For most guys, protein bars seem like a no-brainer: they promise the protein you need to fuel your muscles in an ultra-convenient package, while delivering all kinds of tasty flavors. There are now entire aisles at the grocery store filled with countless options.
With so many of these things on the market, it can seem like a Sisyphean task trying to find a bar that tastes good but doesn’t pass itself off as a candy bar full of questionable ingredients and too little protein does a lot of GOOD. We shouldn’t all be so quick to associate the word “protein” with healthy. And it’s important to look beyond the front-of-label promises and tantalizing flavors. Let the nutritional information and the ingredient list do the talking.
To help you find the perfect high-protein option between meals or post-workout, follow these guidelines when shopping for a bar and consider choosing one of these standout bars that meet nutrition guidelines.
1. Go deeper on protein
For a bar that will tame hunger for longer and help build your biceps, look for a bar that provides at least 10 grams of protein (that’s more than an egg!). It can come from animal protein like whey or egg white, or from plants like pea protein and nuts.
2. Keep Calories in Mind
You may have noticed that the calorie counts on the bars vary widely. For snacks between meals, opt for bars with around 250 calories or less. If you’re replacing a meal or eating a bar after a particularly intense workout, going up to 400 calories may make more sense.
3. Scan sugars
With flavors like fudge brownie and salted caramel, many bars are straddling dessert territory. In other words, they can be sugar bombs that can be bad news for your ticker. This 2023 study in the BMC Medicine magazine found that it’s not the total amount of carbs in your diet that matters for heart health, but the type you eat – total added sugar intake was the main predictor of heart disease. Ideally, you want to choose a bar with no more than 8 grams of added sugar, with a preference for sweets from natural sources like dried fruit or more benign low-calorie sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, or erythritol. Fortunately, nutrition labels now have to show how much added sugar a bar contains.
4. Identify fats
For a bar that will be easier on your heart, you want one made with healthier unsaturated fats from ingredients like nuts, seeds, and nut butters instead of one full of less desirable sources like palm kernel oil or anything hydrogenated.
5. Know your grains
If a protein bar contains grains, they should be whole such as oats or quinoa. This will give you a bar with more essential micronutrients and fiber.
6. Fight for fiber
Fiber is important for helping you feel full and improving gut health, but not enough guys eat enough. It’s not essential that a protein bar is also high in fiber if your diet is already high in fiber-rich foods like vegetables and legumes, but it can be helpful to find one that contains 3 grams or more. per serving. The caveat being that if you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber at once, opt for bars that contain high amounts of isolated fiber like chicory root or corn fiber to help avoid problems. possible digestive issues such as gas and bloating.
7. Less is more
It’s also a good idea to look for a shorter ingredient list to make sure your bar is a little less processed. A long list of mysterious ingredients should be a red flag.