Which Protein Bar is Right for You?

by Allen Gil January 09, 2015

Which Protein Bar is Right for You?

We recently wrote an article featuring GYFT’s top four picks of the best protein bars for packing on lean muscle, but we realize that petite women may not necessarily want to develop legs as thick as tree trunks, and that there are men that prefer to wear clothes that fit their body instead of a chest that wears one size of shirt and arms that fit another.

So what’s the best protein bar for you? Well, The optimal amounts of protein, calories, and other essential nutrients in a protein bar largely depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Your best option will be different if you’re trying to only lose fat as opposed to somebody putting on twenty pounds of muscle.

Luckily for you, we’ve supplied you with an all inclusive set of rules to consider when choosing the protein bar best suited for your goals!

From William Lagakos at Built Lean, here are some helpful tips:

Tip #1 – The Protein Bar Should Have At Least 20 Grams of Protein

Quantity > 20 grams

Anything with > 20 grams is a bona fide protein bar. It has protein added for the sole purpose of increasing the protein content. In other words, the ingredients in a candy bar will never accidentally amount to over 20 grams protein.

According to the research, 20 grams will give your muscles a little burst of protein synthesis.

Moore & colleagues tested what the response of muscle protein synthesis was to increasing doses of egg protein in healthy young men after a bout of resistance exercise.1 They show that muscle protein synthesis increases with doses up to 20 grams, but with not much improvement thereafter.



However, a study in healthy middle-aged men shows that muscle protein synthesis is maximal with 170 grams of beef, which amounts to 36 grams of protein.2


This shows us that higher protein levels are more satiating, with the cutoff seemingly around 20 grams.

In a study comparing people’s hunger when they ate a yogurt snack with either a 0, 5, 14, or 24 grams of protein, those who consumed the highest dose felt less hungry, more full, and that they could hold out longer until they wanted dinner.3

Lastly, another study comparing participant’s fullness after eating a custard with either 37 grams of casein protein or 15 grams shows that those who ate the 37 grams felt modestly fuller.4 For more on protein, see my article Do High Protein Diets Help You Lose Weight?

Unfortunately, not many protein bars fall into this category, and so many saturate the market making numerous health claims that it becomes confusing to decide whether any are actually good for you.

Tip #2 – The Protein Bar Should Use Whey Protein

For the best quality, look for whey, or a whey/casein blend. Some companies try to boost the total amount of protein by diluting it with soy, and if you really want an optimal snack then you should be looking for whey. It’s also an indicator that the manufacturer is making an attempt to use high quality ingredients.

Tip #3 – The Protein Bar Should Have Less Net Carbs Than Grams Of Protein

Of course, there will be other ingredients in the bar than protein, or it wouldn’t be a food. So, what other things should you take into consideration?

If whatever is left on the label is less than the amount of protein, you might have a winner. Only a few of the most popular protein bars meet this criterion.

An important consideration is the carbs you’ll be eating. Many protein bars contain sugar alcohols, which in large amounts can cause gastrointestinal problems for many people. Most bars also contain hefty amounts of artificial sweeteners and sugar, so the carbs in the protein bar is usually where protein bars start looking more like candy.

If the protein bar contains fiber, think of it as an added bonus – especially if it’s one of the prebiotic super-fibers like inulin or galactooligosaccharides.5 The “net carbs” in the protein bar is the total carbs minus the grams of fiber. If the amount of net carbs is less than the grams of protein, that’s a positive sign.

Tip #4 – The Protein Bar Should Have Enough Fat to Match Your Desired Calories

Basically, the amount of fat in the bar is only going to affect the calorie content. If it’s a meal replacement you’re after, then shoot for > 10 grams, but there’s not a whole lot of variety in this department.

Protein bar manufacturers haven’t gotten into optimizing their fat profiles yet, but I predict they will be doing this soon. Very soon. And when they do, look for things like Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), coconut oil, cocoa butter, etc. In one study, subjects assigned to supplement with 20 g/d MCTs lost more weight than those who received olive oil.6

In a study by Romestaig & colleagues, rodents fed a diet enriched with coconut oil ate more calories, but gained less weight than those fed a butter-enriched or low fat diet.7 Lastly, unlike most common vegetable oils, cocoa butter is resistant to oxidative stress,8 9 lacks pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids10,and has a naturally long shelf-life.

Tip #5 – The Less Ingredients In The Protein Bar, The Better

The most important tip of all is saved for last, which is the less ingredients you find in a protein bar, the better. If there are 20 ingredients, most of which you are unable to pronounce, that’s a sign it’s best to look for another protein bar.

Oh Yeah Protein Bar Ingredients (over 20 ingredients):

Peanuts, Protein Blend [(OhYeah!® Blend Consisting of Whey Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Caseinate), Hydrolyzed Gelatin], Peanut Butter Coating [Maltitol, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Milk Protein Isolate, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Whey, Peanut Butter (Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Dextrose, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil {Rapeseed and Cottonseed Oil}, Salt), Salt, Soy Lecithin and Sucralose Sugar, Corn Syrup, Non Fat Dry Milk, Maltitol Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Corn Starch, Butter, Sucralose, Soy Lecithin, Natural and Artificial Flavor), Soy Nuts, Glycerine, Cocoa Powder, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Lecithin (an Emulsifier), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Salt, Sucralose and Potassium Sorbate Added as a Preservative.

Almond Rise Protein Bar (3 ingredients):

Almonds, Honey, Whey Protein Isolate

Recommended: Almond Honey Rise Protein Bar









There is a protein bar that meets all the guidelines listed and is the most natural with the fewest ingredients: Almond Honey Rise Protein Bar. Here are some of the reasons why this is a healthy protein bar:

  • No gluten
  • No sugar alcohols
  • No Soy protein
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Not a lot of sugar
  • 20 grams of protein, 16 grams of net carbs
If you are going to eat protein bars, taking these tips into consideration when shopping for a snack, or meal replacement, hopefully will help you find something that is good for you, your diet, and maintaining your health.

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


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