I am often asked, what is the best protein bar?
Best is a relative term, making it a very difficult question to answer. It also calls for a longer answer than what the person asking wants to hear from me. He or she simply wants a recommendation or two for a protein bar.
It all depends on why you want a protein bar.
Is it for quick energy?
Is it for a meal replacement?
Is it for pre- or post-workout?
Is it for an immediate hunger need?
Is it to help lose weight?
Is it to help gain weight/build muscle?
Whatever the reason, here are five important considerations.
1. Look for whey protein as the main ingredient.
This type of protein is easiest for your body to use quickly. If you are a vegetarian you can choose soy, but I do not recommend it for men in particular because of the estrogen effect. Casein is a slower released protein that is better before bed. However you probably do not need a protein bar before bed.
2. Choose a bar with limited sugars.
Post workout when your body is craving low glycemic carbohydrates might be a good time for a bar with more sugar (maybe around 20 grams). Otherwise it is best to limit your intake of sugar. Aim for a bar with less than 10 grams of sugar. Also look for information such as "no added sugars."
3. Choose a bar with roughly 280 calories or less.
That is unless you specifically need it as a meal replacement. The problem is, we can eat a bar in a matter of minutes or seconds, and it does not satiate our bodies. Therefore we eat another bar or more food, packing on lots of calories.
4. Look for higher amounts of fiber.
Fiber is what helps our bodies feel full, preventing us from eating in excess. Aim for at least 4 grams up to 20 grams. Too many and it can wreak havoc on your digestive system and who wants to be constipated? If you are doing an endurance event, keep the fiber amount on the lower end.
5. Keep the amount of fat below 10 grams, and make sure the saturated fat is below 3 grams.
Many protein bars have high amounts of saturated fat, and this type of fat clogs arteries and leads to many chronic diseases. Fat is not necessarily bad for you. It is what helps your body feel full, insulates major organs, and can help increase testosterone and the burning of fat and calories. Just make sure there is no or 0.5 grams of trans fat and very low (under 3) grams of saturated fat. The unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat grams can be as high as 20 grams. These are the good fats that help with everything listed above.
There are many bars out on the market. You have to find what flavors, price points, reasons and times for eating the protein bar, and other nutrients (anti-oxidants, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc.) are important to you.
Without naming a favorite brand, since I eat a variety, I can say that I am impressed with the nutritional content, flavors, and varieties of QuestBar. These bars also meet all the considerations I mentioned earlier. You can view Quest Nutrition's entire product line at QuestNutrition.com.
Whatever protein bar you choose, keep in mind the five points of consideration listed above and eat well.