Protein bars have become increasingly popular over the past few years, with most people on the healthy living path opting to have a protein bar when they are hungry as they would normal food. But are protein bars good and healthy to be eaten every day?
Are protein bars wrecking your diet and making turning your healthy lifestyle into a futile attempt?
In this article, we look at the downsides and the upsides of the protein bars on the market today in a bid to understand whether it’s time to lay down the bars or if you can still pop them like candy.
Things to consider before buying protein bars
Nutritional value of protein bars and Ingredients
As mentioned above, protein bars are not all created equal, and different brands will make protein bars using different ingredients. Before you buy protein bars, it would be a good idea to research more about the ingredients in the bar to find out if the protein bar is a good and healthy option for you or not.
Generally, protein bars contain ingredients like dried fruits or dates, seeds, nuts, and even whole grains such as quinoa and oats. On average, one protein bar will have between 5 and 10g of fat, between 5-10g of fiber, and between 25-35g of carbs.
And it’s common to find protein bars enriched with micronutrients like B vitamins, iron, calcium, and potassium.
The composition of these ingredients will vary depending on the brand and the intended purpose of the bar, which is why you cannot go around munching on any protein bar before you evaluate whether it will help or sabotage your weight loss and weight management progress.
Proprietary blends and unknown ingredients
You might find that some protein bars are made of proprietary ingredients’ blends, and the exact composition of the ingredients might remain unknown to you.
The other issue you need to keep in mind is that most of the protein bars on the market have high levels of added sugars, and others are made with unhealthy sweeteners like the high-fructose corn syrup. The high-fructose corn syrup is an ingredient that turns otherwise healthy snacks into a high-sugar bar that would sabotage your diet, increase your risk of obesity, fatty liver, and diabetes, especially if consumed in large amounts.
You should also beware of sugar alcohols notoriously added to most protein bars. The sugar alcohols include mannitol, erythritol, xylitol, etc.
Calories and protein content
So, even when most of the protein bars around are designed to give between 150 and 400 calories and between 10-20g, others don’t offer the healthiest components. Keep in mind that the best of the protein bars will have about 30g of protein in each serving.
Before we look at the positive and the negative influences of the protein bars, you need to know that the protein sources for the protein bars differ too. Some are made of yogurt powder; others are made of dairy proteins, milk, egg whites, etc., while others are made of plant-based proteins like soy, pea, and brown rice.
Note that some of the protein bars contain high concentrations of whey and soy protein isolates, rather than the unprocessed and less processed whole-food proteins.
Essentially, you cannot buy any protein bar you come across. We recommend thinking about your needs and why you really need the protein bars; then choose the protein bar that would help you attain your goals.
For health reasons, check the number of calories, fiber, fat, and protein content of the protein bars. Don’t forget the minerals and vitamins incorporated.
If you have to enjoy the convenience of protein bars, you need to ensure that the bar isn’t high in saturated fats or sugars, because that would make the bar as bad (or good) as a bar of candy.
Protein Bars – The Good
Good source of protein
Generally, a protein bar that’s high in healthy protein is a good healthy snack that we cannot frown upon.
And with some protein bars having more than enough protein, they make excellent meal replacements. The high-protein protein bars also make excellent pre or post-workout snacks.
Remember that protein is really good for you. This is a macronutrient loved by men and women alike thanks to its importance in building your body’s lean mass. Protein is also good in the regulation of your metabolism, not to mention your hormonal health and satiety levels.
If you are working on improving your lean muscle mass to body fat ratio, a healthy protein bar with a high protein content would definitely be a good addition to your diet.
You need 25-35g of proteins in each of your meals each day, and these high—protein bars will help you reach your goals.
The whole reason why we are having this discussion, to begin with, is that protein bars are very convenient. Being able to get a healthy snack from your pocket or bag and munch it on the go is an underrated discovery. It’s also the reason why protein bars will always sell out.
Protein bars are often nutritional, simple, and ready to eat. They come in different flavors, last long, and you can enjoy them anywhere.
If you need a midday snack or a snack late in the afternoon, protein bars will always fulfill your needs because of their accessibility, and they keep you sated for some time.
Since you cannot have your turkey sandwich on the go or even throw it in your bag as you go out for your bike ride, protein bars win.
Good pre or post-workout snack
Protein bars have become popular not just because of their convenience, but because the healthy protein snacks give athletes and anyone headed into or out of the gym the necessary energy boost, and subsequently, a kick in muscle repair.
These bars are well-rounded snacks, and they are a good choice for anyone working on their energy levels and fitness.
If you are looking for a healthy snack or you are worried that you might overeat before the next meal, a protein bar would be a good option for you because it is a great source of dietary fiber. The high fiber content in some of the protein bars will boost your digestive health as well.
The other reason why it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to try protein bars often is that the bars offer a good source of minerals and vitamins, allowing you to meet your daily micronutrients’ needs.
Research shows that high-protein diets are effective in supporting healthy weight loss. High protein content in diet is filling, keeping you sated for long, helping you lose weight in the process. With these benefits in mind, it would be a good idea to try some of the healthier protein bars.
If you are struggling to gain weight, you have to consume more calories than you burn, and the protein bars may help you attain your weight goals.
They are calorie-dense, and each serving provides a significant amount of calories, allowing you to add calories in your diet, without having to overeat. For example, a 350 calories protein bar might allow you to very easily add calories to your diet, and eventually, gain weight.
If you need to gain muscle mass, you have to add protein to your diet. With endurance and strength-training athletes advised to consume as much as 0.54-0.77g of protein for each pound of body weight, protein bars might be a good way of ensuring that these athletes meet their weight/ muscle goals.
Supplementation with protein bars (or a high protein diet) will also increase your performance and muscle mass.
High-calorie protein bars might not compare with your bowl of breakfast cereal, but if you need a quick and healthy breakfast solution, the protein bar will suffice.
Protein Bars – The Bad
From the information shared above, protein bars can be a healthy addition to your diet, and it might not be such a bad idea to incorporate protein bars in your daily diet.
The protein bars are not all good.
As mentioned previously, you need to watch the ingredients incorporated into the protein bars for you to get all the benefits you are looking for.
Added sugars, high-caloric content, and artificial flavors, easily turn protein bars from healthy to unhealthy. If you are watching your diet, these might not align with your goals. In fact, they may make you stray from your fitness path, especially if you eat these protein bars every day.
If the ingredients are wrong – high sugar and processed ingredients, then it will be a bad thing to eat protein bars each day.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat protein bars each day, especially because you often get more than enough nutrients from your meals.
To be safer, take protein bars with fat content less than 5g, between 3-5g of fiber, and between 170-180 calories, especially if you are watching your weight.
Some protein bars might cause bloating and cramps because of the added alcohol sugars and alcohol.
Protein bars might be healthy, but you should avoid eating them every day. You might not need the bars each day, and in some cases, the protein bars only sabotage your weight loss and fitness goals.
Don’t forget that too much of anything can be bad for you. Protein bars are good if used in moderation.