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Protein Bars 101

Posted by Tony Leonardi on


Lori and I stopped in to our local Whole Foods the other day to check out their selection of bars. Wow! The variety and selection seemed endless, but as we studied each bar, we were so disappointed in what we found. There was not one bar on the shelves that we would really want to eat! Some bars come pretty close, and others are just awful (in our estimation). This little exploratory research mission (along with lots of other research that we did) really helped to confirm for us that we were on the right track with our bars, and we really love the recipe that we came up with.

To help you understand what we look for in a bar, and to help you in your bar selection process, here are the criteria that we believe are critical when picking a bar.

Protein – Because we are health conscience athletes constantly looking to consume protein, we look for two things;

  • Quality of Protein – Grass fed, pasture raised protein is our protein of choice, whether we’re sitting down for a nice dinner, or when we need a quick snack or meal replacement. Grass fed, pasture raised whey is our protein of choice when it comes to bars. There are a few grass fed whey protein bars on the market, but few too many in our opinion.

Our second favorite protein comes from free range eggs. Lori has chickens at home so we have an endless supply of the highest quality eggs. Bars made with egg white protein are fine in a pinch but we just don’t know where that egg white is coming from.  Unless stated on the package, odds are that you are eating a factory raised and processed egg white. No thank you!

  • Quantity of Protein – How much protein is enough? We try to live by the 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of body weight rule, so the more protein the better. 15 grams per bar minimum.
  • Protein to Sugar Ratio – This should be obvious to most people, but, when you pick a protein bar, you should look for a bar that has more protein than sugar, otherwise you’re eating a candy bar, not a protein bar! In fact, the higher the ratio or protein to sugar, the better. The ratio should be at least 2/1 if not 3/1.  Many of the “healthy” bars that we’ve researched have very high sugar content, and a few have more sugar than protein.  Try to keep your sugars under 10 grams. You just don’t need (or want) that much sugar in your healthy snack!

Fiber  - It’s just a fact of life today that we don’t get enough fiber in our diets.  So, look for a protein bar that contains fiber, think of it as an added bonus – especially if it’s one of the prebiotic super-fibers. Pre-biotic fibers feed our probiotic good gut bacteria, and they like that! Keep that bacteria well fed!

Sugar Substitutes – Some bar companies use various types of sugar substitutes in order to keep their sugar levels low. Sugar alcohols are common, as are sweeteners such as stevia. Sugar alcohols tend to cause bloating or upset stomach in some people. Why would you want to eat that? Sweeteners such as stevia leave a really bad aftertaste in the bar, yuck!

The Obvious Stuff – I think we are all smart enough to understand that we should avoid anything that is too high in fat, especially saturated fat. Look for a bar that has less than 10 grams of fat, and half or less of that in sat fat. We also know that we should avoid high fructose corn syrup.

Minimal ingredients list – there’s no need to eat anything that you can’t pronounce or that sounds like it was made in a lab or factory somewhere. A short, uncomplicated ingredients list is always preferable. Organic and Non-GMO ingredients are also preferable. 

 With all of this said, now try to find a bar that meets all of these criteria. Don’t knock yourself out trying! We took care of it for you!

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