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Protein Bars Under Fire: Are They No Better Than Chocolate Bars?

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~Dr Juice~

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PROTEIN BARS UNDER FIRE: ARE THEY NO BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE BARS?
By Matt Weik, October 4th, 2020



Protein bars have been under fire for years now and a group called Safefood is claiming protein bars are unhealthy and unnecessary. Being in the industry, not only did I find this funny but somewhat true. While brands have been improving the profile on their protein bars, some are still lacking. But things seem to be trending in the right direction, yet people still want to throw shade at protein bars for some reason.

Most of what I found in the article I read regarding protein bars I do not agree with, however, there are some solid points – but not many. Let’s go over what was said and my thoughts.


You Don’t Need Protein Bars
I’ll agree with Safefood on this one and say you definitely “don’t need” protein bars. However, you also don’t need to sit on your couch all night and watch The Bachelor while claiming you don’t have time to exercise. Busted! See where I’m going with this?

While it’s true that you can get all of your protein from your diet, most people don’t. Two macronutrients that people have no problem getting their daily intake for though are carbohydrates and fats. Let’s face it, the American diet is full of junk. And while the population is getting more and more educated and making better buying decisions when it comes to food, they are still a long way away from having a well-balanced diet. Therefore, I don’t see anything wrong with the use of protein bars where needed in order to take in your daily recommended amount of protein to take in a quick meal in a pinch.

You should be having protein in all of your meals, yet many people don’t. And even those who do, aren’t taking in enough in the grand scheme of things (unless you’re a bodybuilder or someone in the fitness industry where most of your diet revolves around protein sources).


Protein Bars Are Unhealthy
Yes and no. Are there still protein bars on the market today that are unhealthy? Absolutely. But are they much better than they were years ago? Without a doubt. With brands line One Bar, Quest, and Best Bar Ever to name a few, you have some fantastic choices with a wide variety of flavors.

Safefood claimed that MOST bars have the first ingredient being “chocolate.” I’m not sure what protein bars they are looking at (they never said in the article) but most of the bars I’m looking at do not have chocolate as a first ingredient. They also claimed that consuming above the “recommended intake” for protein does not provide any health benefits. My question is, what are they considering the “recommended intake” to make such a claim? And what’s not to say that an individual isn’t lowering another macronutrient such as their carb intake and increasing their protein to compensate for the difference in calories? And what about the ketogenic diet that is so popular today? So, I’m not sure where they are getting their information from to be making some of the claims that they are.

Another area where Safefood demonized protein bars is with the content itself – calling it “highly processed protein.” Say what? A high percentage of protein bars on the market these days are using some sort of whey protein as their protein source. Whey concentrate, whey isolate, whey hydrolysate, or something like a casein or soy source. I’m not sure what their beef is with whey protein but that is the source used by nearly every supplement brand out there in any of their protein products (bars, powders, RTDs, functional foods, etc.). Whey has been used for years without any issues or adverse health effects when used as directed.


It’s Just a Glorified Chocolate Bar?
I will say that there are SOME bars out there with a horrible nutritional profile. But you can say that about just about every other food category on the market today. Not every company is going to have the healthiest product and the price tends to reflect that. Look at a candy bar for example. They tend to be much less expensive when compared to protein bars. And speaking of protein bars, the article stated, and I quote, “On average, high-protein bars are comparable to a small standard chocolate bar in their calorie, fat, saturated fat, and salt content.”

Let’s discuss their statement. For starters, a straight candy bar really doesn’t provide any true nutritional benefit. Sure, if you go with a dark chocolate bar you’ll get some benefits such as antioxidants but that’s about it. Protein bars, on the other hand, do. Look at the size of a candy bar with a given calorie count and now look at a protein bar with the same calorie count – the protein bar is larger and more dense, correct? So, if you are in a pinch and grab a protein bar and a chocolate bar, which do you think will not only fill you up but be healthier? The protein bar.

Now, I’m not here trying to sell you on protein bars, you can make your own decision. However, you can’t take everything you read as gospel as many companies are simply out there with an agenda to damage the reputation of another brand or industry. Now, does this mean Safefood has a hidden agenda? I don’t know. But they didn’t have one positive thing to say about protein bars so you can’t help but be a little skeptical of where all of this is coming from.

All in all, I’m not going to tell you NOT to eat protein bars. I eat them, myself, and I don’t have a problem with them. That being said, you need to look at the profile of any protein bar you pick up and decide of the ingredients and profile are what you, personally, are looking for.


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Rucker

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I think alot are, but some aren't. I'll highlight Quest bars in particular, and a few other similar ones (though I haven't seen many). They are high fiber (low "net carbs" if you care about that), and could even fit into a very carb restricted diet, sparingly. However, I would (and do) only use Quest bars when I want a shot of protein.

I think many "normal" protein bars are great for snacks if you have to snack, or to hold you over. There are things that I do where bringing an extra shake isn't convenient, but bars can sit in the truck. On a day where you need to perform, the extra carbs and sugar in a lot of these regular protein bars can really help also.

I do try and avoid/minimize as many industrial seed oils as I can, so I will avoid bars heavy in seed oils unless there's no other option.
 

Old RhynoS

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Haha good read. I work at SK and this is bang on. Some bars and treats are no better, just enough protein added to call it a protein bar and that's it. Lenny and Larry cookies for example. Some are good, alot are bad.
If you were to ask Doucette tho he says that a rice cake with pb and jam is = to a snickers bar 😆
 

asashouryu

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I keep them around as an “emergency food” or as a quick on the go snack.
Usually in the car or in my work bag etc.
Never my first choice but if I can’t have a proper meal (because life happens) it’s a better choice, for me, than say a bag of snack mix or other completely garbage junk food.

I like the builder bar brand.
Macro breakdown is pretty good, for what it is.
 

Aucs

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I keep them around as an “emergency food” or as a quick on the go snack.
Usually in the car or in my work bag etc.
Never my first choice but if I can’t have a proper meal (because life happens) it’s a better choice, for me, than say a bag of snack mix or other completely garbage junk food.

I like the builder bar brand.
Macro breakdown is pretty good, for what it is.
Im in the same boat. I keep a builder bar in the car for emergencies. I’m not even crazy about the taste, but fills the gap if I’m stuck... and I’m very rarely that stuck
 
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~Dr Juice~

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-- About 15 years ago the owner of the gym I went to was all hyped about a line of protein bars they were now selling. He gave me a free one to try and began giggling about how frikken delicious they were. It was a 'Detour' bar and I'm not sure if there still around in 2020 but that bar was virtually identical to a candy bar. I was thinking -- How can this thing be good for you! And after reading the contents they weren't. It pretty much WAS a straight up candy bar.

I still gnaw on the odd protein bar if the hunger pangs come calling, but it's a sporadic occurrence at best. I maybe eat one per week.
 
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Old RhynoS

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-- About 15 years ago the owner of the gym I went to was all hyped about a line of protein bars they were now selling. He gave me a free one to try and began giggling about how frikken delicious they are. It was a 'Detour' bar and I'm not sure if there still around in 2020 but that bar was virtually identical to a candy bar. I was thinking -- How can this thing be good for you! And after reading the contents they weren't. It pretty much WAS a straight up candy bar.

I still gnaw on the odd protein bar if the hunger pangs come calling, but it's a sporadic occurrence at best. I maybe eat one per week.
I remember those ones.
If I have a bar it is usually a Mama T protein cookie but it's usually enjoyed with a coffee and my wifey. It's kind of a date for us 😳
 

millenium girl

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I find most bars too chunky. My favourite snack are nuts (walnuts, macadamia, cashews). High in protein and healthy.
 

Rucker

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I find most bars too chunky. My favourite snack are nuts (walnuts, macadamia, cashews). High in protein and healthy.
That's a matter of opinion. There is nothing about those choices that I would consider high protein:

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Delicious and calorie dense? Sure. But I stay away from them, I want to spend my calories on higher protein investments.
 

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dan12345595

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some protein bars taste better than candy bars in my opinion

if i ever want chocolate i grab peanut m&m's or just generic dark chocolate
 
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