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Choosing the Right Protein Bar

While the optimal way to obtain protein is through a balanced diet, sometimes supplementing protein intake pre- or post-workout with a nutrition bar can help gym-goers and athletes reach their fitness goals. The market is flooded with a variety of protein bars, all claiming to provide the best taste and benefits, so how do you decide which brand to use? This article will walk you through the major protein bar brands and why they may or may not be worth incorporating into your diet.

Some protein bars are more heavily skewed towards weightlifters, while others are best for cardio bunnies or crossfitters. Your optimal protein intake will vary based upon your age, weight, and fitness goals, so keep these factors in mind when considering the popular bars analyzed in the article. Weightlifters will need considerably more protein than, say, a casual runner.

When evaluating nutrition bars, I will consider a few points: calorie to protein ratio, sugar content, and ingredients. Taste is not the primary consideration since it’s subjective, but I will note whether I enjoyed the bars or not.



Image via Protein Pick and Mix

QuestBar is an extremely popular brand, and while these bars tend to be on the pricier side, they numerous flavors make up for the cost. While the ingredients and stats vary a bit with each flavor, in general, QuestBars provide 21 grams of protein for only 190 calories and 1 gram of sugar. There are four calories in a gram of protein, so 84 of those 190 calories are protein. As far as protein bars go, this is an abnormally high ratio of protein to calories, with very little sugar. The ingredients in QuestBars are generally not worrisome: the first is a protein blend, and most others are water, almonds, et cetera, but a few ingredients are known to cause gastrointestinal unsettlement if taken in large quantities and infrequently. These ingredients are erythritol and soluble corn fiber, which is something to bear mind, though it shouldn’t be a serious issue for most people.

If you’re searching for a bar to deliver that protein boost while also keeping calorie counts low, particularly if you focus on strength training, QuestBar might be the ideal option for you. Though, as with many protein bars marketed at serious athletes and gym-goers, QuestBars are not particularly tasty. They aren’t terrible, but they’re chalky and taste “meh” at best.


Clif Bar

Image via Will Run For Pizza

There are two forms of Clif Bar: the regular nutrition bar, and the Clif Builder’s Protein Bar. This article assumes you’re in the market for a protein bar, so I will only evaluate the latter.

This bar again varies in its stats by flavor, but on average, it provides 20 grams of protein for 270 calories. This is less protein for a greater calorie count than comparable bars. It also contains 21 grams of sugar. The ingredient list details multiple unnecessary oils and syrups rather than pure ingredients, though the first on the list is soy protein isolate, like many other protein bars.

Clif Bars are not a great choice for many athletes, primarily given the high calorie count for only 20 grams of protein and the high sugar count. Though, admittedly, these bars are tastier than many others. These may be the right choice for athletes who are bulking, heavily weight taste in their choice of protein bar, and don’t mind a chemical-laden ingredient list.



Image via CSP Daily News

Like Clif Bars, KIND bars come in two varieties: snack bar and protein bar. Their protein bars boast a variety of delicious flavors, but what struck me was that the chocolate-flavored bars actually tasted like chocolate rather than the chalky, less-than-appealing “chocolate” flavoring in other bars.

KIND Bars provide 12 grams of protein for 250 calories and 8 grams of sugar. The sugar content is not bad, but the calorie to protein ratio is questionable. While most protein bars list protein as the first ingredient, KIND bars contain more peanuts, almonds, and glucose syrup than protein isolate.

These bars may work best as snacks rather than protein bars. They do not provide nearly enough protein to justify their calorie count, and the ingredients list is more heavily focused on providing a yummy bar rather than a highly nutritious pre- or post-workout supplement.



Image via Protein Pick and Mix

RXBars are marketed as a healthy alternative to protein bars with a laundry list of chemicals in them, and on this promise they deliver. Their ingredients lists are extremely pure, limited to nuts, egg whites, and fruits. They pack 210 calories for 12 grams of protein and contain 13 grams of sugar. The sugar content is on the higher end, so if you’re watching your sugar intake, this bar might not be the best choice.  

These bars are best for gym goers focused on improving their diet who need a snack before or after working out. As protein bars go, however, the RXBar has relatively little protein compared to other brands on the market. These might work better for cardio bunnies rather than weightlifters.

As for the actual eating experience, these bars are strangely tacky and stick to your teeth. You’ll need a toothbrush after finishing one. The taste is fine, not amazing nor terrible, though definitely less chalky than QuestBars.


GOL Bars

Image via Fashionista on the Run

GOL bars are similar to RXBars, but lack some of the downsides of the latter. These bars also boast particularly pure ingredients lists and get their sugar from dates. They source their ingredients as ethically as possible, using Non-GMO Project ingredients, and they derive their whey protein from cows raised in environments that are American Humane Certified.

These bars are most appealing to cardio bunnies in need of protein, but not quite as much as weightlifters. At 240 calories, GOL bars clock in at the higher end of the caloric range in exchange for 12 grams of protein. If you’re looking for a low calorie bar to eat on strength training days, this might not be the right option. But if you’re working on cardio and looking for a bar that has protein as well as other benefits and you have the calories to spare, GOL bars pack some nutrients that other bars lack. This includes 230 mg of calcium, and a mere 100 mg of sodium, compared to similar bars like RXBar, which contain 240 mg. They also clock in at a slightly more manageable 9 grams of sugar.

GOL bars taste surprisingly good. The chocolate tastes genuinely like it should, and the bars have a good consistency that’s chewy, but not so sticky that it will catch in your teeth.

In the end, there is no “best” protein bar. There is only the best protein bar for you based on your fitness goals.

This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% our own.

Rhiannon Winner

Gettysburg '19

Originally from Virginia, Rhiannon is a senior Political Science major with minors in Peace and Justice Studies and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. She strives to be a Gryffindor, but is often told she's a Slytherin anyway. She enjoys writing novels, reading, cooking, and fitness.
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