Remember when protein bars were few and far between? It wasn’t that long ago when they seemed like a novelty in the grocery aisle. But those days are long gone. Today there are entire aisles of protein bars. So how do you choose? Let us help. Keep these six things in mind and you will be well on your way to finding the perfect protein bar for you.
- High-Quality Protein. When selecting the best protein bars, the more protein, the better, but only if that protein is good quality. Look for a minimum of five grams per bar. The best proteins to look for are milk and whey.
- Low Sugar. Make sure your bar has no more than eight grams of sugar per serving. Bars with low sugar will prevent your blood sugar from increasing, which will prevent your body from producing too much insulin, which can lead to unwanted fat storage. Eating as little sugar as possible is the best way to prevent this.
- Limit Carbs. Excess carbs are quickly converted to fat and can cause cravings so make sure to pick a low-carb bar.
- Calorie Control. For women, the bar should contain between 140 and 200 calories; for men, between 170 and 300 calories. For some of the bigger protein bars, this may mean cutting it in half to avoid too many calories. Caveat: calories aren’t all bad. There is no need to fear them, especially after exercise when they can speed up your recovery. But they key is not to overeat and consume just what you need.
- Be Wary of Artificial Sweeteners. To get a delicious tasting bar without sugar, many bar manufacturers use artificial sweeteners. Many artificial sweeteners, despite being calorie free, are unhealthy. They can cause cravings and an unhelpful insulin response. Many artificial sweeteners also cause headaches, joint pain, and problems with concentration. Best to avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Look for Healthy Fats. A low-fat diet is not necessarily a healthy diet. In fact, some dietary fat is good. Omega three and omega six polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are important. However, high amounts of saturated fats contain a lot of unwanted calories, which is the last thing you want in a protein bar. Look for bars that contain healthy fats but are low in saturated fat. Aim for a bar with less than three grams. While saturated fats are OK in small amounts, trans fats are not. Make sure your bar has no trans fats. Pro tip: hydrogenated vegetable oils are a common source of trans fats.