What are the best protein bar ingredients when you are looking to substitute them for a fast food meal that is really bad nutrition? Most people recognize that a protein bar is healthier but not all of them are. Here are the things to look for to tell the difference between good and bad.
The nutrition label will tell you all of the details you need to know to make a wise choice. Surprisingly, not many protein bars are actually healthy.
1 – Quantity of Protein
Simply put, the best protein bars have at least 20 grams of protein. As their name suggests, a protein bar should actually have a lot of protein in it. Calling a glorified cookie a protein bar because it has a little bit of soy protein is not reasonable.
Research shows that 20 grams of protein is the optimum amount for muscle synthesis. Any less and your muscles do not grow as well. Any less is not useful as your muscles are not able to use it effectively.
In another study, a comparison was made of how hungry people felt after eating a yogurt snack with varying levels of protein. Those who ate yogurt with lower amounts of protein (o grams or 5 grams) felt hungry much faster than those who ate higher protein levels (14 grams or 24 grams). The largest dose of protein helped the test subjects feel more full and they were able to last longer before needing to eat dinner.
Not surprisingly not many protein bars actually have that much protein in them mostly due to higher costs involved.
2 – Choose Whey Protein
The history behind the development of protein supplements shows us that whey protein is by far the best choice and it now comes in three forms. They use basic whey protein and casein (both found in milk) in the best protein bars. Lower quality bars will use the plant based soy protein as a filler to boost protein levels but it is not as good. They use it because it is a cheaper source. The more quality protein you find, the more seriously the manufacturer takes their product.
3 – More Grams of Protein Than Carbohydrates
Protein bars are classed as a food so they do have to have more than just protein. To be the best protein bar it needs to have more protein than any other ingredient.
The second most common ingredient is carbohydrates which are needed to replace glycogen in your body as an energy source. A common one is sugar alcohols which can cause gastrointestinal problems in some individuals. Most poor bars contain larger amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners which are bad carbs and make them more like candy bars.
A really good added ingredient in the best protein bars is fiber especially if it is a prebiotic super-fiber (inulin).
4 – Fat is Not All Bad
Fats have the highest calories per gram of any substance you can eat. As a meal replacement, you will need to look for a protein bar with more than 10 grams. Most bars have the same amount and type in them so there is not much variance here. The manufacturers simply have not started to maximize fat content yet. But don’t worry, with all of the research on the benefits of fats, it is not long before they do.
5 – Less is Better
Pretty easy rule of thumb is to look at the names of the added ingredients and if you can’t pronounce it let alone identify it, it probably is not good for you. What are some examples? I found all of these:
Cocoa Butter, Corn Syrup, Gelatin, Glycerine, Maltitol, Palm Kernel Oil, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Potassium Sorbate, Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Caseinate) – yes, this is a good mix, Rapeseed and Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sucralose
The best protein bar is the one that will give you what you need and nothing of what you do not. Check the nutrition label to make a wise choice or you can make your own too!