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17 min read

How to Choose the Right Protein Bar for You

Posted By

Krysta Fioranelli

Clean Lean Protein Bars Diet & Nutrition healthy lifestyle healthy snack Meal_Snacks

An active, busy lifestyle means grab-and-go nutrition that’s woven into your daily routine. You need something that you can easily carry with you that contains ample protein, vitamins, and minerals to support your wellness goals. And when looking for a vegan option, it’s important to look out for animal products like collagen, whey powder, or albumin (aka egg whites). 

All it takes is a quick search online to see that the plant-based protein bar options are numerous, but remember that not all plant-based bars are created equal. You can narrow down options by answering the question, “How do I choose the right protein bar?”

Learn more about the benefits of protein bars, how they compare with other convenience foods like protein shakes, and how to find a protein bar that actually tastes delicious. Let’s be real… good nutrition should be combined with good taste!

 

Table of Contents

Benefits of Protein Bars

Whether you’re looking for a snack pre- or post-workout, traveling, or just juggling the responsibilities of a busy day, having something on-hand that’s tasty, satiating, and nutritious is a must. The good news is, the right protein bars can hit all three of these at once. 

Convenient Way to Reach Daily Protein Needs

It’s official: protein is an essential cornerstone of daily nutritional needs. And while opinions vary about how much exactly you need, the general requirement of 0.8 grams per kg of body weight is a fairly conservative figure. To prevent deficiency, this equals about 60 grams a day for a person weighing 165 pounds1. If you’re active, or an athlete, this number can go as high as 2.0 grams per kg of body weight2. Since protein bars shouldn’t supply the majority of your daily protein intake, ones that contain between 11 and 20 grams are an ideal choice for most. 

Is there a best time to eat a protein bar? It’s possible to have a protein bar replace a meal, particularly breakfast, but to be considered a protein bar, it needs to have a carb content that equals at least 50% of its total macronutrient content, for palatability. Other characteristics of meal replacement bars are their protein content, which varies from 10 to 20 grams per serving. Clean Lean Protein Bars meet these requirements, with 50% of their macronutrient content found in 13 grams of carbs, and 13 grams of protein per serving. Some studies have also highlighted meal replacement bars as beneficial for meeting and sustaining weight loss goals by helping to lower weight and reduce BMI3. But depending on your nutrition or weight goals, they’re also a great snack option, particularly before or after a workout, to help repair muscle tissue and restore glucose stores. 

How Many Protein Bars Is Too Many?

A protein bar without added fillers, binders, hydrogenated oils, or sugar can be an ideal healthy snack or part of a larger meal. But how many protein bars is it safe to eat in one day? While having an extra protein bar here or there won’t hurt you, if you’re eating extra to try and get more protein, consider that many Americans already consume more protein than they need4, so consider tracking how much you’re getting before adding more protein bars to your day.  

Weight Gain and Muscle Gain

Gaining weight means consuming more calories than you burn, and protein bars can help with that goal by adding additional calories between meals or alongside meals throughout the day. Often calorie-dense, protein bars can be paired with nut butters, vegan yogurts, or other quick foods for energy-dense meals that help you gain weight. 

And if you’re an athlete or live a very active lifestyle and want to build muscle mass, there is some research to suggest that, if you’re increasing the strength and intensity of your workouts, increasing your daily protein intake may increase muscle strength and size5

Whether you’re looking to gain weight or build muscle, you still want to eat healthy vegan protein bars with nutritious ingredients that are free from added hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or other unwanted ingredients.    

Weight Loss

Protein bars are often a popular choice among those looking to lose weight, and that’s because protein has been studied for its satiating, filling effects6,7, helping to reduce overeating. As part of an overall plan that includes a nutritious diet and regular exercise, protein bars can play a valuable role in losing weight in a healthy, sustainable way.   

Proteins Bars Vs Protein Shakes

Why would someone choose protein bars over protein shakes? Protein bars offer a number of benefits that protein shakes do not. Bars are more likely to offer a better balance of micronutrients than protein shakes alone. However, it’s possible to add fats and carbs to your protein shake and turn it into a balanced smoothie. For instance, Clean Lean Protein Bars have 11-13 grams of protein, 13-15 grams of fat, and 13-19 grams of carbohydrates.

Research suggests that chewing your food is more satiating than drinking calories in liquid form8, which is another benefit of protein bars. Shakes that are carb heavy will give you a high number of calories, but may leave you feeling hungry sooner rather than later.

Healthy vegan protein bars are also the perfect companions for hiking trips or time spent out in nature because they don’t require heating, refrigeration, or preparation.      

Protein Bars Vs Granola Bars

While some ingredients, like rolled oats or dried fruit, may be found in both protein bars and granola bars, they are quite different. Typically, what stands out are the protein levels. Granola bars will usually have less than 2 grams of protein per bar. Granola bars may also have higher amounts of carbs than protein bars, and less fat. Nutritionally, protein bars (when made without fillers, binders, or hydrogenated oils) will also have higher amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein Bars Vs Energy Bars

These two types of bars are similar in many ways: they often contain similar ingredients and offer a combination of protein, carbs, and fats. The main difference between them is that energy bars will often (but not always) have fewer than 10 grams of protein. 

Myths About Protein Bars

From fears about bulking up, to concerns about caffeine or acne, myths about protein bars abound. Some of the myths are legitimate, but most of them just need to be explained further with additional information. 

Will Protein Bars Make Me Bulky or Cause Me to Gain Weight?

If you’re consuming protein bars with 350 calories on a regular basis, adding them to your regular meals, or eating them like candy bars, then yes, there’s always a chance of bulking up or gaining weight. Protein bars can be effective at helping you gain weight, when used in conjunction with a healthy and nutritious diet. 

But otherwise, the answer is no, protein bars will not cause you to become bulky or gain weight. In fact, when used alongside a reasonable caloric intake for your height and regular exercise, vegan protein bars are more likely to help you lose weight than gain it8, since their protein helps keep hunger at bay and reduce chances of overeating later in the day.

Are Protein Bars Unhealthy for You?

It depends on what kind of protein bar you’re eating. Ingredients and sourcing matter when it comes to all prepared or packaged foods, and protein bars are no exception. If you’re looking at a vegan protein bar with numerous ingredients you either can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, you’re probably looking at a candy bar in the guise of a nutritious one. Fillers and binders, hydrogenated oils, and added sugars are all on the “avoid” list. 

Instead, look for protein bars that have vitamins, minerals, and fiber that come from whole food sources. The protein needs to be high-quality, ethically sourced, non-GMO, and without traces of animal products, like gelatin or whey. Clean Lean Protein Bars have an ingredient list that includes pumpkin seeds, dates, and chia seeds, plus they meet 25% of your daily protein requirements and 24% of your daily fiber needs. And the protein comes from a bioavailable and digestible source of premium European golden peas.     

Are There Unwanted Side Effects?

If you’re wondering whether protein bars cause gas, diarrhea, or constipation, the answer all depends on your personal constitution and current health, as well as what kinds of bars you’re consuming. Knowing how your body functions with certain foods is highly personal and changeable, but foods like genetically-modified soy protein, high fructose corn syrup, or palm kernel oil can certainly irritate a sensitive stomach, as can bars with dairy, like whey or egg whites, since more than 65% of the population is sensitive9,10.    

What About Caffeine?

Caffeine can indeed be found in protein bars, in a variety of forms, from cocoa, matcha, and yerba mate, to coffee. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consider avoiding protein bars with caffeine entirely, or at least consuming them earlier in the day so they don’t interfere with your sleep.  

Are Protein Bars Safe During Pregnancy?

If you’ve been told to avoid certain ingredients while pregnant or nursing, either because you or your baby is sensitive, then be sure to carefully read your protein bar labels. But yes, protein bars can safely be consumed during pregnancy, provided they don’t contain allergenic ingredients. And if you’re avoiding caffeine while pregnant, then make sure your vegan protein bar doesn’t have any. 

Protein Bars As Meal Replacements?

By definition, meal replacements usually supply a minimum of 200-250 calories per serving, so some protein bars, including Clean Lean Protein Bars, can meet these requirements. Although bars with sufficient calories and macronutrient content can be eaten on their own as a meal replacement, pairing a protein bar with coconut yogurt, avocado toast, or a fruit salad for breakfast can also work if you’re looking for a higher-calorie meal. And, depending on your fitness goals, you can always use protein bars as a healthy snack during the day or before or after a workout.  

Protein Bars That Actually Taste Good

If you’re wondering why protein bars taste weird or downright bad, look at the ingredients. To many, whey protein isolate or concentrate has a distinct flavor that can be unpalatable. Some forms of sugar or sugar alcohols like fructooligosaccharides can also lend protein bars an unusual flavor. And bulking agents, preservatives, and emulsifiers don’t help the flavor profile.   

What Do You Look for in Protein Bars?

When searching for a good protein bar, it’s ideal to find one that’s low in sugar, high in fiber, has a good balance of macros, clean ingredients, and superior taste. While that sounds like a unicorn, bars like Clean Lean Protein Bars meet those standards, with 6-7 grams of fiber per bar (more than 20% your daily requirement), 11 grams of fiber, 19 grams carbs, and 13 grams of fat to keep you feeling full. 

The ingredient list includes dates, cocoa, chia seeds, and cashews, plus the protein comes from ethically-sourced, European golden peas. With flavors like Coconut and Lemon or Chocolate and Peanut Butter, they’ll be something you enjoy reaching for each day. One of the best bars on the market today, Clean Lean Protein Bars are Clean Lean Protein, wrapped in a delicious, handy bar.    

A convenient and effective way of adding protein and nutrition to your day, protein bars have a number of benefits—but quality ingredients and sourcing matters, so be sure to read labels. With a healthy vegan protein bar, you can use it as a quick snack to power your exercise session, stabilize your blood sugar between meals, or even pair it with other vegan favorites for a breakfast on the go. Just be sure to choose something that works well with your wellness and health goals.   

References

  1. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/are-you-getting-too-much-protein#:~:text=The%20recommended%20dietary%20allowance%20to,g%20of%20protein%20a%20day.
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1844991/#:~:text=Present%20data%20indicate%20that%20strength,the%20U.S.%20recommended%20dietary%20allowance
  3. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0219p32.shtml#:~:text=The%20term%20%22meal%20replacement%22%20isn,that%20replaces%20a%20regular%20meal 
  4. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/0910/Table_1_NIN_GEN_09.pdf
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25169440/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5644969/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6115985/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26188140/
  9. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance
  10. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/integrative_medicine_digestive_center/news_events/lactose_intolerance.html
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