The stomach growls. You are in a hurry – the time is running out. First thought: “Sandwiches at the bakery.”
“Stop!” You think. “Better a protein bar then.” But when you read the nutritional information, you want to call a lawyer:
· The fine print on the back reveals 30 g of sugar.
· And only 15 g of protein.
If you want to give your body what you like AND make you look good naked, then you should know how to recognize a good protein bar in a few seconds – before you bite.
When I choose a protein bar, I become a “nutrition detective” and take a close look at nutritional information and list of ingredients.
This article makes you Sherlock Holmes of protein bars. You will learn 5 simple criteria that make up a healthy protein bar (and distinguish it from “sweets”).
A handful of criteria is enough to know whether the protein bar is a suitable fitness snack – or just a cleverly marketed candy.
The 5-point principle: How do you recognize a good protein bar?
In retail and especially online you will find an almost unmanageable range of protein bars. If I had to test all of them, you would probably still be reading this article in 24 hours.
To make the selection easier for you, I have developed a handful of quality criteria that you can use to evaluate each protein bar on the market yourself. A quick look at the ingredient label is enough:
- How much protein does it contain?
- What type of protein is declared?
- What is the protein-carbohydrate ratio?
- Does the bar contain enough fat to fill you up?
- How many ingredients are declared?
Let’s go through the criteria briefly one by one.
Protein bar test # 1 – at least 20 g protein?
With a protein bar with over 20 g of protein, you can assume that the manufacturer actually had in mind to produce a bar with high protein content. In other words, a bar never has “purely random” more than 20 g of protein.
As little as 20 g of protein is enough to stimulate protein synthesis in your muscles after a short workout.
Studies show this. In addition, protein saturates very well and this effect can be exploited to the maximum from a portion size of 20 g.
Unfortunately, not many protein bars meet the 20-gram requirement, regardless of the marketing information on the front of the protein bar.
Protein bar test # 2 – whey protein?
If you have read the protein e-Report, you know how to recognize a high-quality protein powder. You can also recognize a high-quality protein bar by looking at the ingredients.
Under the ingredients, you should either find whey protein or a whey/casein mixture.
Some manufacturers increase the protein content of the bar and save costs by adding soy protein.
If you want to get the most out of it, you should look for whey protein.
If a manufacturer uses whey protein, it is very likely that the other ingredients are of high quality. Whey protein is significantly more expensive to produce than soy protein.
Protein Bars Test # 3 – More Protein Than Carbohydrates?
Even if it is called “protein bar”, there are of course other ingredients in addition to protein. Which should you pay special attention to?
If protein makes up more than 50% of the amount of the bar, chances are that you will have a good product in your hand. Using this test criterion alone, you sort out the majority of all protein bars from your shopping basket and place them in the “Candy” drawer.
You should take a closer look at what kind of carbohydrates it contains. Many protein bars contain sugar alcohols – mostly maltitol or erythritol. Some sugar alcohols can upset your digestion in large quantities, you should know and test it if in doubt, if it is not so important.
In addition, many protein bars contain a large number of sweeteners and/or sugar.
The more carbohydrates the bar contains, the more likely it is to be a candy.
If fiber is added to the bar, it is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. The inulin or galactooligosaccharide fibers have a probiotic effect.
What are “Net Carbs”?
The term Net Carbs is used on some bars. Most of these are imported goods from the USA.
Because the term “net carbs” comes from the US and often causes confusion, because the nutritional information in this country is somewhat different. In the USA, fiber has to be declared on the nutrition label and added to the total carbohydrates.
How to keep track of the carbohydrates relevant to you:
- There are only carbohydrates declared → to use carbohydrates.
- A US import protein bar contains carbohydrates and fiber → use carbohydrates minus fiber = net carbs.
- There are net carbs indicated → use net carbs.
If the bar contains less relevant carbohydrates than protein, that’s a good sign.
Are Sugar Alcohols Unhealthy?
No. They are not. But you should know a few things about them.
Maltitol can have a laxative effect in larger quantities (> 30 g). However, maltitol influences the blood sugar level only to a minimal extent, so it has no “appetizing” effect.
Erythritol is excreted almost completely undigested and does not affect the blood sugar level.
So, are sugar alcohols healthy?
Although they are better than sugar, I would not call them “healthy”. But a protein bar is a compromise per se.
Protein bars test # 4 – enough fat for your calorie needs?
If you want the protein bar to fill you up and give you energy, then you get a lot of the energy from the fat it contains.
If you want to replace a meal, you can put on> 10 g of fat.
However, the variety is quite limited in this regard.
The manufacturers are not yet ready to optimize the fatty acid composition of the protein bar. Probably also because very few buyers would pay attention to it.
Protein bar test # 5 – the fewer ingredients, the better!
Finally, the most important test criterion: the fewer ingredients the protein bar contains, the better! If you find more than 20 ingredients in the list of ingredients (most of which you cannot pronounce), you should look for another product.
How do I recognize healthy food in a supermarket?
Here are two simple tips:
- If it doesn’t need a list of ingredients, it’s most likely healthy.
- When ingredients are declared: no more than 10 ingredients!
Okay, let’s put these 5 rules into practice and use a few products to assess what is the matter: fitness food or candy? Learn more about the benefits of protein bars.
Most protein bars that you can buy fall into the “candy” category. Few are suitable as a snack for the fitness-conscious. The nutritional values refer to the given portion size. Use this guide to choose your protein bars to not fall for the unhealthy ones.