I usually use the video blogs for answering your questions but this latest question is a bit more complicated. It’s one I hear quite a bit from clients and it has to do with protein bars. It usually goes something like this:
I saw this bar called (fill in the blank with the name of any protein/energy bar) at the store. Are they any good?
This is not an easy question, as is the case with most food related questions. And as usual I don’t have a simple yes or no answer. As is the case with carbs or caffeine it all depends on the person, the goals and the purpose. Not all bars are created equal. What may be a good option for one person or situation may not be for the next.
I still want to try to tackle this question. Which means I’ve been doing a bit of research over the last few weeks. While I do eat protein bars, there are many varieties I have never tried but have been asked about. Since I am my favorite guinea pig, I went to Mama Jean’s Natural Market and the Vitamin Shoppe (all but the NuGo bars were indeed purchased by me and NOT provided by any store or company) and bought a basket full of bars. I am sure they thought I was a little crazy but I’m okay with that. I thought I was a little crazy after suffering through some pretty awful bars but I am willing to take one for the team.
I’m not one to dwell on the bad so I won’t be naming names when it comes to the bad ones. I’ll limit my time to my top three in each of the following categories:
- Meal Replacement
- Energy/Post Workout
Today, I’m going to start with Meal Replacement bars. These bars are higher in calories (generally 300 calories or above) and well balanced among carbs, protein and good fats. Each of these bars could stand on their own as a meal on the go but aren’t so high in calories that you can’t round out the meal with an apple or some baby carrots. Here are my top 3 picks:
NuGo STRONGER Caramel Pretzel
This bar made my list for two reasons: it’s low sugar and it tasted great. Too often bars with this high of a protein count (25 grams) have a horrible spongy, chewy consistency. This bar had a little more crispness to it, making it feel more like a candy bar than a protein bar. Unlike a candy bar it only has 9 grams of sugar. It’s real sugar too – no artificial sweeteners. (When evaluating a bar don’t just look at sugar grams – look at the ingredients to determine where the sugar comes from) The extra fiber (12 grams) helped keep me satisfied while running a lot of errands.
Disclosure: The NuGo team sent me bars to sample but they did not pay me to write about the bar or put it on this list.
ProBar Meal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
This is a higher sugar bar, but once again it’s all real sugar. I tested this bar out as a meal before a night with back to back training sessions. Higher carb bars fit in when your day is active. This one kept me satisfied and gave me plenty of energy to do what I needed to do. It also felt more like a meal. It had a denseness that made it feel more substantial but in a good way. I think it was seeing the oats and nuts, like sitting down with a bowl of granola.
Detour Low Sugar Whey Protein Bar Chocolate Chip Caramel
Warning – this bar contains sugar alcohols. Some people find sugar alcohols cause them gastro-intestinal distress. If so, skip this recommendation and go with one of the bars above. If you’re ok with it, then try this bar for fullness and to satisfy a chocolate craving. This would be a good choice for a meal while on a road trip or packed in your carry on because of it’s lower sugar content.
Have you tried these bars? Tell me what you think. Or do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list?
Be sure to check out next week’s post on energy and post workout bars!