Having a protein bar can be a quick way to supply your body with essential macronutrients. If you work out every day intending to grow and maintain lean muscle mass, it’s essential to include protein-rich foods in your diet. Because regular exercise results in muscle fiber tearing, including more protein in your diet is vital for recovering and rebuilding your muscles.
Depending on how much you work out, your regular diet may not provide enough protein to help fix torn muscles. This is where high-quality protein bars can help—they can aid you in achieving your daily protein intake goals and reap optimal benefits from your workouts.
You may also want to grab a protein bar between meals when food cravings start. Also, don’t forget that eating a high-protein snack in the morning can keep you satiated for hours, making it less necessary to eat as much during lunch, which can assist with weight loss.
What Makes a Good Protein Bar?
When searching for the right protein bar for daily or regular consumption, you’ll want to keep your daily nutritional needs and activity levels in mind. Be sure to always check a product’s packaging for each ingredient and amount before buying. Here are some factors to consider that can narrow down your options in your search for a high-quality protein bar:
- How Much Extra Protein Do You Need?– As a general rule of thumb, a bar with at least 20 grams of protein makes for a great grab-and-go snack. However, if you’re after a meal replacement to help keep you full until your next meal, consider a bar with at least 30 grams of protein instead.
- The Protein Source– It’s important to identify the amino acids present in the source or sources of protein used in a protein bar. Of the 20 amino acids that make up proteins, nine are essential, meaning the body can’t produce them on its own. To get all nine of these amino acids each day, look for a protein bar that either includes a complete protein or combines different protein sources to provide all the essential amino acids.
- Calorie Count– A protein bar containing about 250 calories might be good for a between-meals snack, especially if you’re watching your weight. On the other hand, you might need up to 400 calories in your bar if you aren’t going to eat anything else until later in the day or plan to exercise heavily.
- Fat– You’ll want to watch out for protein bars with too much saturated fat, which can be bad for your heart. Likewise, avoid snacks with trans fats. A maximum of 15 grams of fat per bar with less than 2 grams of saturated fats is ideal for the average person.
- Fiber– A protein bar can give you greater satiety if it’s high in fiber. Look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving if you plan to use protein bars as meal replacements.
- Sugar– Overconsumption of sugar has been linked to a host of negative health effects, and as such, it’s best to look for bars containing as little sugar as possible.
Protein Bar Varieties
As the popularity of protein bars rises, you’ll likely come across different products for different types of diets. Here are some of the most common protein bar varieties fit for specific diets:
- Gluten-free– If you have celiac disease or you’re gluten-intolerant but still want the health benefits of consuming a protein bar, look for options with fruit, seeds, plain nuts and nut butters, and chocolate rather than those that get substance from wheat, oats, and granola.
- Sugar-free– When trying to avoid sugary protein bars, remember to look out for artificial sweeteners as well. Opt for protein bars that get their sweetness from natural sources like honey, maple syrup, and dates.
- Keto-friendly– If you follow the ketogenic diet, you’ll need a protein bar with little-to-no carbs. You can try these low-carb keto protein bars made with collagen.
- Vegan– Many protein bars get their macronutrients from plants, such as nuts and fruits. Many brands don’t use animal products, making them a popular choice among vegan dieters. Just keep in mind that popular protein bars fortified with powdered protein often include whey and casein and are not vegan.
Protein Bars are Nutritious
Protein bars don’t just taste great—they can be energizing and nutritious too. While some brands sell “unhealthy” options with excessive carbs, sugar, and calories, there are just as many “healthy” options that use natural ingredients and offer complete proteins. You just have to know what labels and ingredients to look for to find the right product for you and your unique health goals.