When you’re working out, your body needs protein. There are a lot of ways to get protein including shakes, powders and your regular diet. However, if you work out away from home, then protein bars are your most convenient option. But, what’s the best protein bar?
Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular and widely available options and determine which one gives you the most bang for your buck – with the least additional garbage.
A brief lesson on protein
You may associate protein with muscle building, but it’s important for everyone, no matter what your sport. Protein is an important part of muscle so it’s important for building as well as repairing. So, even if your objective is weight loss or muscle toning, you still need to think about your protein.
Overall, the best way to make sure that you’re getting your protein is to incorporate it into your diet. Meats get the biggest rep for packing protein – and with good reason. However, nuts, beans, tofu and other meat substitutes, and even dairy and grains have some protein.
Many health providers don’t believe that athletes need more protein than the standard recommended average of around .8 mG of protein/kG of body weight. While there’s a general consensus among researchers specifically in the athletic space that athletes need more than that, there isn’t a strong consensus on how much protein is enough protein (Brink, pg. 68).
A shortcut around this is that it’s hard to get too much protein. Excess protein is easily broken down by the body and passed through the system. If you’re eating far more protein than you need and not enough carbs from other sources, it can be a problem.
However, as long as you have a well-rounded diet, getting more protein is better than not getting enough. That’s the main criticism of most popular body-building diets: not that they offer too much protein, but that they don’t allow enough of everything else.
What makes a good protein bar?
As mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with protein powders and shakes. The great thing about protein bars is that they can fit in your pocket. Further, the best protein bars pack a lot of protein without a lot of sugars and fats, which can be present in powders and shakes.
That’s the main difference between protein bars and granola bars or breakfast bars. Granola bars and breakfast bars might have some protein, but they likely have a lot more sugar and fats. While you do want some carbs in your protein bar, you don’t want too much of them to come from sources like sugars and fats.
Taking all of this into account, which protein bar is the best protein bar?
We looked at five of the biggest brands and ranked them from the best protein bar to the worst, based on the protein, sugar, fats, and total carbs along for the ride.
BuiltBar (Peanut Butter)
From a nutrition aspect, it has an impressive 20g of protein with only 16g of carbs. That includes 3g of sugar and 7g of dietary fiber.
Level-1 Bar (Pumpkin Spice Crunch)
Level-1 by 1st Phorm comes in a series of flavors, with slightly different nutrition information. We looked at the “Pumpkin Spice Crunch flavor. As far as best protein bar, it was a close run between this and our number one spot.
The bar provides 20g of protein, which is about par for the course. What’s more impressive is that the bar only has 19g of carbs, with only one more gram of sugar than BuiltBar.
Cliff Builders (Vanilla Almond)
Cliff makes a standard granola bar, but their “Builders” product line is more protein-forward. There are seven different flavors in the product line so the numbers vary a little bit, but we looked at the Vanilla Almond flavor.
This bar has 20g of protein, which is about what one can expect. However, the bar also comes with 29g of carbs. Your body uses carbs as well as protein in a workout so having some carbs isn’t bad. What is bad is that a lot of those carbs come from the 16g of sugar. That’s compared to carbs from healthier sources like fiber.
Protein One (Peanut Butter Chocolate)
For having “protein” in the name, the bar delivers a fairly measly 10g of protein. Further, that comes along with 11g of carbs. The good news? A good deal of those carbs come from 4g of dietary fiber. They brag about having only 1g of sugar, but there’s 5g of sugar alcohol – which is arguably not much better.
KIND (Almond Butter Dark Chocolate)
KIND protein bars pride themselves on “protein from real food” so their stats and their landing in our rankings for best protein bar are a little disappointing.
We looked at their “Almond Butter Dark Chocolate flavor” to find that it only delivers 12g of protein. That’s slightly more protein than the Protein One bar, but it comes along with 18g of carbs, including 8g of sugar and a whopping 17g of total fat.
The best protein bar that we looked at was the BuiltBar. It delivered an “industry standard” 20g of protein at an undefeated 7:1 protein to sugar ratio.
In our hunt for the best protein bar, we stuck to options that most readers can find most easily – we didn’t look at all of the options out there. It could be that there is a bar that can beat out BuiltBar in terms of nutrition. Further, we only looked at nutrition. Maybe things like flavor are important to you too.
Maybe, the takeaway from this article isn’t necessarily which bar got the highest marks. Maybe the takeaway is that not all protein bars are created equal. After all, the bottom two bars on our list bragged about their natural ingredients and protein content.
So, consider this a jumping off point for your quest for the best protein bar for you. Look at what’s available to you, what you like, and remember to read the label.
Brink, Will. “Muscle Building Nutrition: Serious lean muscle gains, without the body fat – scientifically proven.” Internet Publications. 2003.