The protein bar craze is real.
Now, I’ve been in this industry a while, and this really is a fitness fad that has boomed into the mainstream. What began as a specialist product, only available from health stores, is now being seized by every commercial brand.
When protein bars first came on the scene they were dry, low-calorie blocks with a dense, chewy texture. They were high in fibre and protein of course, but they were also packed with artificial sweeteners and weren’t exactly tasty for it. They were only eaten by body builders and fitness fanatics because they needed them, not because they were good to eat.
Fast-forward 10 years to now and you can pick up a protein bar anywhere.
Petrol stations, supermarkets, any number of online stores.
As researchers have found out more and more about the health benefits of a higher protein diet and people are becoming more aware of it, brands have realised there’s money to be made in protein supplements.
Cadbury’s and Nestle are the latest to jump on the protein band wagon, releasing their bars with added protein to target a new audience- the health and fitness crowd.
Suddenly the competition isn’t about which bar has the lowest calorie count and the highest protein, it’s about flavour.
It seems, however, that no matter how many competitors release new, tasty treats, the fan favourite still remains on top: Grenade Bars.
And in particular, their Carb Killa range.
Now these bars are not only a low-carb meal replacement with a good quality of protein, but the flavours are amazing!
Brownie, white chocolate, coffee, birthday cake, there really is something for everyone!
Another brand I’d confidently recommend to my clients would be Quest Bars.
They have a slightly different texture to the Grenade brand, but they still have a range of tasty flavours and are still low calorie. They also come with a great fibre punch.
I am not claiming these two are the best.
These are just my personal favourites from brands I trust and feel confident recommending.
There are of course others that might be cheaper and lower quality, and equally some that may be better, but I find that these two bars are the best balanced for price and quality.
As always with everything I write, it’s personal preference.
It’s about your own favourite flavour and texture, and how it digests for you! You need to consider what is suited to your training and nutritional plan when you look at each individual bar’s fat levels and calories etc. If you have money to spend on protein bars and want to invest in the top of the range prices, that’s up to you as well.
Try different ones, pick your favourites, make up your own mind.
(and don’t mindlessly follow celeb endorsements.)
So you’ve got a particular bar you like, you’re enjoying it to ‘help your training programme,’ all seems well; but I doubt it.
There are some very common mistakes I see time and time again when people start adding protein bars into their diets.
If you aren’t monitoring your intake, it can be so easy to overeat. I’m speaking from experience here. If they taste really good and you have in your head that “they’re a health bar and they’re good for you” then you can easily consume way more fats and calories than you intended. Track them.
The ‘they’re good for me’ mentality can be dangerous, and when you compare a protein bar to a typical chocolate treat, say, a Mars Bar, you can see why.
The breakdown is pretty surprising.
The calories are fairly equal, it’s basically the 20 grams of protein that are the actual difference.
Well, that and the hefty price tag.
Pick up a Mars for 60p, but for the extra 3.4g of protein in a Carb Killa you can expect to pay something around the £4 mark.
Ever heard the term glorified chocolate bar?
If you really are looking for a protein supplement, you’re far better off investing in a shake, getting way more protein that is digested easier (always beneficial for absorption and recovery), and save room for a Mars Bar as a treat instead. There’s a higher quality protein in your average shake, plus you’ll be consuming more with this option to lower the chance of overconsumption. Win win.
Another thing to consider with a protein bar is that they often contain alcohol sugars. These have a tendency to disagree with people, so unless you have a pretty sturdy stomach, you might experience some of what I call: “the bubbly guts.” An unsettled, bloated, gassy tummy could have you running to the bathroom, especially with the added fibre, so be warned before you start slamming down Grenades.
I am not anti-protein bar.
I just think they aren’t the heroes that they are made out to be.
Having said that, if you really enjoy them and they are in line with your macro/calorie intake, then no harm done- you just have to be able to justify the cost to yourself.
If shakes are too much hassle for you or you don’t have the facilities to be carrying around powder and making them on the go, then bars might help you out, but just know it’s costing significantly more in the long run.
At the end of the day, a protein bar is a treat. If the money is there to spend then they can be uplifting as well as convenient, and I really am all for that, but if you’re going broke for bars it just isn’t worth it.
Another thing to add is that if they are genuinely helping you stay consistent then keep going. If it’s the treat you need to stay on track then by all means, use them! Any more than two a day though and I’d say you’re probably wasting more calories than you need to on them, as they aren’t the nutrient-dense, wholesome foods that should be making up most of your intake.
So, I guess in summary I’d say: avoid unpleasant tastes and flatulence by experimenting and finding the right brand for you, and once you’ve done that, enjoy with caution. And if you find them to be glorified chocolate bars, cut your losses and have a Mars.