Archive for the tag - protein bars

Are Protein Bars Good for Building Muscle?

pure-protein-barsYou’ve probably seen countless rows, boxes and packages of protein bars at your neighborhood gym or health food store. They’re convenient, easy and loaded with as much as 50 grams of protein. As such, they’re a popular choice for gym-goers and exercise enthusiasts – especially after a hard workout. But are they really healthy? Are they good for building muscle? And is there a better alternative?

First things first, it’s important not to paint all protein bars with the same broad brush. Indeed, there’s a full spectrum of options available – and the nutritional content varies greatly from product to product. BUT, for the most part, protein bars are highly processed and loaded with added sugar, unhealthy fats and several hundred calories. Whether stuffed with nougat or dipped in chocolate, eating a protein bar isn’t that unlike consuming a high-protein candy bar. It’s like a Snickers bar on steroids. Which is probably why they taste so good.

Though most Americans get more than enough protein, additional protein supplementation is sometimes necessary for individuals that lift often and hard. Especially after a good workout, ingesting protein is important so that your body can rebuild and repair the damaged muscles. In fact, it is by this process that our muscles grow larger. The quicker this post-workout protein is absorbed into your body, the better. Added ingredients – and fats, in particular – can really slow down the body’s absorption of protein. Because many protein bars are rich in fats and thus slow to absorb, they’re not the best post-workout protein option.

So what’s a better alternative?

Most exercisers opt for a shake made of powdered whey protein mixed with water. Pure whey protein, especially in the absence of other nutrients, gets absorbed quickly and gives the body exactly what it needs. Though a whey protein shake isn’t as delicious as a chewy, gooey protein bar, it’s a definite nutritional upgrade—and has less than half the calories. And from a cost perspective, protein powders are significantly cheaper.

The bottom line: Save those protein bars for the occasional treat—and resist the temptation to make them a regular part of your diet.

Protein Bars Put to the Test: Davey’s Top 3 Picks.

Protein bars are an effective and convenient way to recover after a hard workout. They can fuel muscle recovery and boost your energy for the day ahead. But when it comes to both taste and nutrition, some protein bars are better than others. I decided to put a dozen popular brands to the test.

Here are my top three picks:

  1. Pure Protein – Chocolate Peanut Butter
    Davey’s Grade: A+

    This bar is delicious and healthy. It’s packed with protein, low in calories, moderate in carbohydrates and low in saturated fat and sugar. It’s definitely my bar of choice for workout recovery.
    Serving Size 50g, Calories 200, Calories from fat 60, Total Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 3g, Cholesterol 10mg, Sodium 200mg, Potassium 140mg, Total Carbs 16g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 2g, Protein 20g
  2. Clif Builder’s – Peanut Butter
    Davey’s Grade: B+

    This bar tastes way too good to be nutritional. It does have quite a bit of sugar and the sodium is high. Still, not a bad choice.
    Serving Size 68g, Calories 270, Calories from fat 70, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 310mg, Potassium 210mg, Total Carbs 30g, Dietary Fiber 4g, Sugars 20g, Protein 20g

  3. PowerBar ProteinPlus High Protein Bar – Chocolate Brownie
    Davey’s Grade: B-

    High in sugar and not too tasty, the PowerBar ProteinPlus bar is substantial in size – if you can get it down. It’s chewy and very dry. But, it will give you a substantial 30 grams of protein.
    Serving Size 90g, Calories 360, Calories from fat 100, Total Fat 11g, Saturated Fat 4.5g, Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 240mg, Potassium (not listed), Total Carbs 33g, Dietary Fiber <1g, Sugars 30g, Protein 30g

For a nearly exhaustive comparison of popular protein bars and their nutrition information, check out this resource.

If you use protein bars to recover from your workout, which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.