We’ve all been there, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon, you’ve been busy all day and you haven’t the found time to eat. What do you do?
Protein bars are an incredibly useful way to supplement your nutrition. If you find yourself hungry during the middle of the day, and happen to be out and about, they’re ideal.
Most protein bars contain several nutrients that are essential to form a healthy diet. Now let’s clear one thing up, protein bars aren’t to be had throughout the day as a convenient snack. Where possible, you want to be getting most of your nutrients from your diet. If you’re sat at home don’t reach for the protein bar if you can make yourself a healthy, whole food snack in the kitchen.
The market for protein bars is huge, concentrated with colossal organisations all trying to get you to buy their product. How do you know which is the best for you? Here are some key things to consider:
- Ingredients – Take a look at the ingredient list, not sure what something is on it? Don’t just overlook it, research it. You wouldn’t throw ingredients into a recipe if you didn’t know what they were, so why throw them into your digestive system? Any sort of gelatin isn’t great, you want natural foods where possible.
- Calories – This is all dependent on what you’re aiming to do, bulking or cutting. Let’s consider cutting – really you want to be aiming for around 200 calories per bar. The most nutritious bars aim to minimise calories, but this doesn’t mean calorific bars are useless. If you’re looking to bulk, a bar nearer 300 calories may be better for you.
- Carbohydrates – This is probably where we find the easiest way to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ choices. The amount of carbs will differ between bars – around 25 grams – but what we are looking for is what are those carbs made up of. Protein bars containing a ‘natural probiotic fibre’ often are the best. This microorganism, sourced from plants, provides a significant amount of fibre, any amount in excess of 15 grams is superb (60% of the total carbohydrates).
- Protein – So here it is, the primary reason you probably bought the bar in the first place. If that’s the case then you want to get your moneys worth. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, the protein level will usually suffer. Is there a magic number? Well, if you’re looking at about 20 grams of protein you’re doing well, which when you consider is over 25% of the bar, that’s not bad going.
- Fats – Fats are essential, but you need to get them from the correct sources. Oats and nuts are brilliant sources of these fats. Try to find bars that use these as their primary ingredient – often peanuts/peanut butter is a good combination to look out for.
All kinds of protein bars are available, ranging in flavour, quality and price. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where you may need to pay more to get the best. Of course there are cheaper alternatives, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that those bars are atrocious, but you need to be careful.
Why would one company offer 24 bars for £16.99, whilst another offers only 12 for £24.99? Well obviously there are a number of reasons of course, but think about it this way – if you load a bar with expensive high-quality nutrients you will have to pay more to make it. However if you substitute some of the nutrients with cheaper alternatives the bar costs less to make, and can therefore be offered to you, the consumer, for less.
I know what you’re thinking – which one should I buy!?
If money is less of an issue, my answer is simple. Quest Bars. Quest manage to maximise nutritional value with flavour intensity to create their wide range of protein bars.
If these bars are out of your price range there is an incredibly wide range to choose from online. Just be sure to buy one that meets your needs.
Just remember, as nice as they are, protein bars are supplements and need to be eaten as one.