Protein Bar Review
A few years ago, I wrote a post about what I felt constituted a good protein bar. The criteria that the protein bar needed to meet was:
A – Had to be gluten-free
B – Had to have enough protein to be considered a protein bar – at least 20 grams of protein
C – Be free from artificial sweeteners and excessive sugar alcohols (which can cause a laxative effect)
D – Had to have more protein than sugar (not carbs)
E – The protein had to come from a high quality protein source – no soy protein.
At the time, I also had that it be casein free, but have since wavered on that point.
With that said, at the time, there was only one protein bar that met those criterion, Rise’s Almond Honey Protein bar. Over the past few years, other protein bars have come out that I’ve recommended to clients depending on their goals and today I will be listing 11 of those bars.
First, a number of disclaimers:
1 – A lot of these protein bars are not easy to find in your local stores. Specialized health food stores and Amazon sell them, but Amazon usually sells them at a high price for a protein bar ($3-$4 per bar).
If you live in Hoboken though, some of them can be found at Basic Foods (off of 2nd and Washington).
2 – Food should be your first go-to source for eating. These should be used as a crutch when needed and not as a substitute for food (this note is really for me).
3 – Some of these bars tend to have a lot of calories and really need to be included into your overall caloric intake. They are not “free foods.”
4 – Some of these bars are really part of a meal replacement than a “snack.” Others are better at helping you to lose weight in that they give you a high protein snack. Not all bars are good at every goal and will be discussed for some common uses at the end.
Lastly, these are the only protein bars I would personally eat. Those Gatorade ones, the Protein Plus, Kind bars with added protein, MetRx, Clif bars, etc that you might find at your local gas-mart aren’t even options in my book. You can obviously eat them, but I don’t know much about them so I won’t discuss them.
With those disclaimers out of the way, I’ll give a quick synopsis of how I judge these bars:
A – Protein Quality. Does it have at least 20 grams of protein and if so, is the protein easily digestible. In fact, some of the bars on here don’t even have 15 grams (the Rx Bars)
B – Amount of carbs and sugars. If the bar has 20 grams of protein but 35+ grams of carbs, most of which are sugar, that’s not a protein bar, that’s a candy bar with protein added in. Some of my favorite are like this.
C – Quality and “naturalness” of ingredients. If there are processed fats, sugars, artificial sweeteners or the like, they should be factored into the overall score of the bar.
D – Palatability. Do they taste good and are easy to chew and eat?
The Protein Bars Ranked
1 – Organic Food Bar – Goji Berry Protein
This bar wins among all of the bars. It has 7 all-natural ingredients. The carbs come from tapioca starch, has 22 grams of protein and only 6 grams of sugar. It has more potassium than sodium, which is rare for protein bars and is soft and chewy. It has no artificial sweeteners, sugar or sugar alcohols. The only thing they use to sweeten the bar is stevia, which is a natural sweetener and not bad in small amounts.
Overall, the protein bar quality itself is high, but the bar itself can taste quite bland (but not bad tasting) and it has a lot of fat (16 grams per bar) which isn’t necessarily bad, but is not great if you’re trying to lose fat.
Overall Score: A-
2 – Organic Food Bar – Almond Raisin
The problem with the flavor above is that it’s extremely hard to find and still has 300+ calories.
As a corollary, there is another Organic Food Bar (same company) that I would give a solid B that can be found on Amazon for $2.50 per bar.
This bar has a soft and chewy texture with a decent balance of sweetness, but not overbearing sweetness and is vegan. Just like the bar above, it only has 7 ingredients, but there’s a lot more sugar (18 grams per bar). As a meal replacement, I don’t think there’s a better bar. As something to eat for fat loss, it’s kind of high.https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Food-Bar-Protein-Go/dp/B00663EX8K/
Overall Score: B
3 – Rise Almond Honey Bar
This bar only has 3 ingredients – Whey Protein Isolate (best form of whey protein), honey and almonds. If you took one serving of each of those three things (a scoop of protein, a tablespoon of honey and a serving of almonds), you would have the same fat, sugar and protein content. For me, this is a great protein bar, but the consistency has not been there.
I’ve ordered some boxes and they’ve been rock hard and eating them becomes a test in jaw strength (they have gotten much better with this over the past year). Other times, they’re soft and chewy. The only other downside is that they can be greasy, but from a natural and overall quality stand-point, they are some of the best.
Overall Score: A-
4 – Perfect Food Bar – Peanut Butter Flavor
This bar is a good meal replacement bar. They are relatively high in calories – 310 to 330 calories per bar and they have some “heft” to them.
With that said, these are not the easiest bars because they require refrigeration. If you leave them out, they break and crumble all weirdly. With that said, they have peanut butter, milk protein, honey and a lot of “superfoods.”
I personally enjoy the taste, but they are “delicate.”
Overall Score: B-
5 – 22 Days Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar (Vegan)
This protein bar has a few more ingredients, but most of the ingredients are organic and is well formulated for a vegan protein bar. This bar has 20 grams of protein, 12 grams of sugar, but 34 total grams of carbs and no sodium.
I like these bars, but over the past couple of years, it has become much harder to find these bars and when you do find them, they are usually $3 or more per bar.
Also, on a personal note, these bothered my teeth more than any of the other protein bars (could be from the non-sprouted brown rice protein, but that’s speculation). Overall, the taste is alright, and it doesn’t become like a rock (which is good), but I wouldn’t say it was “delicious.”
Overall Score: B
6 – Quest Protein Bars
These bars are by far the easiest to find and many people enjoy their taste, but I don’t know how they do it. They all have some amount of sugar alcohols, but it’s usually a small amount of erythritol, which is basically calorie-free and bypasses a lot of the issues sugar alcohols usually have (laxative effects and gas).
Most have a low amount of sugar, and some are made without sucralose (but usually have more erythritol if that’s the case). Beyond the sucralose and erythritol, a lot of the carbs come from a prebiotic fiber, which should be good for you, but some flavors can be relatively high in sodium.
Overall, I think these bars can come in handy when you’re trying to lose weight and crave something sweet.
With that said, they tend to be very sweet, you can find them in a lot of flavors, but they are the only bars that have caused a decrease in performance in the gym…granted, I was eating about 4 per day, but that’s besides the point. It was literally harder for me to breathe in the gym. So yeah, there’s that. Needless to say, I don’t eat them anymore unless I want a drunk snack.
Overall Score: B-
7 – Epic Bars – Chicken Sriracha
These are meat bars through and through. The chicken sirachi bar has 15 grams of protein, only 4 grams of fat and 1 gram of carb, with only 100 calories per bar.
But it’s hard for me to justify recommending cured meat as it still produces more nitrates, despite none being added.
With that said, the texture is off-putting to some people but they have improved the packaging so it doesn’t dry out as much as it used to. None of them have at least 20 grams of protein in them and I have some trepidation about recommending bars of preserved meats. These work best with a fruit and plain greek yogurt. That would give you 30+ grams of protein, healthy carbs and less than 300 calories (the same as other protein bars above).
Overall Score: B –
8 – D’s Naturals No Cow Bar – Chocolate Banana Bread
This protein bar has 20 grams of protein, only 1 gram of sugar, 6 grams of fat and only 190 calories. It’s has a decent amount of sodium, but the taste is, in a word, weird.
The biggest issues I have with these bars is that they have a weird taste and they dried me out (I needed to drink a lot of water) more so than any of the other bars. For fat loss, these are probably the best (lowest in calories compared to total protein), but just be sure to drink a lot of water.
Overall Score: B-
9 – Vega Protein Bar – Chocolate Peanut Butter
If 22 Days does vegan protein bars right, Vega does them ehh. These “protein bars” have only 15 grams of protein, but more importantly, have 5 sources of sugar that total 19 grams. Their saving grace is that they don’t taste bad (they shouldn’t with that much sugar) and have a sprouted brown rice protein (my issue with the 22 day protein bar). Therefore, as a post workout protein bar, they may work for people trying to put on muscle, but are not recommended for those trying to lose fat.
Overall Score: C
10 – Garden of Life Organic Sport Protein Bar
Oh man, I really wanted to like these bars.
They aren’t too high in calories, they have 20 grams of protein, all natural and whole ingredients, not a lot of added sugar and the taste and texture wasn’t too bad. They’re vegan and made with mostly organic ingredients.
But, holy shit, did they run through my stomach. I tend to overdo protein bars when I eat them, so that might have been the cause, but I don’t trust even one of these, because they fucked me up so bad.
After reading some Amazon reviews, some people don’t like the taste (that’s to be expected with any protein bar), but only a couple of reviews had issues with digestibility, so it might only be my stomach.
Overall Score: Should be an A-, but for me a D in actual functionality
11 – Rx Bar
This bar is not a great protein bar, not a great meal replacement bar, but is a great “snack bar” and by far the one that I recommend the most.
The bottom line is that I trust this bar more than the other bars because of the quality of the ingredients, despite the fact that the macro-nutrient ratio (carbs to fats to protein) isn’t that great. I trust the ingredients and usually there is a flavor that the client can find that where they enjoy the taste.
These bars are made with about 5 ingredients, egg whites, some nuts and whatever flavor the bar is – apple, blueberry, chocolate, etc.
So, I will end this long review of protein bars with the one that I recommend the most, although it’s not the best one out there, as it’s one I trust for most people (without nut allergies, who aren’t vegan).
Overall Score: C, but still the one I recommend the most
Best Uses for the Protein Bars
Best Meal Replacement Bars (in order of recommendation… and as a full meal, if eaten with a plain non-fat Greek Yogurt):
Organic Food Bar, Either flavor
Rise Almond Honey Protein Bar
22 Days Protein Bars
Perfect Protein Bar
Best Bars for Fat Loss (in order):
D’s Natural Protein Bar (if you can stand the taste and texture)
Epic Chicken Bars (again, if you can stand the taste and texture)
Quest Protein Bars
Garden of Life Sport Performance Protein Bar
Best Bars to help build muscle (added after a meal):
Perfect Food Bars
Vega Protein Bars
Best Bars for a snack (in order):
Overall, as I stated earlier, these bars should only be used as a substitute when you need to (not want to) and different bars are better or worse for certain ends. If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.
If you have any questions or comments for me, please feel free to let me know.