***Updated June 24th, 2017***
I’ve been toying with the idea of doing this post for a while now, but have struggled with the shear volume of protein bars available on the market. I mean, how could I possibly narrow down the crowded multi-billion dollar U.S. protein bar market into just 10 brands, and then go ahead and pick one as a winner? (I ended up reviewing 12 in the end because I couldn’t help myself.) Anyway, here’s how I gave it a go: the first thing I did was eliminate a few categories…I wasn’t looking for the best granola bar, cereal bar, or meal replacement bar. Second, I decided that I really needed to break this down into a two part series – for now, I’m just focusing on your run of the mill protein bars. Natural/organic/paleo options will be covered in the second part of this Quest for the Best series, because they don’t always compete in the same market or on the same criteria as the ones below.
Next, I tried to focus on the most popular brands and widely available options that were targeted at your everyday consumer. Maybe a bodybuilder would eat these, but so would a soccer mom looking for an easy, on-the-go, protein packed snack*. Many are widely available at grocery stores or pharmacies, some are easier to find in a sports or nutrition shop. Either way, I like to think I am at least somewhat up to speed on what’s happening in the sports nutrition world, and most of these picks are “hot” right now.
Finally, I focused on protein bars that I was actually interested in eating. I generally try to stay away from excessive food additives and artificial ingredients, although that can be really difficult when looking at your average protein bar. Even so, I still included a blurb about their ingredients list for comparison. I also don’t necessarily want a 300+ calorie protein and fat (or fiber) gut bomb that wouldn’t leave any room for my next meal. A few of the options below come close (one even exceeds it), but are still a reasonable snack, especially if you cut the bar in half.
For the sake of a sound comparison, I tried to taste test the same or similar flavors from every brand. Chocolate in some form is pretty much the industry standard, so that’s what I went with. Some of them forced me to venture into cookie dough or chocolate peanut butter varieties, but they’re still somewhere close to that chocolate baseline.
*These bars are convenient to eat but in my opinion should be reserved for those times when you really do need a shelf stable protein snack that you can grab-and-go. Real food is generally cheaper and better for you than a bar, but I totally understand that it can be challenging to find/eat healthy food if you’re traveling or just really busy. #FoodForThought
Quick rundown of different colors you’ll see below:
- Red indicates an ingredient that concerns me. Generally (not in all cases) these are artificial sweeteners or “natural” sugar substitutes.
- Purple indicates fillers, which aren’t always a bad thing, but the fillers usually just contribute a cheap way to bulk up bars and increase fiber content. Just beware of the quality of that fiber when trying to hit your daily fiber intake goals.
- Yellow (on the macro ratio) indicates carb content.
- Blue (on the macro ratio) indicates protein content.
- Green (on the macro ratio) indicates fat content.
Although I highlighted the ingredients in red and purple as potentially problematic, I encourage you to have a look, do some research and judge for yourself!
Click this link below to view the full comparison chart!
These are the original 10 bars I reviewed! The list has grown just a little bit.
Even with all the protein bar reviews above, I know there are TONS of other options out there. Here are a look at some of the alternatives:
- Pro Supps MY BAR – A bit higher in fat than others (10 g), but otherwise similar. Sugar is the number 3 ingredient on it’s list, plus 3 sugar substitutes and evaporated cane juice. I suspect these are pretty sweet bars.
- Nitro Tech Crunch Bar – Pretty bro-ey packaging on these bars…plus the #2 and #3 ingredients are essentially fillers/fiber. Cane sugar plus 2 sugar substitutes on this one.
- Met RX Protein Plus – They recently redid their packaging to look nice and sleek…but it doesn’t hide the fact that they use a ton of sugar substittutes (maltitol syrup is the #2 ingredient), plus corn syrup and carrageenan.
- Gatorade Whey Protein Recovery Bar – Only 20 g of protein like the bars above, but each bar is 340 cals (with 29 g sugar per bar).
- Power Bar Protein Plus – Honestly, I remember eating these in high school and the thought of eating them now kind of grosses me out. What can I say? And don’t even think about putting one of those sticky original Power Bars near me.
- Luna Protein Bar – Only 12 g protein, gluten free, low glycemic
- Pro Max Protein Bar – 26g sugar per bar but no artificial sweeteners or fillers