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We've Cracked The Code: The Best Protein Bar You Can Buy

If you don't plan to snack or eat throughout the day, then finding the energy to power through an afternoon training session can be challenging.  And because the right blend of carbs and protein are also vital to workout recovery, many women turn to protein bars as an easy, highly portable pre- and post-workout snack.


How do you know what protein bar to choose? Should you even be eating protein bars? 



We’ve all seen protein bars making their way into the mainstream.


They even have a huge space in an aisle at the supermarket now – right next to health foods.


And if you’re not sure what to look for on the label and what brands to buy, I will set the record straight today. 


Are protein bars good for you? Honestly, they are. And they aren’t. And that’s because, like all manufactured and processed food products, some are better than others.


What do you need to look out for when you buy a pre-made bar? And who should use protein bars? 


For women that train around an hour per day, protein bars aren’t even a necessity. You only need around 10-35 percent of your daily kilojoule intake from protein each day. The issue with protein bars isn’t that you would get too much protein, it’s all the other ingredients like fat and sugar in the bar.


Why are they good then? You need to regularly eat nutritious food to head off cravings and crashes. Being realistic, there will be times that your Greek yoghurt and fresh berries won’t travel or you’re super busy at work and not finding the time to do your proper food preparation. It’s at these times a good bar will be your saviour.


Having access to healthy snack foods you can keep in your desk drawer is also a proactive way to deal with sweets cravings without negating the training you did that morning.


Why are some protein bars bad? Some bars are just too high in calories or aren’t nutritious at all. You need to be careful you’re not just eating a fancy Snickers bar. Even something labelled as a protein bar or a ‘health food’ doesn’t mean it's ‘good’ for you (or your situation). There are plenty of bars that are all ‘natural’ and are full of sugar from dried fruit. This isn't healthy at all. 


To make a good decision, you need to check the label.


The nutritional panel needs to show:


Protein should be at least half the amount of the bar’s carbohydrates. A bar with 24 gram of carbs would need a minimum of 12 grams of protein.


Keep fats under 12 grams.


Sugars under 7 grams (although up to 10 grams is acceptable)


When are you having your bar and what's its' purpose?


You need to take the energy into account depending on your requirements. 


Snacking? Keep calories under 200 and kilojoules under 830 kJ


Meal replacement? You’ll need over 400 calories or 1650 kJ


Post workout recovery? Aim for 20 grams of protein or more.


Remember: Don’t get sucked into buying products marketed to women– even if they appear to have a whole lot of additional vitamins and minerals. If you look closely, you'll notice that quantities of additional nutrients included in bars are usually so low they won’t make a difference to your dietary intake. Nutrients may be in the product to boost its' marketability and justify charging you a premium price.

And speaking of premium pricing, there are plenty of new organic, paleo and primal products to choose from too. I’m not saying they are bad but they exploit the perception of ‘health’. Organic = no difference in quality or nutritional value but huge difference in price. Some of these products are almost $10 a pop. Keep it basic- and if you want a ‘real food’ bar, make one and but you don't need to go to the effort of making it with organic ingredients.


Like lollies or chocolate bars, shop bought bars shouldn’t be an everyday food. But they have a place (like in the car or your office desk) because they are far more nutritious than junk food. I’ve put my suggestions below for a few different scenarios. But with the recommendations I’ve given you, you can check the nutrition panels of any bar and see how it stacks up nutritionally. 


You can also make a decent protein bar at home with a range of ingredients only possible in a fresh bar.


One of my favourites? You get protein and fibre from black beans (but please don’t let that be a deterrent as they are delicious and nutritious).

Chocolate Fudge Protein Bars


Ingredients:


250g canned black beans - drained and rinsed

3 x Tbsp cocoa or cacao powder 

7 x Tbsp Choc protein powder of choice

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup honey 

2 x Tbsp sugar of choice

3 1/2 x Tbsp coconut or vegetable oil 

1 x Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 x tsp baking powder

1/3 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips


Simply place all ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a high-quality food processor, and blend until absolutely and completely smooth. Depending on your brand of beans, sometimes this takes a bit. Stir in the chocolate chips. 


Pour into a 20cm x 20cm square pan lined with baking paper. Place in oven for 15 minutes or so. They will look undercooked but that's perfect.

Simply place all ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a high-quality food processor, and blend until absolutely and completely smooth. Depending on your brand of beans, sometimes this takes a bit. Stir in the chocolate chips. 


Pour into a 20cm x 20cm square pan lined with baking paper. Place in oven for 15 minutes or so. They will look undercooked but that's perfect. It means they're done. 


Take out and cool before putting them in the fridge overnight. You should get 10 bars from this recipe. 

What about pre-made Bars?


Buy bars in bulk and have them delivered to you. It's the simplest, cheapest way (I promise). I recommend iHerb because they have an amazing worldwide delivery service that you don't pay through the nose for. 


If you use the code DDD395, you can get $10 off your first order too. 


This isn't an exhaustive list of protein bars available but it does help you to get started with making the right choices without having to review many, many different bars. 

You'll notice there aren't any real 'wholefood' bars on the list - that's because they're either too high in fats, sugars or both. Don't fall for tricky marketing. 


Quest Bar - Snack 


Delicious enough that you won’t even realise it’s a supplement. Low sugar and fat levels and decent ingredients with over 20 grams of protein.


One word of warning. Check the nutritional panels if you want to buy from the supermarket. They are not the same as the ones you buy from supplement shops (supermarkets want ‘cheap’ products and many manufacturers change formulas to reduce costs for this market. Buy online at iHerb - check out the range here. 


OH SNAP! Snack bar. Around 150 Calories depending on flavour. 


Small, light and portable with a decent flavour. A decent amount of crunch if texture is important to you too. 


Comes in a decent range of flavours. Uses whey protein. 


Buy online at iHerb here. 


MusclePharm


MusclePharm Protein Bars feature proteins sourced from  whole grain brown rice protein and pea protein. The organic means nothing except they can charge you more. 

These have a nice texture and depending on the flavour/calories can be used as a SNACK or POST-WORKOUT bar. 


Check out the range here. 




Epic Bar, Chicken Sriracha Bar


What if you don't want something sweet? These bars are the bomb! 


The Chicken Sriracha Bar starts with a stunning 15g of savoury whole muscle meat protein. They then add a custom sriracha spice blend to for the amazing sriracha flavour.  


SNACK Bar - buy it here

Detour Lean Muscle Bars


High Performance Whey Protein Meal Replacement Bar with over 30 grams of protein, less than 3 grams of sugar. 


It comes in a variety of flavours and they are very reminiscent of your favourite chocolate bar. 


Whilst I don't advocate using these all the time, having them available means you'll get better nutrition than you would eating Macca's takeaway. 


More here... 

Affiliate links:


Some of these links are linked to programs that may pay us a nominal amount for referrals. I have provided links ONLY for products that suit the nutritional guidelines for my clients, and ones that have been personally trialled and tested. I have not been paid by any of these companies to spruik their products nor have I received any products for free. Dammit.


Opinions are my own because frankly, I have a lot to say and it’s much more fun when I get to say what I think. 

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