**Edit: I posted this in 2016 before I went vegan in 2017, I have left this up for accountability but I do not promote the use of any animal products for any reason especially in health.
When it comes to the question of protein bars and protein intake in general there are lots of opinions which get thrown around, so let me join the debate and give you my take on protein bars.
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Are they worth the money?
Firstly let’s define what we are talking about:
There are two types of “Protein bars” the first is a aptly named Protein bar that is because for all intents and purposes it is a bar made out of a block of protein (usually whey protein), these bars can range from 14g-40g of protein dependent upon size and ingredient make up.
The other type of “Protein bars” are what should be called Meal Replacement bars and these are intended as a convenient substitute for a meal. The problem with these is that sometimes the protein really isn’t that high, ranging between 4g-14g of protein and they tend to have higher carbs and fats than actual Protein bars totalling the same or more calories.
As a general rule you can classify it as a Protein bar if its protein content is the highest macronutrient content. Whereas if it contains comparatively more carbs or high fats and lower protein it is more likely to be a Meal Replacement bar. As the name suggests a meal replacement should be a ….meal replacement and therefore contain the macronutrients you can expect in a small meal, hence the higher fat and carb content, whereas a protein bar should not contain the same high fats and carbs. The best comparison to make is: if you were to eat only a protein source such as a can of tuna or a chicken breast you would expect a high protein content and a lower fat and carb content. However if you were to eat a small meal such as a chicken sandwich, you would expect the additional fats and carbs and a lower protein content comparatively.
Here we have a Meal Replacement bar and a Protein bar both by Profirst: the protein bar has 21g of protein for 199kcal whereas the Meal Replacement contains 14g protein for 210kcal. How does the Meal Replacement bar have more calories if the protein is lower? This is because the carbohydrates are higher with 45g per 100g of bar vs only 31g per bar in the Protein bar. However both these bars are actually very low in calories and fat only 8-9g respectively whereas some so called “Protein bars” can total over 500 calories with 25- 30g of fat!
The real thing to address here is HOW protein bars are used. What I mean by this is- if you have a sweet tooth and you want to get your “fix” then having a protein bar is probably a much better choice for you than a normal chocolate bar as it will allow you to adhere to your diet.
There is nothing wrong with eating a normal chocolate bar if you can fit it into your diet , the problem only occurs when you then have a craving for another and another and the decision to have one bar can then lead to over consumption of calories.
Are they a good source of protein?
Yes and No – Dependent upon what kind of “Protein Bar” you get – some bars “boast” 9g of protein which for a bar of over 300 Calories isn’t very good. You of course can have these but be aware that there will more than likely be other bars which can contain up to 40g of protein.
When should you have them?
There is no time you “should” have a protein bar, they are no better for you than any other source of protein so having a protein bar after a work out will not be better for you than eating a meal with the same amount of protein (and you would probably get more protein from an actual meal). However they are useful if you are busy and traveling as they are small and convenient to carry and don’t go off (although if it’s hot they can melt and get very messy).
Are they Useful?
In short – Yes they are, protein bars and meal replacement bars can be a very effective way to cure hunger pains and tide you over. However as they are small I would not recommend trying to replace your lunch completely with one bar as you will be hungry later on, leading you to need to eat something else and potentially binge snacking and throwing your diet out the window. However if you have a little wait before your next meal then they can be a great and convenient little protein hit.
Are they worth the money?
No -If you are looking for a sweet fix then they probably aren’t worth the money, as most protein bars are around the £2.80 -£4 mark if bought individually in store. Compared to a normal chocolate bar of 65p(ish) for a sugar fix, I would probably say save some money have a little chocolate bar and fit it into your diet. If you are low on protein and need boost your total for the day and a wholesome meal isn’t available then it is an expensive way of getting a 20g of protein but the necessity is up to you.
Yes-However if you can buy them in bulk then you can pick them up for around 75p-£1 mark then yes I would recommend them as they will help get your protein in.
Over all do I recommend them?
If you want to have them and they work into your diet without breaking the bank then go for it, they can be tasty and convenient. But they are not the be-all and end-all of protein source and they tend to be expensive for what they are. If you are going to buy them I would suggest shopping around and ordering them online from places such as – http://www.discount-supplements.co.uk/ as they tend to have good sales and offers which work out cheaper.
But the key here is to enjoy your food which allows you to progress towards your goals and if protein bars can do that then they are worth it to you.