Proteins represent the most important macronutrients needed by the body. It pretty much makes up your body structure in its entirety, which is why it’s comforting to know that you can find your daily protein source in just about any food around you from fish and eggs to nuts, meat, and some plant sources.
But what happens when the traditional sources of proteins don’t quite allow you to meet your daily recommended protein levels?
Well, you then turn to alternatives like protein bars. For most people watching their weight, either because they wish to lose weight or to bulk up, protein bars are the go-to options. Not just because they fill in the protein gap, but also because the bars are a convenient option for a filling source of protein.
Protein bars have become one of the most popular snacks on the market as they are designed to provide the most convenient sources of nutrition. If you need a quick way to introduce protein plus other nutrients to your active and perhaps busy lifestyle, the protein bars will fill in that gap seamlessly.
All you need to do is make sure that you are aware of the ingredients and the constituents of the protein bars.
The protein bars may all be designed to help you stay fuller for longer between meals or even for use as meal replacements, but the truth is that the protein bars are not all created equal. Bars differ depending on the brands making them, and in other cases, protein bars from one brand may have numerous differences among them.
So, you need to be careful when buying the protein bars. To be on the safer side, the first thing that you need to keep in mind is your intentions and the purpose of the protein bars.
Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve in terms of your weight and fitness goals, then determine how the protein bars selected will help you reach your goals.
Above all that, you need to understand how protein bars work or if they work at all in the first place.
Do protein bars work?
Whether protein bars work or not is a factor that is largely dependent on the constituent ingredients of the bars.
You need to look at the ingredients of the protein bars, the calories, and other unique features of the product, weigh what you need from the bar against what it offers. From this information, you will be able to determine the best bars that would work.
So, in as much as most protein bars have been made out to be candy bars in disguise, some bars actually work, and they would help you attain your weight and fitness goals because that is what they are designed to do.
In essence, protein bars are made of varying ingredients, ranging from dried fruits and seeds to nuts, whole grains, and protein isolates.
Depending on the ingredients, a healthy protein bar would have between 5-10g of healthy fats, 25-35g of proteins, and between 5 and 10g of fiber. Others come enriched with essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. These protein bars are also often very low on sugar.
So, if you are looking at a protein bar with such a range of ingredients and your weight or fitness goals, it’s clear that the protein bar would come in handy in helping you reach your daily quota for proteins and the other macro and micronutrients.
The protein bars don’t always work as expected, though. For example, if the protein bar is high in processed sugars and fats, salts, and alcohol sugars, that bar wouldn’t do much to help you lose weight or reach your fitness goals. In these cases, these protein bars only sabotage your efforts.
Types of Protein Bars
To end the debate around protein bars and whether they work or not, we will take a deep dive into some of the uses and the types of protein bars available on the market.
Meal Replacement Protein Bars
If you are trying to lose weight, it is understandable that you will have to increase your intake of healthy proteins and keep your carbs intake low. To ensure that everything you eat fits into this structure, portion control is just as important as the reduction of the number of calories you take. And the meal replacement bars come in handy.
In most cases, the meal replacement protein bars are the high-protein bars that are filled with healthy plant or animal-based proteins, along with high fiber content. This combo is designed to keep you fuller for longer between meals.
And since these protein bars are also enriched with essential minerals and vitamins, the bars ensure that you enjoy well-balanced and nutritious bars.
When used as a weight-loss strategy, the American Dietetic Associated notes that the meal replacement bars and protein bars are an important part of a well-rounded diet.
Just don’t make the mistake of relying on the meal replacement protein bars for complete meals, because these bars, though wholesome, do not have the antioxidants and micronutrients present in whole grains or fresh fruits and veggies.
Protein Bars as Snacks
Anyone working on weight loss/ control will tell you that the hardest part about staying on track with a healthy diet involves learning how to curb your cravings, and not eating unhealthy snacks between meals.
Snacking remains a huge challenge in weight loss attempts, and since you cannot stick to apples or bananas and peanut butter or a handful of almonds every time you need a snack, having a healthy protein bar appears to be the next best alternative.
These protein bars are perfectly sized, and they are effective in that they’d help you avoid overeating in between your meals.
To ensure the best results, most of the snack-sized protein bars are flavored to help satisfy your sweet tooth cravings while lowering the risk of blood sugar spikes, and subsequently, sugar crashes.
Note that blood sugar spikes from snacks like sweets and candy bars fuel weight gain by forcing the body to convert the excess blood sugar into fat, which isn’t utilized for energy immediately.
So, as long as you opt for the low-calorie, high-protein, and low-sugar protein bars, you will have the perfect snack to help you manage your weight more effectively.
Pre and Post-Workout Protein Bars
The other super popular use of the protein bars is seen in workout support. You need to supply your body with all the necessary nutrients it needs to keep your fueled during your workout and for muscle recovery and refueling after the workout. And the pre/post-workout protein bars come in handy here.
The pre or the post-workout protein bar is designed to give you a steady energy supply during the workout.
It’s also important because the amino acids in the protein bars ensure that your body has the support of the building blocks needed for the generation of new muscle tissues, along with the repair of the microscopic muscle tears from the workouts.
Aren’t wholesome meals enough?
Essentially, your meals should give you the right amount of protein you need to keep going. And for the most part, your diet offers more than enough protein, which is why you are gaining weight.
But if you are watching your weight or actively working out, the protein supplied from the diet might be inadequate in keeping the body running appropriately.
You need a pick me up to stay full for longer, curb cravings, and stop overeating. But you also need the best protein bars with more than enough amino acids for muscle building, muscle strength, and recovery, for you to go in harder in the gym the next day. The protein bars help fill this gap.
It’s also worth noting that for you to lose weight or bulk up, you must eat more proteins and reduce your carbs intake, and the protein bars with a high protein content make this possible.;
In a review published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal, individuals who work out actively need to improve their total body composition or increase their muscle to body fat ratio. To make this possible, these individuals need to increase their protein intake to 25-35g in every meal.
The other reason, which is more or less the main reason why we are having this discussion is that the protein bars work because of their convenience.
Even when you love cooking, you cannot be stuck in the kitchen all day, whipping up snacks when you have the option of buying a prepacked snack that’s sold as a meal in itself.
Used correctly, and if you buy the protein bars made with healthy and well-balanced ingredients, the protein bars work. They are convenient, and they might help you reach your goals faster.
But like everything else, enjoy the bars in moderation. You may risk deficiencies if you make the protein bars your go-to source of food, and your body will punish you for that.
Most importantly, be careful about the ingredients in the protein bars. You don’t want to munch on a protein bar with 20 or 30 grams of sugar or 350 calories when trying to lose weight.
Check the ingredients and only buy a protein bar if you can pronounce all the ingredients, preferably the ones with organic, non-GMO, and generally, safe ingredients.