Protein bars make for the perfect snack. They are extremely convenient, affordable, easy to carry and handy for active people who are looking for meal replacements or nutritious travel snack in between meals. However, not all of protein bars are made equal or even considered healthy protein bars.
While protein bars may help you reach your muscle building or weight loss goals, a large number of them can actually sabotage your health and lead to weight gain. If you were to carefully look at the list of ingredients contained in these, “protein bars”, they would actually fall into the category of junk food rather than nutritious. So which protein bars are best?
By understanding exactly what to look for, you will know how to pick a healthy protein bar from an unhealthy one. Here's what you need to know.
Choose real ingredients
Unfortunately, many protein bars have a lot of chemicals and derived ingredients added to them. The best protein bars are made up of whole foods and simple ingredients, such as dried fruit, egg whites, nuts, veggies, oats and coconut. Ideally, the protein bar ingredients are non-GMO, dairy, soy and gluten-free.
Look at carbs to protein ratio
You will want to look at the carbs to protein ratio of the protein bar. This is important because a protein bar should have at least 15 grams of protein per bar. You want to be sure the protein content is higher than carbs. So if there are more grams of carbs than protein, or more grams of sugar than protein, you’ll definitely need to look for another bar.
Look at high quality protein
Protein is essential for recovery after exercise and for building muscle. Too little protein will delay your recovery and could even mean your muscles shrink rather than grow. Protein is also important for fat burning. When it comes to selecting the best protein bars, the more protein, the better but only if that protein is good quality. The best proteins to look for are milk and whey. Some protein bars contain soy in the form of soy protein isolates, which can cause a stomach upset.
Choose low sugar
Make sure your protein bar contains no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving and preferably sugar-free.Bars that are very low in sugar will help prevent your blood sugar from increasing rapidly and that will also prevent your body from producing lots of insulin. Insulin promotes fat storage and blocks fat burning so keeping a watchful eye on insulin is vital to health.Eating as little sugar as possible is the best way to prevent high blood sugar and high insulin levels so seek out protein bars with very low sugar contents.
Stay clear of artificial sweeteners
Manufacturers often add things like artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and high fructose corn syrup. Also sugar alcohols like lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Sugar alcohols have gained popularity as sweeteners because they have fewer calories, don’t affect blood sugar as much as regular sugar, and don’t cause tooth decay. However sugar alcohols do have a downside because they may cause bloating and intestinal discomfort in some people.
Avoid unhealthy saturated fats
You will want to avoid any protein bar that contains trans fat, and watch out for bars that have palm kernel oil, which is a type of saturated fat. If you can find a good protein bar with a healthy amount of healthy fat this will make for a far better addition to your healthy eating plan and will definitely be a smarter choice than one of the commercial protein bars that are on the market that may contain trans fats.
Choose high fiber
Look for bars that contain at least 6 grams of fiber. Fiber will help promote regularity, control blood sugar spikes, and help you feel fuller longer.
Check the calories
If you’re restricting daily calorie intake in order to lose weight, pay attention to the total calories of your protein bar, as well as the actual size of your bar.After a workout, you’ll need to replenish your energy and prevent muscular pain by making smarter choices. Most women should aim for at least 300 calories per bar, and men should shoot for 350 to 400 calories per bar, which can easily come from a combination of a bar and protein shake, or other high-protein snacks.