protein.

Leucine triggers protein synthesis and helps you maximize your exercise duration, providing you with a head-start to rebuild muscle. A healthy protein bar should have food sources of leucine such as whole egg, pea, soy, or whey protein.

Excellent Ratio of Protein to Carbohydrates

A healthy protein bar comes with a protein to carbohydrates ratio of 1:3. Not only does it ensure good performance, but it also provides you with the best fuel you need to build muscle. It’s a perfect balance between the two ingredients that work the best for muscle building and the exercise recovery process.

Real Protein Sources

The best protein bar contains protein sourced from whole and real foods. Remember that protein is most effective in its natural form and that protein isolates can’t offer the same results. For example, a whole egg is about 40 percent more effective than an egg white because separating the egg white and yolk decreases the effectiveness of protein. Therefore, you’ll find it listed on the protein bar whether it offers real and whole food sources of protein or not.

What About Calories?

If you need a protein bar just to use it as a snack, a product that comes with 170 to 300 calories is good enough for men and 140 to 200 calories is a good target for women. However, if you have higher calorie needs for some reason, like you’re trying to gain weight, you can go with a protein bar that offers higher calories.

What is the Ingredient Criterion of a Healthy Protein Bar?

A healthy protein bar with the following ingredient criterion will generate the best results.

Shouldn’t Contain Sugar Alcohols

In recent years, sugar alcohols have risen dramatically in popularity. That’s because sugar alcohols provide manufacturers with a low-calorie way to sweeten their protein bars. However, you must not consume these ingredients in excessive quantities because they can be harmful to your health as they tend to cause gastrointestinal distress.

Natural Sweeteners

A healthy protein bar is sweetened with natural sources of sugar, including fruits and cane sugar. The best thing about whole fruit is that it’s not considered an added sugar, unlike fruit concentrates and fruit juices.

Healthy Fats

To absorb certain nutrients, your body needs fats. Not only do they allow your body to work optimally, but they also keep you satisfied for a more extended period. A healthy protein bar offers fats in the form of seeds and nuts. You should avoid a protein bar containing vegetable oils as binders and fillers to provide fat.

Food Ingredients

A healthy protein bar doesn’t have artificial ingredients and chemical additives used as flavors. Instead, it only contains natural ingredients or whole foods.

No Isolated or Synthetic Fiber

A protein bar containing synthetic fibers such as chicory root or soluble corn fiber can lead to abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. The same is true for artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol.

Quality Protein Sources

High-quality concentrates, isolates, and whole and natural food ingredients such as antibiotic-free meat, egg whites, nut butter, seeds, and nuts make for the best protein sources for a healthy protein bar.

Final Words

Protein bars are a practical method to increase your intake of essential nutrients, including protein. However, you can find all types of protein bars in the market.

Some are heavy in added sugar and calories and include substances you should avoid. Others may be a good choice to fuel your workout, balance your blood sugar, or start your day.

Make sure that you follow this guide to choose a healthy protein bar so that you can enjoy the most effective results. Additionally, if you’re still unsure of what protein bar will suit you the best, depending upon your unique needs, consider taking this quiz to find the right protein bar.


The Protein Bar Team

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