I get asked about them all the time. Are protein bars good for you? What kinds should you eat? Can you eat them every day? I’ve got some answers for you!
Bars can be a great source of energy when you’re out and about and on-the-go. However, due to the content of their ingredients, they can be very dense and naturally high in sugar and calories, which sometimes makes them hard to digest. Also, protein content can be very different from one bar to the next!
Because I know so many of you rely on protein bars as a quick fix, I want to share a bit about the downside so you can make educated and informed decisions.
Most protein bars are highly processed foods, many of which contain additives and supplemental ingredients. Often, the supplemental vitamins in protein bars are compounded forms of the ones you already get a surplus of in your regular diet, and this can lead to excessive nutrients (yes, it’s possible). This is common in Omega-6, B vitamins and others.
Over-supplementation (which can also occur with supplement-loaded protein shakes/formulas) can lead to digestive discomforts like constipation and diarrhea and to a more severe degree even liver damage.
Many protein bars, especially low-sugar, low-carb ones, contain sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, etc.), which cause bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort.
Not all bars are created equal.
Some protein bars contain only whole-food ingredients, which are the ones I recommend. However, the primary ingredients consist mostly of nuts, dried fruit and fats, which makes them dense and therefore they can be hard to digest. The nutrients in a protein bar (or any supplements for that matter) don’t compensate of the nutrients you get from whole foods in your diet.
Because they are high in calories, eating too many protein bars may contribute to weight gain or prevent you from losing weight.
It’s good to be choosy with the bars you eat and I don’t recommend eating them every day – they’re not an adequate meal replacement and always read the ingredients! I do recommend storing a few in your bag and taking them with you on busy days, so you have a healthy option if you find yourself hungry and in a bind. The right bars are definitely a better option that junky grab-and-go foods!
These are some brands I highly recommend because they use unprocessed, whole food ingredients with no added sugar:
These are some brands I suggest you avoid due to highly processed ingredients and a high amount of added sugars. A lot of these are glorified candy bars masked as a “healthy” food:
By reading ingredient labels you should be able to make educated decisions on the right kinds of protein bars to eat. As I mentioned, best to avoid the processed ones with supplemental nutrients and stick to ones made with whole-food ingredients!
Your best bet will always be a homemade protein bar. They’re super easy to make and last a long time in the freezer. I’ve got a great recipe here!