Protein bars, also known as nutrition bars, are considered healthy snacks convenient to grab on-the-go and a meal replacement providing enough carbs, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts swear by these nutrition bars such as Quest protein bars, as they help them fuel exercise and build muscle mass. Others use protein bars as an aid to either weight loss or weight gain programs.
Nonetheless, opinions on protein bars, if they are healthy, and how much a balanced diet should depend on them, aren’t unanimous. Some of the most common pros and cons of protein bars that you need to know are listed below.
Pros Of Protein Bars
There are three biggest arguments why a person should introduce protein bars into his diet:
As pre-packaged, pre-made snacks and meal replacements, protein bars are a convenient source of nutrients and proteins that one with no time for a sit-down meal, can grab on-the-go.
- Supplements Supporting Fitness Goals
Protein bars can be a useful aid when trying to achieve specific fitness goals. They can help active individuals looking to gain muscle mass and those who want to gain or lose weight by having more control over their diet and the ingredients they feed their bodies with.
- Easy Way To Control And Secure Enough Protein Intake
Proteins are vital to having a lean muscle rate, good metabolic rate, balanced satiety levels, and even hormonal health. Busy individuals with no time for meal planning and preparation rely on protein bars to secure enough protein.
Cons Of Protein Bars
Protein bars aren’t to be taken lightly. One should be conscious of potential drawbacks and situations when it’s better to avoid them:
- Too Much Protein Is Bad
Overeating protein, especially in one sitting, stresses the kidneys and can lead to dehydration. That’s why people with any kidney issues should especially be wary of this fact. Some researches even associate eating more protein than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, liver, and bone disorders. Those hoping to lose weight should also bear in mind how eating excess proteins does the opposite—you only store more calories and gain more weight.
- Not All Protein Bars Are Healthy
Although riding on the hype of being a healthier option to regular sweets, some protein bars are packed with more than 30 grams of sugar. Consider how a total recommended dose of daily sugar intake for women is 25 grams and for men, 36 grams. Many protein bars are also packed with ingredients that in the long run can only hurt your health—soy protein isolate (SPI), high fructose syrup, fractioned palm kernel oil, sugar alcohols such as maltitol syrup, xylitol, sorbitol, lactitol, mannitol, and erythritol, to name a few.
- The Price
Some consider protein bars being more on a pricey side and how there are as convenient, cheaper, and healthier food alternatives to them.
Types Of Protein Bars To Choose From
There are many types of bars available, and it’s quite easy to get lost when presented with a vast range of choices. That’s why it’s useful to know what the main categories of protein bars are, depending on their intended use and nutritional composition:
- Classic High Protein/Meal Replacement Bar
These are the first, ‘original’, and most common protein bars to be found on protein bar shelves. They are intended for very active people as a supplement or meal replacement when in need of readily available, on-the-go calories as they are packed with calories, protein, and fat.
- Low-Carb Bars
Low-carb bars are a popular aid to different high-protein diets as they have a high ratio of proteins to carbs. They are considered a low-carb alternative to sweets. It’s accepted how a good low-carb protein bar should have between 1-10g of net carbs. Collagen, MCT oil, and fiber syrups make up a chewy texture characteristic for many low-carb protein bars.
- Whole Food Bars
Whole food bars are usually made of simple and easily recognizable unprocessed food. The stress is on natural ingredients, without any artificial additives or artificial sweeteners. They are an on-the-go snack option filled with nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Plant-Based Protein Bars
Vegan and plant-based movements have resulted in plant-based protein bars. What sets them apart from whole food bars is that they get their protein exclusively from plants, namely pea, nut, hemp, or brown rice. No whey protein is allowed.
- Muscle Gain and Recovery Protein Bars
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts most commonly use these protein bars as sources of energy before or after workouts and as means to support muscle growth. They are generally high in protein and carbs while lower in fat and fiber.
- Weight Loss Protein Bars
Generally low in carbs and full of fiber, these protein bars are often used for weight loss as a snack to curb hunger between meals. The protein reduces the ghrelin levels, also known as the hungry hormone, and in combination with fiber, weight loss protein bars satiate hunger, leaving you feeling full for a longer period.
- Weight Gain Protein Bars
Bars that are high in protein and energy-dense calories are the bars to go for if the goal is to gain weight. People who are always bustling with no time for meal preparation or have exceedingly high-calorie thresholds use these protein bars as an easy and convenient way of boosting calorie intake to gain weight.
How To Choose The Best Protein Bar
Not all protein bars are healthy, and not every protein bar suits everybody’s specific needs and health requirements. To make sure you choose the best protein bar, pay attention to:
- Protein Content
A meal replacement bar should have at least 30 grams of protein, whereas a between-meal or pre- and post-workout snack, at least 20 grams.
Most commonly, protein in protein bars is sourced from plants such as rice, peas, and hemp or animal products such as eggs, whey, and milk. Make sure to choose a protein bar not containing any ingredients you are allergic to.
A protein bar that can substitute a meal should have around 300 to 400 calories. A bar serving as an in-between meal snack should have anywhere from 150 up to 250 calories.
You don’t want to find more than 5 grams of sugar in your protein bar. And you don’t want the sweetness to come from any artificial sweeteners either.
The more fiber a protein bar has, the better because it will keep you full longer. A bar should contain at least three to five grams of fiber.
The best protein bars have a ratio of 10 to 15 grams of total fat and two grams of saturated fat maximum.
Choose Your Protein Bar Wisely
Protein bars can be used as food supplements and occasional meal replacements suited to busy and active individuals’ lifestyles.
With no time for proper sit-down meals, cooking, and meal preparation, it’s hard to have a well-rounded diet that provides all the necessary nutrients to a human body. It’s more than convenient and reasonable to reach out for a protein bar for a quick and healthy fix, as long as you don’t make a habit out of it.