11 Best Protein Bars for Weight Loss & Health (2020 Review)
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Before, when you thought of protein, you may have thought of muscle builders and so-called “gym rats.”
But as people become more conscious of their health, protein bars have gained the reputation of being a “good” nutritional supplement. But are all protein bars actually good for you?
When hunger hits you or you need a quick boost before a workout, it’s a convenient and healthy idea to have a protein bar packed in your bag. The best protein bars provide your body with healthy fuel, and they taste good. But protein bars are not all made the same, and they certainly don't all benefit your health.
Some are equivalent to candy bars when it comes to sugar and calories, so it’s a good idea to know which ones are healthy. You want to find a bar that has the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, sugar, calories, nutrition, and fiber. With so many options on the market, picking the right one can be difficult.
If you’re on the lookout for the best protein bars to help you manage your weight, we’ve got you covered. We’ve found the most nutritious high-protein snacks that you can eat every day. Read our full review below to see which protein bar is the best choice for you.
Don't have time to read the entire review?
If you're a busy person who doesn't have time to read this entire review, don’t worry—we've simplified everything. Here is a table to provide you with a quick rating of our favorite protein bars.
|Built Bar||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Quest Bars||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Bars||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Signature Protein Crunch Bars||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|KIND Breakfast Protein Bars||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|RXBAR Protein Bar, Coffee Chocolate||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|Epic Uncured Bacon Bars||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bar, Cashew Caramel||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|RiseBar Lemon Cashew High Protein Bar||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|think! (thinkThin) Vegan/Plant Based High Protein Bars, Sea Salt Almond Chocolate||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
|KIND Bars, Almond Walnut Macadamia + Protein||CLICK HERE FOR PRICE|
In this article, not only will we go over the advantages and disadvantages of protein bars, I will also provide a recommendation of eight protein bars you should consider checking out.
Let’s get to it.
What You Will Learn
- Advantages of Protein Bars
- Disadvantages of Protein Bars
- How to Choose a Healthy Protein Bar
- 11 Best Protein Bars (for Weight Loss, Vegans, and Health Conscious Individuals)
- 1. Best Overall: Built Bar
- 2. Runner-Up Protein Bar Option: Quest Bars
- 3. 2nd Runner-Up Protein Bar Option: MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Bars
- 4. Best Value for the Money: Signature Protein Crunch Bars
- 5. Most Budget-Friendly Protein Bar: KIND Breakfast Protein Bars
- 6. Best Tasting Protein Bars: RXBAR Protein Bar, Coffee Chocolate
- 7. Best for Keto or Paleo Diets: Epic Uncured Bacon Bars
- 8. Best Vegan Protein Bar: GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bar, Cashew Caramel
- 9. Most Wholesome Ingredients Protein Bar: RiseBar Lemon Cashew High Protein Bar
- 10. Best Protein Bar for Women: think! (thinkThin) Vegan/Plant Based High Protein Bars, Sea Salt Almond Chocolate
- 11. Best Low Sugar Protein Bar: KIND Bars, Almond Walnut Macadamia + Protein
- Final Thoughts
Advantages of Protein Bars
Protein is a vital macronutrient that your body needs in order for it to function at an optimal level. Protein can be found in many food sources such as eggs, cheese, meat, fish, and nuts. But many people appreciate the convenience of protein bars to have as a snack when they are on the go during the day. Protein bars are one option for a great snack that have many dietary and lifestyle benefits.
Protein bars are able to quickly give you the energy you need to get through the day with their carbohydrate and fat content. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals that support and help you maintain proper health.
Giving your body the necessary nutrients that are in protein bars can help you get the most out of your workouts. Eating a protein bar prior to working out will give you the steady energy that you need for your entire workout, while also benefitting you after you have finished.
Protein bars have amino acids that give your muscles the building blocks they need to generate new tissue and repair the small muscle tears that occur when you are working out. When this new tissue is generated, you are building and maintaining your muscle mass.
Further, protein helps your body create hormones and enzymes that are necessary to aid your body in vital processes. Of the 20 amino acids that your body needs in order to function, you only naturally produce 11 of them. The rest of the amino acids, which are referred to as the essential amino acids, come from eating protein.
When you eat protein, your body is able to break it down into individual amino acids, which it then uses to build the thousands of proteins that your body needs to sustain life. While some of these proteins turn into hormones, others turn into enzymes, and some incorporate themselves into cells.
A lot of your immunity is linked with your circulatory system, and red blood cells that are rich in protein play a big role in keeping you healthy. Protein helps boost your immune system by synthesizing immune cells and red blood cells, which helps ensure you will remain healthy.
Disadvantages of Protein Bars
Even protein bars that are dense in ingredients are not able to replace the variety of nutrients that you will get from eating whole foods. This means that replacing too many of your meals with protein bars can prevent you from getting the benefits your body needs from the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats that you will get from whole food sources.
Additionally, while protein bars are very convenient, they are much more expensive than purchasing whole foods. In fact, some protein bars cost three times more than buying whole foods with the equivalent amount of protein in them, but contain more calories, sugar, and unfamiliar ingredients that your body doesn't need.
How to Choose a Healthy Protein Bar
1. Consider your fitness goals.
Why do you want to include protein bars in your diet? Are you trying to lose weight or gain muscle? Protein is essential for muscle recovery after exercise, and to allow your body to build new muscle.
Not eating enough protein can delay your muscle recovery and could cause your muscles to shrink instead of growing. When choosing a protein bar to help you recover from a tough workout, you will want to find one that is high in calories and protein.
If you are trying to lose weight, protein is also an important part of fat burning. Its high thermic effect causes it to use a lot of energy in order to break down. In fact, up to 30% of your calories consumed from protein are used by your body to digest food. If you are replacing a snack to help you lose weight, you don't need a protein bar that is high in calories.
2. Read the ingredients list.
Make sure you recognize all of the ingredients on the list. You don't want to consume a lot of chemicals in the process of eating your convenient snack. The fewer ingredients a protein bar has, the healthier it probably is.
Look at the label to make sure you are getting a natural bar with a short list of ingredients containing mostly things you recognize the names of so you know what exactly you’re eating.
3. Check the numbers for the following:
Calories: Calories are important to help you recover from a workout, but you should make sure you don't eat protein bars that have excessive calories if you don't need them because this could lead to weight gain.
Protein content and protein type: Some protein bars actually contain very little protein. You want to find a bar with no fewer than five grams. In general, when you're buying the best protein bar, you can assume that the more protein it has, the better it is.
But this is only true if that protein is high quality. The preferable proteins to consume are milk and whey. Some bars have soy protein, which is of lower quality and can possibly lead to an upset stomach.
Carbohydrates: If you want to lose weight, choose a low-carbohydrate bar because you likely do not burn as many carbohydrates as you eat in an average day. Excess carbs are quickly converted to fat and can lead to ongoing carb cravings.
For post-exercise protein bars, carbs are important to help you recover. When eaten after exercise, carbohydrates are quickly moved to your muscles and liver to create glycogen and fuel your next workout.
Sugar alcohols: To make their bars sweet without using sugar, many manufacturers use sugar alcohols. While this makes a bar low in sugar, it does not make it healthy.
Sugar alcohols are sweet and low calorie, but can lead to an upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea. They can even cause you to have sugar cravings later in the day, which will negate the fact that your bar was free from sugar. If you want the healthiest protein bar, look for those that are free from artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
Fiber content: Fiber is important to consume in order to maintain the health of your digestive system and make you feel fuller for a longer amount of time. Fiber also will not add calories to the bar, which means that a high-fiber bar is a healthy one.
Fat content: Just because a diet is low in fat does not make it a healthy diet, because your body needs some dietary fat. Omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats need to be a part of your diet. But saturated fat contains a lot of excess calories that you don't need in a healthy protein bar. You want to consume protein bars that contain healthy fats but have less than 3 grams of saturated fat per bar.
You definitely want to steer clear of trans fats. These are processed fats that are extremely unhealthy and should be avoided. Hydrogenated vegetable oils can be hidden in protein bars, and these are a common source of trans fats.
Carbs-to-protein ratio: Finding the best carbs-to-protein ratio can help maximize your energy levels, help you maintain a healthy body weight, and allow you to stay full for longer after you eat. The recommended dietary allowances for protein is 46 grams for females and 56 grams for males, and the recommended dietary allowances for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day for all adults. Unless you have specific protein and carb ratio requirements, aim to consume at least the recommended daily amount for carbs and protein every day.
4. Know the manufacturer.
Before investing a lot of money into a protein bar, check reviews to see if the manufacturer is reputable. This way, you can get advice from people who have had experience with the product and either trust or don't trust the people who make it.
5. If all else fails, make your own.
Making your own protein bars is always a good way to know exactly what is in them. Mix some peanut butter and your favorite protein powder or some almonds and dried fruit together to create a bar that you will enjoy. One great thing about making your own protein bars at home is that it ends up saving you a lot of money in the long run.
11 Best Protein Bars (for Weight Loss, Vegans, and Health Conscious Individuals)
Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for, here are some of the best options available on the market today.
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. Runner-Up Protein Bar Option: Quest Bars
Long a darling of the fitness and nutrition industry, Quest Bars are still a top pick if you’re looking for a protein bar that delivers quality protein and great taste. They’re readily available from most retail outlets and come in a wide range of flavors.
Starting with protein content, Quest Bars contain a respectable 20 grams. It’s mostly from whey protein isolates which is a complete protein and relatively easy to digest. Whey protein is the go-to option for most protein bars, so nothing groundbreaking in that department.
It’s with the rest of the nutritional facts that Quest Bars appear spectacular. There have been some claims that they’re too good to be true, in fact. Quest Bars have a strikingly high fiber content relative to the protein and fat content. Such is the disparity that there’s been some dispute about the accuracy of the label.
The fiber content is notable because it makes a big difference in the number of net carbohydrates in the bar. Net carbs are the carbs that are actually digestible by your body and fiber doesn’t count towards that. If the label is accurate, Quest Bars have, by far, the best protein to carbohydrate ratio of any protein bar on the market in their category.
Most people who end up loving Quest Bars get attached to one of the myriad flavors, such as birthday cake, blueberry muffin, rocky road, and s’mores. The flavors don’t necessarily replicate their namesakes exactly, but they’re still rather delicious.
The one real drawback about Quest Bars is their texture. These bars are exceedingly chewy. As it turns out, when you condense that much whey protein and fiber into a small bar, you end up with something resembling licorice in texture. They’re notoriously tough to eat, but most people find that after an adjustment period, it gets much easier.
3. 2nd Runner-Up Protein Bar Option: MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Bars
Anyone that’s been around the protein bar block a few times knows Met-Rx bars. Big Colossal isn’t just a marketing gimmick, these bars are massive and have the macronutrients to back it up. They can even double as meal replacement bars at 420 calories per bar.
Everything about these bars is over-the-top. They pack 32 grams of protein, which is more than any other bar on this list. Met-Rx also isn’t shy about packing in carbs and fats as well. Each bar has 14 grams of fat and 26 grams of sugar.
In terms of ingredients, these bars have everything, but the kitchen sink thrown in. That’s not a bad thing, though. Met-Rx is exceedingly thorough about listing every ingredient and breaking it down to its constituent parts. There are no surprises here at all – what you see on the label is exactly what’s in the bar.
In addition to being a great source of protein, Big Colossal has a decent helping of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as zinc and iodine. They’re a meal replacement bar in every sense of the word.
Met-Rx bars are sweetened with corn syrup and sugar. While these aren’t exactly the healthiest sources of carbohydrates, they certainly make them delicious. They come in a variety of flavors, with the most popular ones being super cookie crunch and chocolate chip cookie dough.
If you’re looking for a good way to replace a meal and you’re not overly concerned about macronutrients, these are a good option. If you want to stick to a weight loss plan, you’ll find Big Colossal to be just that – big and colossal.
4. Best Value for the Money: Signature Protein Crunch Bars
When you’re looking for a product that has real results, look at what people who are passionate about those results are using. Signature Protein bars are made by Bodybuilding.com, the world’s premier source of bodybuilding products and information.
These bars are made with bodybuilders in mind. That’s to say, they were made for people who a) really care about nutrition, b) know what to look for in a protein bar, and c) have to be smart about meal budgeting. The result is a bar that has close-to-ideal macronutrients at a price that’s hard to beat.
At 20 grams of protein, these bars have enough protein to supplement the average diet. Five grams of sugar and nine grams of fat round out the macronutrients for a total of 230 calories per bar. That’s not quite enough to make it a meal replacement bar, but these work great as a snack.
Bodybuilding.com promises full transparency on all its Signature products. That means they don’t put anything on the label that isn’t actually in the product – and they don’t hold back anything either. They avoid buffering and stuffing their ingredient list and only use effective doses of every ingredient. In addition, all the ingredients they use are backed by time-tested research and experience.
Whey protein isolates are the primary source of protein with soy protein isolate rounding out the blend. Using several sources of protein is more effective than a single source since some people may respond better to one type of protein than another.
The one drawback that some people find is that the flavors aren’t all that consistent. Some flavors are great and issue-free, but others are way too sweet and don’t resemble the stated flavor at all.
5. Most Budget-Friendly Protein Bar: KIND Breakfast Protein Bars
Do you want to get your protein fix in a convenient bar, but don’t want to spend big bucks? You’re in luck. KIND Breakfast Bars are an excellent option with all-natural ingredients that won’t break the bank.
In terms of protein, you’re getting eight grams from every KIND bar. That’s not a spectacular amount, but it works well as a protein-rich snack. They’re a little high in carbohydrates at 26 grams per bar and the fat content is about what you’d expect, 10 grams. The total adds up to 220 calories per bar.
The protein in KIND bars comes mostly from whole food sources such as almonds, oats, and quinoa. They do add soy protein isolate for a small boost in protein, but all the protein is of plant origin.
They offer three great flavors. Almond butter is their top seller followed by dark chocolate cocoa and maple cinnamon. While the flavors are consistently good, there’s not a lot of variety to choose from. The texture is much better than some popular options, with a crunchy, nutty outside, and a soft, chewy middle.
Sugar alcohols are a common ingredient in protein bars, but KIND bars contain zero grams of these organic compounds. That’s good news for people who have sugar alcohol sensitivity.
Overall KIND bars are a fine snack, but they really shine for being the most affordable option on the list. When you buy in bulk, you’ll end up paying well under a dollar per bar, which is what we call excellent value.
While they’re gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher, they do contain several types of nuts, so you should be careful if you have nut allergies.
6. Best Tasting Protein Bars: RXBAR Protein Bar, Coffee Chocolate
RXBAR Protein Bar, Coffee Chocolate
These protein bars display all of the ingredients on the label, which is great for consumers who are especially concerned about eating anything artificial. The unique thing about these bars is that they are the best kosher option on the market.
RXBARs are made with whole foods that are both clean and simple. Egg whites, dates, and nuts are used in every flavor in conjunction with other delicious flavors to create a protein bar full of nutrition. The coffee chocolate bar allows you to have the taste of your favorite cup of coffee combined with the rich flavor of 100% unsweetened chocolate, giving you a boost of energy during the day.
These bars contain no added sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, artificial flavors, preservatives, or filler. They are non-GMO, perfect for people who follow the Whole 30 diet, and kosher. Each bar has 12 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 210 calories.
7. Best for Keto or Paleo Diets: Epic Uncured Bacon Bars
Epic Uncured Bacon Bars
This is the best Paleo-friendly bar because it is made from meat. The smoked maple bacon meat bar is a portable way to enjoy meat on the go. It provides you with a great protein-rich snack and is made from 100% natural pork.
The company works toward its mission when making this product by aiming to use the entire animal to provide consumers with the most nutrition. This bacon pork maple flavor has eight grams of protein, five grams of sugar, and seven grams of carbohydrates per bar.
8. Best Vegan Protein Bar: GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bar, Cashew Caramel
Organic MacroBar Protein Paradise Bars Box Cashew Caramel
This is the best option if you are looking for a vegan protein bar. GoMacro MacroBars will keep you fueled throughout the day. The Cashew Caramel MacroBar contains 11 grams of plant-based protein with cashews and a hint of mesquite to create a naturally sweet caramel flavor.
The protein in these bars is easily digested and safe for people who have allergies. These bars use clean, plant-based ingredients that are responsibly sourced, meaning they are good for you and good for the environment.
These bars are perfect for replacing a light meal, or for a heavy afternoon snack. They come in many other flavors that people have made a part of their routine diet.
9. Most Wholesome Ingredients Protein Bar: RiseBar Lemon Cashew High Protein Bar
These protein bars are made with the highest quality wholesome ingredients. They are considered to be a “clean” food, with only four ingredients: cashews, coconut nectar, lemon extract, and 15 grams of pea protein isolate per bar. This health snack is made using pure pea protein isolate, which is easy on the digestive system, Paleo-friendly, and completely vegan.
Every Rise bar is individually made in a small batch each day to ensure top quality. They are made using only all natural and non-GMO ingredients that cause small variations in each bar, making every bite a new experience from the last.
This is a great option to eat for a pre-workout energy boost, recovery after a workout, afternoon snack, or even a meal replacement if you're in a rush. Each bar is high in protein, fiber, potassium, vitamins, and minerals.
10. Best Protein Bar for Women: think! (thinkThin) Vegan/Plant Based High Protein Bars, Sea Salt Almond Chocolate
This option is the best tasting protein bar out of all of the choices, so it is great to have on a regular basis. This bar uses only wholesome ingredients to create a powerful snack that is rich in protein and fiber to help your body stay nourished while also crushing your sweet cravings.
Each bar has nine grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and 190 calories to create the perfect snack. The bars have nutritious ingredients such as rich dark chocolate, roasted almonds and a hint of sea salt. The ingredients are also great because they are 100% non-GMO and gluten-free.
11. Best Low Sugar Protein Bar: KIND Bars, Almond Walnut Macadamia + Protein
If you are looking for a low-sugar option, this is the best bar for you. The KIND bars have a wide variety of nuts in them, including whole almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts. This means they provide you with 10 grams of all-natural protein.
These KIND bars are made from high-quality, wholesome ingredients and taste great along with being nutritious. They are a good source of fiber while also being low in sodium. This is a perfect snack to carry with you on the go for when you need a quick boost of energy.
After reading the descriptions of each protein bar, hopefully you can decide which is best for your needs. Each one has its own unique qualities that make them all great options for various needs.
Built Bar Peanut Butter
If you are looking for a safe, everyday option, the Built Bar is a great choice because the taste will always perk you up. But it is also a good idea to keep a rotation of a few different bars so you can have some variety in your diet.