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If you’re a man, finding the best protein bar can be a challenge because the market is full of options that are really just candy bars in disguise.
Not only are these low-quality bars poor sources of protein, their high sugar content can undo all the hours you've worked in the gym or while exercising. Furthermore, even if you do find the one bar that meets your nutritional requirements, it might not taste as good as the label on the package promises it will.
Lucky for you, if you’re looking for the best protein bar for men, whether as a meal or a snack, we’ve done the research to help you find the best-tasting, high-protein, low-sugar bar. In this article, we will explore five things to consider when you try to find the right protein bar, and then give our recommendations for the six options you might want to check out.
Let’s get to it!
Quick Look at Our Top Picks
If you're a busy person who doesn't have time to read this entire review, we've simplified everything. Here is a table to show you a quick rating of our favorite and best-tasting protein bars for men.
|Best Overall: Built Bar||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best for coffee lovers: PROBAR - BASE Coffee Crunch Protein Bar||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best fruit-flavored bar: Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Apple Pie||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best for chocolate lovers: Grenade Nutrition - Grenade Carb Killa Protein Bar||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Most savory: KIND Sweet and Spicy Bars, Sweet Cayenne BBQ||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Best for nut lovers: GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bar, Cashew Caramel||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
Men: Five Things to Consider When Buying a Protein Bar
1. Fitness goals.
Are you looking to build muscle? Maintain weight? Curb hunger? It is important to look at the protein, fat, carbohydrate, sugar, and fiber contents of your bar and compare the amounts to what you should be consuming to reach your fitness goals.
So, if you're using the protein bar as your primary source of protein for the day, you will want a bar that contains at least 10 grams of protein. But if you're planning on eating a bar during your athletic activity, you want to make sure that it has some sugar in it because sugar is a readily available source of quick energy.
If you want a post-workout recovery snack or something to give you sustained energy, look for a bar that has around 30 grams of carbohydrates, because a low-carb bar won't give you enough fuel. When it comes to fat and fiber, choose a bar with 10 to 15 grams of fat that come from unsaturated sources and a fiber content of between 3 and 5 grams. This will help your protein bar eliminate your hunger.
To be honest, you want to have a protein bar that you actually enjoy eating. What’s your preference? Some protein bars have spicy flavors, while most are more on the sweet side. To be honest, there are very few protein bars that taste great, but the point of eating them isn't really to have an enjoyable meal or snack. They are more about function than form. But the wide array of flavors in which they come leaves you with plenty of options.
Companies have started to get more creative, making bars out of chicken and even adding some savory BBQ flavors. Then of course you have your chocolaty options, and bars that are filled with peanut butter to satisfy your sweet tooth. Protein bars also come in zesty and refreshing citrus flavors if that is something you prefer.
Check the label to know what you’re eating. What is the first ingredient? Some bars still use high fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient in their products, making them more of a candy bar. There are also some more unnatural ingredients that you want to try to avoid, such as sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners.
Palm kernel oil is something to stay away from because it is a cheap, unhealthy fat. Unlike regular old palm oil, palm kernel oil has to be extracted from the pit of the palm with a hydrocarbon solvent similar to gasoline. This is a processed form of oil that should definitely be avoided. Try to find products that are made out of whole foods rather than chemicals such as these.
When it comes to the type of protein, consider if you want protein from a whole food source such as whole almonds or peanuts, or if you want a whey protein for its specific combination of amino acids that help bodybuilders get bigger. Many people try to avoid soy protein, although it is often used in protein bars due to its low cost.
You also want to consider your dietary restrictions. Do you eat a gluten-free diet? Are you vegan? There are options out there for every type of diet—you just have to read the label to see which ones fit your personal needs.
Is the maker reputable? Creating an effective and healthy protein bar involves a lot of planning and execution from capable professionals. In addition to carefully selecting the ingredients for the product, they manufacturer has to optimize nutrition while still making it appetizing and affordable.
A reputable company will offer a bar that is made from a formula that meets the requirements of processed food regulation, including those set by the FDA. They will also use a science-based formula to meet the specific nutritional needs of consumers, while still staying within the recommended daily amounts of nutrients.
5. Calorie content.
If you’re restricting your daily calorie intake to try to lose weight, eating a small, high-calorie protein bar isn’t going to make weight loss easy. The truth is, in some cases, you could be consuming a large portion of your calories allotted for the day in just one protein bar that could leave you hungry in just a few hours. Pay attention to the total number of calories in your bar, especially in comparison to the overall size of the protein bar.
When you're replacing a snack, it is best to find a low calorie bar that is between 140 and 200 calories for women and between 170 and 300 calories for men. For some of the bigger bars on the market, this may mean you should split it in half to avoid eating too many calories.
Frequently Asked Questions About Protein Bars
What is the best source of protein?
The best proteins are considered to be “complete” proteins because they are a source that contains all nine essential amino acids that your body can't create on its own.
Most protein that you would get from animal sources, such as meat, fish, and eggs, are complete—but they are not always convenient to carry around with you for a snack. Having a complete protein is important because they're bio-available and contain the building blocks your body needs.
Is real food better than protein bars?
While you shouldn't get all of your protein from protein bars, protein supplements and whole foods can both benefit your diet. Whey protein powder is very convenient, has immune-boosting benefits, and is easily digested after a workout. But whole foods will give you a wide range of additional nutrients and critical micronutrients that your body needs, such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
It is best to give your body a balance of protein sources. Sometimes you have to choose convenience over creating a fresh meal. You want to know the foods you eat and how your body reacts to them so you can choose the options that are right for your specific needs.
Do I need this much protein?
Protein is a critically important nutrient to have in your diet, especially if you are active or have clear fitness goals. Some may think that only weightlifters need to eat a lot of protein because they are trying to build strength and muscle, but endurance athletes also require more protein because they have high energy needs.
So the answer to this question is really specific to the individual. You have to look at all of the sources of protein you are getting throughout the day and your fitness goals to determine if you are meeting your body's needs.
When should I eat my protein bar?
The timing of eating your protein depends on your personal needs, but in general it is best to eat protein every three to five hours. That being said, you don't want to protein-load. Your body has a threshold for protein, so eating too much at one time means that your body will not be able to absorb as much as it could if you spread it throughout the day.
Eating too much protein at once can also lead to digestion problems. It is better to snack on about 15-20 grams of protein at a time in order to avoid this. When it comes to eating protein after your workout, it is very important to replenish your muscles, especially if your workout was intense. Most research says to refuel within a 30-minute to two-hour window following your workout.
Now that you have some factors in mind to consider when you are shopping for protein bars, let's look at some of the best options on the market.
Six Best Protein Bars for Men (Our Recommendations for 2023)
1. Best Overall: Built Bar
Built Bar Peanut Butter
It can be hard to find a protein bar that isn’t loaded with sugar but still tastes good. Chances are, if you’re looking for a protein bar, you want something healthier than a brownie–but oftentimes, you won’t find it. These bars compromise neither taste nor quality in their delivery of a convenient, on-the-go snack.
The company behind these protein bars was founded by Luke Tolley, who has a Ph.D. in molecular chemistry and–more importantly–a solid reputation. He pairs his 20 years of experience in making bars with his knowledge of molecular chemistry to make a bar that he himself loves–and believes you will too.
Each of the 13 flavors of the Built Bar is covered in 100% real, dark chocolate and contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, in addition to being GMO-free and free from all major allergens. The nutritional profile of each bar varies slightly, depending on its flavor, with the range of calories being from 110 to 170. The flavors rotate from time to time depending on demand, but here’s an example snapshot of 13 possible flavors:
Consumers can design their own flavor variety boxes or just stick to their favorite option. As far as the taste goes, consumers find these bars to be much less dense or chalky than other options. Rather, the flavors melt in your mouth (some compare it to a 3 Musketeers bar) without a “vitamin-taste” finish. Plus, here’s a taste tip: if you want an extra special treat, try putting your bar in the freezer and cut it into little squares for a candy-like taste experience.
The ingredients in each bar is as follows:
Whey protein isolate is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. It’s easy to digest, as it’s free from all milk-derivatives, and it has a mild taste. It isn’t vegan, but very few people are sensitive to whey protein isolate, so it is a suitable option for most people.
Erythritol is the sugar alcohol used to sweeten these bars. Erythritol is metabolized differently than sugar, which is how some sweet foods are labeled as “sugar free”. This means that people who suffer from diabetes can consume products such as these bars without having a spike in their blood sugar. Because sugar alcohols can cause intestinal distress, many avoid them, however, erythritol has fewer carbon atoms than other sugar alcohols, which makes it much more tolerable than other sugar alcohols.
Maltodextrin is the source of soluble fiber in these bars, and it also helps create their unique texture. Many bars contain inulin, which is a fiber that’s processed by gut bacteria (and therefore causes excess gas in many people). However, maltodextrin is well-tolerated by most, and these bars typically cause no digestive distress. In fact, the maltodextrin in these bars is processed in a way that makes it non-digestible, meaning it is readily available and it won’t cause negative side effects that other fiber products will.
Depending upon the number of boxes you order and any available discounts, each bar ranges in price from about $1.50 to $2. While the price may be a bit higher than other protein bars, shipping is free and the high-quality, clean ingredients that you’re getting are a great value for the money. The company does offer a sample box option (which has 10 flavor varieties), which brings the price down to $1.76 per bar and lets you taste several options.
On the off chance that you don’t love these bars, the company offers a taste guarantee, meaning you can get a full refund on your first order if you aren’t completely satisfied.
2. Best For Coffee Lovers: PROBAR – BASE Coffee Crunch Protein Bar
This is a great bar for men who are coffee lovers. Each bar has 20 grams of plant protein and a list of real, recognizable ingredients. It will help build your strength and give you energy while also providing your body with the hydration that it needs for recovery due to the inclusion of chia and flax seeds. These seeds also give you healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for optimal health.
With four grams of fiber, this bar will keep you full for a long time. This bar is gluten-free and made from sustainably sourced ingredients. It makes for a perfect breakfast or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
3. Best Fruit-Flavored Bar: Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, Apple Pie
This is the best bar if you like fruit flavors. It includes real dried apples as an ingredient along with cinnamon, so it tastes like a real apple pie treat. This protein bar is made with complete protein isolates, including both whey and milk proteins. Each bar has 20 grams of protein, 6 grams of net carbs, 4 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of fiber, keeping you full all morning or afternoon.
These bars have no added sugar, and they are perfect for people following a keto-friendly diet. These bars are gluten-free and very low in net carbs, making them a healthy choice for many people.
4. Best For Chocolate Lovers: Grenade Nutrition – Grenade Carb Killa Protein Bar
If you are a chocolate lover, this is the right bar for you, as it is made with European chocolate. It is a high protein bar with over 23 grams of protein, and has only one gram of sugar. This helps you limit the level of simple, processed refined sugars in your diet. Because they are filled with fiber, these protein bars will keep your appetite satisfied.
These bars are made using a specially selected baking process that results in an amazing taste with a soft yet crunchy texture. They are triple-layered, providing you with a filling snack that tastes like a dessert.
5. Most Savory: KIND Sweet and Spicy Bars, Sweet Cayenne BBQ
This is the most savory option, and perfect for people who don't want to feel like they are eating a candy bar. Whether you love to grill or not, you should be able to enjoy a great BBQ taste all year, and this bar will meet those needs. It contains no artificial or greasy flavors, just a bold, savory taste.
Each bar has 10 grams of plant protein that comes from whole almonds, seeds, and pea protein. They also have all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein. These bars are gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, and have 0 grams of trans fat. They are also low in sodium, a great source of fiber, and low on the glycemic index scale. People love these bars because they are a great low-calorie option compared to other bigger bars.
6. Best For Nut Lovers: GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bar, Cashew Caramel
This is the best option for nut lovers. This bar combines 11 grams of plant-based protein with buttery cashews and a hint of mesquite flavor to create a naturally sweet caramel bar. The plant-based protein used in these bars is allergy friendly, vegan, and easily digested. These bars only use clean and responsibly sourced ingredients to provide you with high-quality nutrition.
GoMacro bars are made by a family-owned business that has earned the trust of their customers. They offer this product to people who are living a balanced and plant-based lifestyle, or anyone who wants to improve their health.
There’s a healthy protein bar out there to fit everyone's taste and fitness goals. Whether you like fruit flavors, sweet chocolate flavors, or a more savory option, you can get your protein by choosing a convenient bar. You can even mix it up and try all six above and decide on your favorite. Grab a box or two, and keep a bar on hand for whenever hunger strikes.