7 Best Protein Bars (for Weight Loss, Vegans, and Health Conscious Individuals)
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.
In this article, not only will we go over the advantages and disadvantages of protein bars, I will also provide a recommendation of seven protein bars you should consider checking out.
Let’s get to it.
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.
Protein bars give you the energy you need to get through the day with their carbohydrate and fat content.
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.
The best protein bars provide your body with healthy fuel and they taste good.
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.
The fewer ingredients a protein bar has, the healthier it probably is.
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.
This is a great option for people who like spicy foods, as it has the most unique taste. Whether you love to grill out or not, you can have that great BBQ taste all year with these protein bars.
These bars contain no artificial flavors or anything that feels fattening or greasy—just a bold and savory taste that you're not used to getting from a standard protein bar.
These KIND bars have 10g of plant protein in each that comes from whole almonds, seeds, and pea protein. They are gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, and they have no trans fat. They are a great source of fiber and fall on the low end of the glycemic index scale.
Contains all nine essential amino acids.
Low in sodium.
The bars are a bit small.
Some people find them to be too sweet for a "savory" snack.
Not a great option if you're looking for a quick breakfast.
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.
Best for people who follow a Paleo diet.
The meats used in these bars are harvested in a sustainable manner, organic, and grass-fed.
Have a great balance of fat, carbs, and protein.
The taste between batches is sometimes inconsistent.
With a recent recipe change, some people think these bars are too sweet.
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.
USDA organic and R.A.W.
These bars have a soft texture that people enjoy.
It is not uncommon to find pit or nut shells in these bars.
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.
Doesn't include any junk or filler ingredients.
Free from gluten, soy, peanuts, sugar alcohol, and artificial ingredients.
Has a short and recognizable ingredient list.
Some people wish these bars had a more prominent flavor.
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 whole nuts, pumpkin seeds, and a hint of chocolate, caramel, or coconut. The ingredients are also great because they are 100% non-GMO and gluten-free.
Low glycemic index.
Have an enjoyable, crisp texture unlike other bars.
Contains soy protein, which some people don't prefer.
Higher in sugar than some other bars.
The artificial sweetener used in the coating may hurt some consumers' stomachs.
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.
Made with high-quality egg white protein.
Made with simple ingredients that are listed on the front of the package.
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.
Low sugar content.
Perfect for kids and adults.
Great for people who are trying to eat clean.
Smaller than other options.
The ones that include peanuts have very little other variety in nuts.
Contains soy protein isolate, which some people do not prefer.
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.
If you are looking for a safe, everyday option, the thinkThin Protein Nut Bar, Chocolate Coconut Almondis 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.