All-natural ingredients and no added sugar. Doesn't contain gluten or soy. Boasts exceptional protein from whey and milk.
Some testers noted that these bars have a new recipe that uses corn fiber, which is not as good as the old formula.
With exceptional protein, no hydrogenated oils, and lots of fiber, these all-natural protein bars are at the top of our list. Contains no gluten and low sodium, but has lots of flavor.
Not soy-free, though they offer every other benefit of quality protein bars.
Larger bars at a lower price. Doesn't contain GMO ingredients. Made with rolled oats, chocolate, and rich grains for a highly nutritious energy boost.
Not gluten- or soy-free, but still has a lot of nutritious value.
Gluten-free and only 1 gram of sugar. Made with non-GMO ingredients and whey and milk protein. Stands out for great flavor and high fiber.
More expensive than other brands we reviewed, and has 24 grams of carbohydrates.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
When afternoon hunger hits or you need a little pick-me-up before a workout, it’s always a healthy idea to have protein bars stashed in your desk or bag. The best protein bars give you fuel and taste good, too. However, not all protein bars are as healthy as advertised. Some are as high in sugar and calories as candy bars, so it’s important to know what to look for on nutrition labels. You want to choose protein bars with the right amount of protein, carbs, sugar, calories, and fiber. With so many protein bars on the market, choosing the right one can get tricky.
At BestReviews, we help make shopping a little easier. We buy all our own products, so our recommendations are never biased. We consult with industry experts to deeply research the product categories we’re considering, and we test the top contenders to make sure that they meet the highest standards.
Ready to buy a box or two of protein bars? Check out the product list above for our five recommendations. For more on how to choose nutritious and delicious protein bars that are right for your body, keep reading.
If you’re wondering why a protein bar can make a better snack than a piece of fruit or some veggies, it helps to understand the ways that protein can benefit your body.
Protein is the most important building block for the muscles in your body. Eating more protein can help you build lean muscle mass and strength, which is why protein bars are particularly good if you’re into weightlifting or lead an active lifestyle.
Increasing your protein intake has been linked to a boost in metabolism, upping the number of calories you burn daily.
Protein is the most filling of the macronutrients, so it helps you feel full longer than foods high in carbs or fats.
Some protein bars are meant to be eaten as snacks, while others are intended as meal replacements or post-workout fuel. The total calories differ, so be sure to choose the right option for your needs.
Supports Bone Health
Contrary to a common misconception, protein isn’t bad for your bones. In fact, it can help you maintain bone mass, so you’re less likely to experience osteoporosis or fractures.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Several studies have shown that increased protein consumption can lower both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure, which reduces your risk for heart disease.
Because protein is such an important building block for bodily tissue, eating more after an injury can help you recover more quickly and easily.
If you’re worried about maintaining your fitness level as you age, consuming more protein helps by keeping your muscles and bones strong when you work out.
The recommended daily intake of protein for adults is 0.36 grams per pound. For the average woman, that amounts to about 50 grams of protein per day. For the average man, that amounts to about 60 grams of protein per day.
While there are many protein-rich foods and products on the market, there are several reasons why protein bars are such a good option.
Easy to Pack
Protein bars are a convenient food to take on the go because you can easily stash them in a bag, purse, or pocket. They also don’t require plates or cutlery to eat, and there’s no need to refrigerate or heat them.
If you’re in a rush in the morning or don’t have time to take a break during the day, a protein bar can replace breakfast or an afternoon snack. It will keep you satisfied and has plenty of nutrients.
When you’re going to push yourself hard at the gym, eating a protein bar before you exercise can provide energy and keep your blood sugar from dropping. It can also assist your muscles in recovering after you leave the gym.
Protein bars come in a wide range of flavors, and they often contain tasty ingredients like whole nuts and dried fruit to make eating them as enjoyable as possible.
Protein bars and energy bars aren’t the same thing. Energy bars are usually high in carbs to provide a quick burst of energy, but they aren’t as filling as protein bars.
To get the full benefits from a protein bar, it must contain enough protein. Choose a bar that offers at least five to 10 grams of protein. For the most bang for your buck, look for bars that offer 15 grams of protein.
The quality of the protein is also important. Look for bars that use milk or whey as protein sources. It’s best to avoid soy-based protein bars because they can upset your stomach.
Superior protein bars contain high-quality protein. Look for whey isolates, hydrolyzed whey, and micellar casein in the list of ingredients.
If you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, it’s important to choose a protein bar that doesn’t amount to too many calories. For snacking, look for a bar that has about 140 to 200 calories. If you’re planning to eat a bar as a pre-workout boost, 170 to 300 calories is best. If you’re trying to build muscle, or you’re eating a protein bar as a meal replacement, one with 300 to 400 calories is a good option.
When you’re choosing a protein bar, it’s important to consider how much fiber it contains. Look for a bar with three to six grams of fiber. Fiber helps you feel full longer, maintain a healthy blood sugar level, and stay regular.
Some protein bars are high in sodium. Look for bars that contain less than 140 milligrams of sodium for the healthiest option.
To serve as a healthy snack, a protein bar should be low in carbs. Look for one with no more than 20 grams of carbs. However, if you’re eating the bar after a workout, those with up to 30 grams of carbs can give you an energy boost.
Pay attention to the protein to carbs ratio, too. Ideally, you should look for a 2:1 ratio of protein to carbs, especially if you are looking to increase muscle mass. However, a 1:1 ratio can also be sufficient.
A protein bar should contain some healthy fats, but you want to avoid bars with high amounts of saturated fats or trans fat. Make sure your protein bar contains no more than three grams of saturated fat per bar and no trans fat at all.
Some protein bars are made with organic ingredients, which makes them even healthier options.
When it comes to protein bars, those with the fewest ingredients are usually the best. However, the quality of the ingredients also matters. Whole, natural ingredients are your best option, so check the list of ingredients for foods like nut butters, rolled oats, and dried fruit. Avoid protein bars that contain high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and any kind of artificial sweeteners.
In addition to having the right nutrients and ingredients, a protein bar should also taste good, or you won’t want to eat it. Fortunately, protein bars are available in a wide array of flavors, so there’s bound to be an option that appeals to your palate. Some common flavors include peanut butter, chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, blueberry, coconut cashew, vanilla crème, and cookies and cream.
Many protein bars contain high-fructose corn syrup – pay attention to where it is on the ingredient list, though. If it’s near the bottom, the bar is a satisfactory option. If it’s near the top, look for another brand.
Protein bars vary in price based on how many grams of protein they contain and the quality of their ingredients. In most cases, you’ll pay between $5 and $30 for a box of 12 bars.
A 12-count box of protein bars with only five to eight grams of protein usually ranges in price from $5 to $10.
A 12-count box of protein bars with eight to 15 grams of protein usually ranges in price from $10 to $20.
A 12-count box of protein bars with 15 to 25 grams of protein usually ranges in price from $20 to $30.
Protein requires more energy to break down than other nutrients. As a result, nearly 30% of the calories in protein are burned off as you digest it.
While a protein bar can work well as a meal replacement for breakfast or an afternoon snack, it’s a good idea to pair it with a piece of fruit to make sure you have enough fuel to get through the morning or afternoon.
If you want to make sure you have enough energy for your workout, eat a protein bar a half-hour before you work out. You can even eat one during your workout if you start to feel sluggish.
A protein bar in a tasty flavor makes an ideal substitute for a candy bar if your sweet tooth starts calling in the afternoon.
If possible, purchase your protein bars in boxes that offer a variety of flavors. You’re less likely to get sick of a flavor that way.
Q. Can children eat protein bars?
A. Protein bars are often a healthier snack for children than granola bars. However, kids don’t require as much protein as adults, so bars with a large amount of protein aren’t a good option. Look for bars with five or less grams of protein for children.
Q. Can protein bars help me lose weight?
A. Because protein can boost your metabolism and keep you feeling full longer, protein bars can be an effective part of a weight-loss plan. They make a good meal replacement for breakfast or an afternoon snack, but make sure that they only contain 300 calories or less.
Q. Are protein bars gluten-free?
A. Not all protein bars are gluten-free. If you’re avoiding gluten, look for bars that specify that they do not contain gluten on their labels.
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