Protein bars are a convenient and effective way to increase your protein intake through your diet. They have a satisfying, great tasting and with great satiating capacities. Most products are available in several flavours and presentations. These food supplements are an ideal healthy snack to eat between main meals or after physical training.
Protein bars are often associated with sport activities and muscle generation, but this is not the only situations where the benefits of these products come in handy. Thanks to their satiating powers, protein bars reduce the appetite and soothe sweet cravings. Did you know that these foods can help you achieve a healthy weight? Read on to learn all the benefits you can obtain from protein bars.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Ranking: The best protein bars available on the Canadian market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about protein bars
- 3.1 What are protein bars exactly?
- 3.2 What are the typical ingredients of protein bars?
- 3.3 Are all protein bars equally healthy?
- 3.4 What are the differences between protein bars and Whey protein supplements in powder form?
- 3.5 Do protein bars actually help increase muscle mass?
- 3.6 In what situations is it recommended to consume protein bars?
- 3.7 Why are protein bars recommended for weight loss?
- 3.8 What is the recommended daily ration for protein bars?
- 3.9 Can a protein bar replace a main meal?
- 3.10 Can people with diabetes consume protein bars?
- 3.11 Are there contraindications for the consumption of protein bars?
- 3.12 What types of protein bars are there?
- 4 Purchase Criteria
- 5 Summary
- In addition to providing excellent quality protein, protein bars contain good amounts of carbohydrates and fats as well. The higher the protein content and the lower the fat and sugar content, the higher the quality.
- Protein bars can be made from either animal protein or plant based protein. Animal proteins include whey protein, casein, and collagen hydrolysate. Plant sources of protein are often from peas, cashew nuts and/or hemp seeds.
- Protein bars help increase muscle mass if they are incorporated as a part of a balanced diet and their use is accompanied by a physical training regimen.
Ranking: The best protein bars available on the Canadian market
Protein bars have built a good reputation over the years, but sometimes their nutritional composition is more like that of a candy bar instead of a nutritious food supplement. Remember that, some advertising is meant to confuse consumers. To help guide you during your search, we have built a ranking with the best protein bars on the market:
No. 1: Pure Protein, Gluten Free Protein Bars
The gluten-free protein bars by Pure Protein are available in four different flavours, from chocolate peanut butter to strawberry greek yogurt. They contain 20 grams of protein, 2 grams of sugar and 200 calories per bar. These bars are great if you’re looking to give your body an energy boost while also satisfying your sweet tooth.
These protein bars are formulated with multiple animal proteins. Whey protein, soy protein isolate and hydrolyzed collagen work together to feed your muscles, allowing for more anabolic building power. The dietary fibre within them works conjunctively with the protein compounds to satiate the body. These bars are a perfect snack while on the go and when hunger strikes.
No. 2: CLIF Builder’s Bar, Protein Non-GMO Bars
The Builder Bars made by CLIF are highly rated among users, who love the taste and energizing power of this protein supplement. They contain 23 different vitamins and minerals that the body needs to aid in protein metabolism. This bar is made with organic and sustainable ingredients like oats, almonds and dates, harvested in a way that supports farming communities and a healthy planet.
Each serving of 76 grams (2 bars) provides 20 grams of protein, which comes from milk (milk protein isolate, milk protein concentrate, whey protein isolate and calcium caseinate). These bars are excellent for promoting muscle protein synthesis in the short, medium and long term. They are available in 4 different rich flavours, all which are very popular among consumers.
No. 3: Vega, Plant Based Vegan Protein Bars
Vega’s plant based vegan protein bars are highly reviewed and very popular among consumers. They’re made with completely natural ingredients and plant based proteins that provide a crucial 20 grams of protein to the diet of vegans and vegetarians. The proteins within these bars are of higher biological value than those from milk, collagen and soya.
These bars are an excellent option to satisfy sweet cravings and suppress the appetite. They are available in a variety of different flavours including chocolate, strawberry, red fruits and caramel, among others. Even though they are plant-based, these bars contain the highest protein content and the lowest sugar content of any other product on the market.
No. 4: Simply Protein, Variety Pack – Plant Based Protein Bars
All of the Simply Protein products are gluten free, certified kosher and, with the exception of our whey bars, are plant-based and vegan friendly. Each bar contains 15 grams of protein per serving, offered in a variety pack of 3 different decadent flavours – dark chocolate sea salt, lemon coconut and peanut butter chocolate. A perfect on the go snack when you need a quick and wholesome boost of energy.
Each bar provides 12 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2.5 grams of fat and almost 10 grams of fibre. They are a perfectly healthy replacement for sweets, which makes them work in accordance with almost any weight loss plan. These bars help stop muscle catabolism (degradation) after physical exercise and promote the synthesis of new proteins into muscle fibres.
No. 5: OhYeah!, One Protein Bars
Oh Yeah.’s ONE bar is packed with nothing but superior ingredients, making this bar a perfect option for those busy days or just as a treat. The people at Oh Yeah believe in providing high quality, organic products in the most convenient way possible. ONE bars are perfect for breakfast, lunch, on-the-go, at-the-office, pre-or-post workout or just because.
These protein bars are suitable for meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs alike. A candy-like protein bar that has 21g of protein and only 1g of sugar. The bars come in various flavours: mint cocoa, orange cocoa, cinnamon maca, berry beet and vanilla chia. Not only do they provide protein to support muscle protein synthesis, but they provide rapid energy boosts to help with daily activities.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about protein bars
Even if you buy the best protein bar on the market, if you don’t know when, how and in what quantity to consume it, you will end up wasting this product or, even worse, damaging your health and sabotaging your desired results. In this section we will cover all the important factors to consider that are related to the composition and consumption of protein bars.
What are protein bars exactly?
Protein bars are supplements designed to increase the protein intake in a diet, both in quantity and quality. They contain proteins of high biological value that can come from milk (whey protein, milk protein isolates and concentrates, calcium caseinate), collagen, soybeans, seeds or peas.
Proteins are chains of amino acids, they are considered to have a high biological value when it contains all (or almost all) of the amino acids essential to humans. If any of these amino acids are missing, the proteins that will be used to repair or build body tissues, including muscle, cannot be synthesized.
Proteins are mixed with other macronutrients, such as fats, carbohydrates, and dietary fibres and presented in the form of bars, composed in a way that creates a satisfying flavour. The quality and proportion of fats and sugars combined with the amount of protein will in turn determine the nutritional value of the protein bar.
What are the typical ingredients of protein bars?
Most protein bars belong to the processed food category and their components are far from natural. However, vegan bars are usually made with 100% organic ingredients. Protein bars can carry the following compounds:
- Proteins: Protein bars incorporate high quality animal and vegetable proteins to ensure the proper supply of all the amino acids that are essential for optimal human health (tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, valine and lysine).</li>
- Source or proteins: The protein sources are Whey protein (whey), milk protein (concentrate or isolate), calcium caseinate (milk), hydrolyzed collagen, soy protein, pea protein, seed protein (hemp, amaranth), among others.</li>
- Carbohydrates: Sometimes, simple sugars are used as sweetening components of protein bars. In the best quality bars, polyols (alcohol sugars) are utilized. Polyols do not damage teeth or raise blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. In addition, they provide only 2.4 calories per gram, while simple sugars provide 4 calories per gram.
- Fats: These are mainly present in Protein bar coatings, which are usually made of dark or white chocolate. The problem is that more often than not, saturated and hydrogenated fats (trans fats) are used to make them more appealing and tasty, this however, has a noticeable negative impact on its nutritional quality.
- Food fibre: This component is extremely important because it increases the satiety value of the protein bar, which helps suppress appetite. In addition, fibre slows the absorption of sugars from foods and, consequently, prevents blood glucose peaks in people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
- Flavours and colourings: In natural and organic bars, foods with an intense flavour and aroma (e.g. cinnamon or cocoa) are usually added to improve the organoleptic characteristics of these products. However, manufacturers of processed protein bars sometimes abuse artificial additives in an attempt to boost their flavour.
The table below is a visual representation of the possible ingredients in these bars and their nutritional value and health benefits:
|Protein||Whey protein, milk protein concentrate (whey + casein), milk protein isolate, calcium caseinate, egg white protein, hydrolyzed collagen, legume protein (peas), whole grain protein (brown rice), seed protein (amaranth, quinoa, hemp).||Watch out for soy protein! Most soybeans are transgenic and chemical pesticides and fertilizers are used in their cultivation.|
|Carbohydrates (sweeteners)||Sucralose, isomaltose, sorbitol, coconut nectar, xylitol, Maltitol.||High fructose corn syrup, sucrose (common sugar), glucose.|
|Fats||Coconut oil, olive oil, cocoa butter.||Palm and palm kernel oil. Hydrogenated oils in general.|
|Other ingredients to provide flavour and aroma||Natural apple aroma, natural vanilla, cocoa, bitter chocolate, cinnamon, nuts, dried fruits, seeds and essential oils.||Milk chocolate, white chocolate, sweets, jellies and processed sugars and preservatives.|
Are all protein bars equally healthy?
As you can see from the table above, there are healthy and unhealthy ingredients. Each person should carefully read the nutrition label of the various brands of protein bars in order to choose those that provide the highest levels of protein and the least amounts of processed sugars and fats.
What are the differences between protein bars and Whey protein supplements in powder form?
Both Whey protein powder and protein bars help ensure the availability of the essential amino acids needed to build new muscle fibres. Whey protein is obtained from whey, while bars combine multiple types of protein sources (milk, soy, collagen, peas).
Most bars contain Whey protein as their primary protein component. It is an ideal nutrient to consume after training, as it is digested and assimilated quickly. Amino acids from proteins reach the blood quickly to be used in the synthesis of new muscle proteins and tissue.
Protein bars also often contain casein (in the form of calcium caseinate), a slowly digested milk protein, which prevents muscle loss by providing amino acids in the medium and long term. So, if the bar combines Whey protein and caseinate, it ensures amino acid availability at all times.
Check out the table below for a visual representation of the main similarities and differences between these two protein products:
|Whey protein powder||Protein bar|
|Flavour||May be neutral or strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, etc.||Not available in neutral flavour. The most common flavours are: chocolate, caramel, vanilla and strawberry.|
|Form of consumption||Must be mixed with water, milk or vegetable beverages before consumption.||Ready to consume.|
|Minimum amount of protein per serving||21 grams||15 grams|
|Protein source||Cow’s milk – whey.||Cow’s milk (whey and casein), egg white, collagen, peas, seeds, soybeans.|
|Satiating capabilities||Low, since although it contains proteins it does not provide fibre.||High, provides protein and fibre, both of which are key nutrients that work to increase satiety.|
|Digestion and assimilation of protein (and its amino acids)||Fast||Slow|
Do protein bars actually help increase muscle mass?
Protein bars guarantee that all the amino acids needed to synthesize new proteins are absorbed by the body and thus, the possibility of maintaining and increasing muscle mass is therefore guaranteed. However, without physical training it is impossible to continuously build muscle, even if protein bars are consumed daily.
It is important to consume protein bars at the right time to promote the development of muscle mass. The metabolic window, which corresponds to 30 to 45 minutes after the end of the training routine, is the best time to eat proteins because the body utilizes them more efficiently.
During this metabolic window of opportunity, proteins are broken down into amino acids, which reach the tissue to stop the muscle degradation that is initiated by physical exertion. They are also used to repair damaged muscle fibres and synthesize new muscle protein. As a result, muscle hypertrophy occurs.
In what situations is it recommended to consume protein bars?
In the previous section, we explained that protein bars contribute to an increase in muscle mass if they are accompanied by a proper physical training program. Although it is not good to exceed the daily recommendation for protein intake, these dietary supplements are recommended for:
- People who want to lose weight: protein bars have a high satiating capacity thanks to the proteins and dietary fibre they contain. In addition, thanks to its taste, reminiscent of sweets, they often help satisfy sweet cravings.
- The elderly: The diet of older people is often insufficient in protein, either because of a decreased appetite or problems chewing meat, one of the main sources of protein in modern diets. Soft bars are a good food supplement for this demographic – this option also tends to be more appealing than milkshakes.
- Individuals who want healthy and nutritious snacks on the go: Protein bars can be stored at room temperature and taken anywhere. That’s why they’re an excellent way to always have a healthy snack on hand.
Why are protein bars recommended for weight loss?
Protein bars are recommended as a compliment to any diet plan that is aimed at achieving weight loss. Its biggest role in losing weight lies in its satiating capacity which reduces appetite, decreasing the amount of food (calories) eaten throughout the day. In addition, its delicious flavour mitigates the desire for desserts, candy and other empty-calorie sweets.
What is the recommended daily ration for protein bars?
Protein needs will vary from one individual to another according to their age, sex, physical activity (type, intensity, frequency, time of training), context, among other relevant characteristics. However, it is advisable to limit yourself to one protein bar a day, which can weigh between 30 and 60 grams.
Can a protein bar replace a main meal?
No, in no way can a food supplement replace a main meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A balanced and varied diet, rich in fresh and natural foods, is essential for maintaining good health.
Protein bars can be eaten as a complementary healthy snack between main meals and after hard workouts.
Can people with diabetes consume protein bars?
This depends on the nutritional composition of the protein bar. Faced with the enormous variety of protein bar brands, the responsibility as a consumer is to read the nutrition label carefully. Diabetics should look for bars that are high in fibre, low in carbohydrates, and contain polyols as sweeteners.
Are there contraindications for the consumption of protein bars?
Protein bars do not usually have contraindications, although it is important not to exceed the recommended amount. Manufacturers of these products often state on the label that “excessive consumption of protein bars can have a laxative effect.” This is mainly due to the presence of alcoholic sugars (polyols).
Too much protein can lead to kidney or liver overload. Therefore, people with kidney or liver disease should consult their family doctor before consuming protein bars. Remember that those with lactose intolerance and those allergic to cow’s milk protein should also avoid most of these products.
What types of protein bars are there?
According to their ingredients, protein bars can be divided into two main groups: protein from animals and plant-based proteins. Animal protein bars use milk proteins (whey and casein), egg white, and collagen as sources of amino acids.
Bars suitable for vegans are made from protein derived from legumes, seeds or cereals. Both types of protein bars are capable of supplying all the necessary essential amino acids.
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s not always easy to buy a healthy, nutritious protein bar. Most bars are made from Whey protein, but sometimes excess fat and sugars are added. Below you’ll find the basic purchasing criteria that you should take into account when choosing these types of products:
- Nutritional composition
- Presence of allergens
- Origin of ingredients
Protein bars come in many different flavours: chocolate, raspberry, strawberry, cookies and cream, caramel, banana or vanilla, among many others. Some may have an artificial and not so pleasant taste , so you may have to try different brands until you find a protein bar that pleases you.
The protein bar you choose should provide a minimum of 12-15 grams of protein per serving and should be of high biological value. In addition, protein bars low in sugars, rich in fibre and with less than 8 grams of fat should be the preferred choice. Vegan bars may be slightly richer in fat, but they are usually unsaturated fats, which are a much more beneficial fat to the body than saturated fats.
Presence of allergens
Allergens are often present in protein bars, both of animal and plant origin. The most common allergens are: peanut, soybean, gluten, egg, sesame seed and nuts. People suffering from celiac disease, food allergies or lactose intolerance should read the nutritional label on their chosen products carefully to avoid negative reactions from consuming them.
Origin of ingredients
In the case of protein bars suitable for vegans, their ingredients are not only plant-based, but in most cases are also 100% organic. For people who want to eat a diet based on natural foods, even if they are not vegan, these bars are the best alternative.
Bars made from milk proteins generally cannot be consumed by lactose intolerant people, even if their label says otherwise.
Protein bars promote an increase in muscle mass and promote physical recovery when consumed after training, as they guarantee a sufficient supply of essential amino acids. However, they can also be beneficial for losing weight and enriching the diet of older adults if consumed properly. The opposite to the desired effect can occur if these products are abused or used incorrectly.
Keep in mind that despite all their advantages, these food supplements are not always made with good quality ingredients. Sometimes it’s just a treat disguised and marketed as healthy food choice. That’s why it is your responsibility as the consumer to find out exactly what ingredients each bar has and their nutritional value.
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(Source of highlighted image: Trebizan: 53689866/123rf.com)