Today’s protein bars are a pack of chocolate and granola lies! At least, part of the time they’re lies. See, when you want a muscle-honing protein bar that will give you long-term energy and help you build your bulk and enhance your pump, you don’t want it crammed full of sugars, high fructose anything, and lots of synthetic preservatives. All that can leave you feeling bloated, uneasy, queasy, and doesn’t actually help you get a better workout. In spite of that ugly truth, too many so-called “protein bars” on the market aren’t nearly as good for you as a standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s due to poor ingredients, lazy production, and building the bars for taste, rather than efficiency.
An effective protein bar is going to have some complex carbohydrates built into it, but is going to avoid fructose and sucrose (corn syrup and standard bleached sugar) because those give you cheap energy boosts, but not all the nutrients you need to build up your body. Quality protein bars limit the science behind them and add in pure animal or nut proteins, dense, whole grain carbs that sustain you, and sweeten the whole pot with natural fruit juices, or glucose, which gives you a superior flavor without adding in empty calories.
When you’re ready to drop the pretenders and sugary, fatty sweets masquerading as healthful snacks, then you’re ready to get on board with 13 true protein bars for the actual athlete.
Free of gluten, meat, soy, GMO’s, and dairy, Aloha works on bringing loads of plant protein to bear with nuts and seeds. Those are put into the mix with dark chocolate, for a sweet experience that isn’t overpowering. They’re completely organic, limiting how much processing goes into mashing, mixing, and pressing, which leaves fewer toxins for your system to detox. Purchase: $20/6
Handcrafting is always a plus in the world of gear and tech, but it isn’t always as important in the land of foodstuffs. The fact that these are made with date paste by hand to ensure a proper mix shows the level of dedication that Juno maker BumbleBar aims to achieve. Rich in fiber, low free of gluten, reduced in sugar, and geared toward vegan living, there’s natural goodness running deep and wide in these choices. Purchase: $24/12
Health Warrior Superfood Protein
Chia, oats, quinoa, whey, flax, and just about any other whole grain you can think up makes a showing somewhere in the Health Warrior protein lineup. These bars began as chia options for those who wanted to increase their healthy grain intake and dump bleached flours, but have since become the seedy way to getting more smart fats and plant fiber into your body, along with balanced protein that’s easy to digest and get put to work. Purchase: $24/12
Practically perfect in every way, there’s a little more honey sugar here than you should ideally be taking in, though it’s handled so well with all the fruits, nuts, and gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, GMO-free work that Rise put in, it’s hard to fault them for wanting to add a little sweetness into the mix. Purchase: $25/12
Quest has slowly and quietly taken on a massive role in the field of protein bars, building on a mixture of broad taste ranges and varying compositions. It can be a little bit of a crap shoot, knowing which ones are good and which aren’t, since you’re as likely to get a chunk of candy masquerading as a healthy snack as you are a real gym rat companion. While not bad, Quest bars should always be given a quick nutrition check before consuming. Purchase: $25/12
Fats can sometimes reach into the upper ranges depending on which flavor you find, but the powerfully simple taste mixtures and short bullet list of completely organic ingredients help make Lara an easy protein bar choice should you find yourself wanting a satisfying set of real foods to sweep you away from the cluttered synthetics to be found elsewhere in the meal supplement mixture. Purchase: $26/16
Raw hemp mixed with nuts, tropical fruit, and a load of various antioxidants, protein isn’t the major focus here, but merely a helpful byproduct of a well-crafted bar. Helping to combat the damage caused by modern living is a forgettable facet of eating well that Evo Hemp bars are seeking to bring back. Kindly to brain and body alike, the raw ingredients assure natural mood elevators along with muscle-building goodness. Purchase: $26/12
The fact they dump the ingredients onto the very front of the package says a little bit about the transparency that the company seeks to have. RXBar focuses on using whole foods, which creates longer chains of amino acids, which provide for all the components your body needs to replenish and revitalize. The high added fiber content is just a bonus to help keep your digestion on track. Purchase: $26/12
Simply Protein Whey Bars
Bless their heart, Simply bars work so hard to try to actually keep things simple in a region of the market that is overloaded with hype and false promises. The fat content is typically low, with saturated fats cut at every corner for a healthier cardiac experience. Rather than providing you endless energy, Simply is built more for lowering calories while helping provide you with cornerstone dietary staples that won’t weigh on your waistline. Purchase: $28/12
While “natural” is usually the watchword among protein bars, merely because processing and synthetic foods cause inflammation, which inhibits fitness goals, Fit Elite manages to be fairly low-impact on the system, and fairly high in quality proteins, even if they’re practically cooked up in a lab. A wide range of taste and nutrition choices, Fit Elite is the best of the fast and dirty workout foods. Purchase: $29/12
Epic All Natural Meat Bars
There’s nothing in the world that is a substitute for the dense, lean protein that comes from meat. These cut carbs down to the barest, with a little more fat than you’ll find in most bars, coming in particularly strong at the fattier meat options. Best reserved for use after a workout, when your body is aching for the building blocks it needs to make some serious mass, you won’t get a fast energy boost from the savory Epic line, but it will have you back in top reps faster. Purchase: $40/20
Grenade Carb Killa
Limited in the number of carbs, there’s more than a little spare fat to be had from this milk-based protein bar. Those who are not active or have high cholesterol will want to give the Killa line a miss, since it aims to bulk up the powerlifter, not slim down…anyone, really. Creamy and enjoyable, Grenade might be cheating a little on decadence, but it’s also overflowing with energy to be burned away. Purchase: $42/12
Trying to trust a protein bar company to do what you want is like trusting the government to do what you want. It’s a dream that shall never be realized, and that means you have to put the power back in your own hands. With the custom-built YouBar, you can get all the protein you want in flavors you desire, all made by your mind. If you can’t make these healthy, you have only yourself to blame. Purchase: Varies