Not all energy bars are equal and not all protein snackers are bodybuilders.
Burly men have supplemented their diets with protein bars for eons.
Now fast-forward to the twenty-first century.
Today, bodybuilding guys are not the only ones to benefit from nourishment bars.
Health conscious folks of both sexes take full advantage of these nutrition-packed snacks.
They are especially popular with runners.
Alas, not all protein bars are equal. It's the purpose of this page and the reviews to highlight the good and the not so good points of these energy-boosting foods.
our top 5 picks
Before we get to the reviews let's step back and look at protein bars in a little more detail.
The Advantages of Protein Bars for Athletes
They look great, sound delicious, and tempt our taste buds… but—.
It's a worrying fact that not all protein bars are what they claim to be.
This is a problem with food in general and not something unique to nutrition bars.
This review page cuts to the chase and presents you with those foods that check all the right boxes.
The last thing you want to do is stock up on a product that does more harm than good.
This is quite possible if you make the wrong choice.
These bars are high-street friendly and readily available.
There are no prerequisites unless you have a food intolerance or an allergy to certain ingredients.
The protein bars on this page taste great and fill you up.
They also provide various health benefits when eaten as a part of a regular healthy diet.
What to Look Out For in a Quality Protein Bar
The first thing to look out for is the protein content as it's an essential dietary macro nutrient. We all need it.
Protein helps to develop lean muscle mass and controls satiety and metabolic rate.
It also contributes to hormonal health.
As a runner, you have to work on well-toned body composition.
These bars are valuable because some runners fall short on their protein intake through regular diet.
Others consume far too much.
It's a numbers game, and protein bars provide a simple way to help you count.
There's nothing to prepare, refrigerate, or dish up. They are literally a meal in a bag.
To put it another way, they're one of the few 'convenience foods' that are genuinely healthy.
Protein alone is not enough…
A wholesome bar should include plenty of nourishment to keep you going.
It contains all the three basic macro nutrients.
These are protein, fat, and carbohydrate, along with extra nutrients and various minerals.
These things are essential to life and responsible for the way we think, feel, and function .
What to Watch Out For with Protein Bars
Once you've assessed your dietary needs look for the bar that meets them not exceeds them.
That means getting good at reading labels. Don't worry—it's a lot easier than it sounds.
As well as knowing what to look out for you also need to know what to watch out for—keep reading.
The protein in these bars typically comes from products like milk, eggs, and soy.
Some understanding of the ingredients will help you to make the best-informed decisions.
The things to watch out for include the following:
Total calorie count per bar or per 100g
The presence of sugar alcohols
Total carbohydrates (important for low-carbers)
High-fructose corn syrup
Other unwanted ingredients or ingredients in excess
Some people are intolerant of certain ingredients. And anything that raises excess blood sugar will convert to body fat if you can't store it as energy and burn it off .
It sounds like there's a lot to do but assessing your needs is really quite easy.
Once you find the ideal protein bar your search is over—at least until you change preferences or set new running goals.
How to Use these Bars To Your Advantage
Human beings never used to snack between meals.
Our diets used to provide enough nutrition and balance to keep us going from one feed to the next.
Snacking is quite a new phenomenon but try not to confuse protein bars with general snack bars.
If you can break the snacking habit then go for it.
The best time to eat protein bars as a runner depends on your routine, schedule, and general diet.
It's not a complicated decision and should fall into one of four categories :
- Before or during a workout
- Running low on energy
- To build a more protein-dense breakfast
- On the go with no time to stop and eat
Runners tend to eat protein bars around 30 minutes before a training session.
What The Critics Say About These Products
Protein bars—or more specifically poor-quality protein bars—have plenty of critiques.
One of the biggest condemnations is with mislabeling.
That means the label might not show every ingredient included in the product.
Or, it may disguise a harmful ingredient by giving it an unrecognizable legal name.
It's a tactic the experts refer to as 'unauthorized nutrient content claims' .
Pocket-sized nutrient bars are no different to a lot of other foods in this respect.
Some critiques are quick to tar every product with the same brush because of a few dishonest brands .
We believe that the five protein bars on this page are exactly what they claim to be.
When taken the right way at the right time they'll satiate you for a good while.
They'll also provide you with a much-needed energy boost just when you need one.
Our No-Nonsense Product Reviews
The choice of nutritious snacks out there is overwhelming.
That's why an independent review page like this one is so invaluable.
These are not the only high-quality protein bars available for runners of course.
We do consider our picks superior, though, when compared to a lot of the competition.
We've put much thought into this shortlist of premium nutritious protein snacks.
Personal considerations, the reaction from experts, and real user feedback have all played a part.
We've ordered the products by Editor's Rating with the top choice at the start of the reviews.
As we eat something it helps when it tastes great as well as does us good.
BSN's light Syntha-6-Protein Crisp Bar provides a crunchy texture with flavors guaranteed to please the taste buds.
This bar is a perfect choice for a lot of runners as it provides everything you need and nothing you don't.
It's a simple yet serious protein bar that boasts the following nutritional benefits:
Around 20g of premium proteins
23g of carbs
5 grams of fiber
7grams fat (MCT's and EFA's)
Only 230-240 max calories
About 1-4g max sugar (sucralose) depending on the flavor
With five flavors to choose there's something for everyone's taste.
You can choose from Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate Crunch, Mocha Latte, Vanilla Marshmallow, and Salted Toffee Pretzel.
It wasn't a difficult decision to choose the BSN light Syntha-6-Protein Crisp Bar as our top pick.
It's a popular protein bar and sells well among the health & fitness community for good reasons.
Consider the KIND 1.4 oz. bar if you want a gluten-free protein snack.
The taste is quite unique and provides a nice balance of sweet and savory.
The savory taste comes from the small amount of sea salt and crunchy almonds.
And the sugary melted caramel provides just the right amount of sweetness.
The low sugar and salt content doesn't sacrifice the taste. Here’s a breakdown of the main ingredients:
Total protein 6 grams
Added sugar 5g or less
Fiber 7 grams
No sugar alcohols
It's easy to see why these bars are so popular with runners and other fitness enthusiasts.
The taste is indulgent yet the ingredients are not.
We found a nice blend of spices, nuts, sugar, dark chocolate, vanilla, and caramel in these energy-boosting bars.
They are truly satiating and that's the point.
The healthy mix of simple natural ingredients in strict measures provides the ideal balance.Word of caution: Choose another product if you're sensitive to chicory root.
The makers of the ZonePerfect Nutrition Snack Bars put a lot of claims behind their food.
They tell us they have the perfect balance of great tastes and quality all-natural ingredients.
With so many happy snackers they've got something right.
It's another gluten-free product and doesn't contain any artificial additives either.
That's not something every protein bar manufacturer can boast.
Here are the main highlights for our third choice of high-quality protein bar:
14+ grams of quality protein per 1.76 oz. bar
19 vitamins & minerals
Antioxidants vitamins C, E and selenium
Free of artificial sweeteners or flavors
Consider this energy bar if you're a runner who enjoys the flavors this all-natural energy snack offers.
The chewy and crispy combination is a nice texture and less messy than the crunch-only bars.
This is also a great power snack for people on the go more generally as well as runners and other athletes.
You can buy the PowerBar Protein Plus in cartons of 15.
And there's plenty to keep you going with around 20g of quality protein per bar.
This is another healthy nutritious snack food that boasts a lot of simple clean ingredients.
The main downside is the 14g sugar content. It's not the highest but there are bars with much lower sugar content.
The BSN Protein Crisp Bar (top pick) is especially low.
Here are some of the key nutritional highlights for the PowerBar Protein Plus:
- Protein 20g
- Total fat 5g (saturated fat 3g)
- Dietary fiber 4g
- Total calories 210+ (fat 45)
- Carbs 27g
- Potassium 120mg
- Calcium 8%
- Iron 6%
Consider this product if you want a bar with a high amount of quality protein and dietary fiber.
The makers have designed these energy bars specifically for runners and other everyday athletes.
If the ingredients match your needs the PowerBar Protein Plus will help to replenish tired muscles and speed up post-workout recovery.
Like most of our picks here you have five flavors to choose from.
These PowerBar energy-boosting foods are free of artificial colors, flavorings, and trans fats.
They are also gluten-free which a lot of runners insist on these days.
Our final pick is another popular gluten-free tasty protein bar called Larabar.
The company typically sells these in cartons of 16 pieces.
They're also our first vegan-friendly product made with Fair Trade Certified organic chocolate chips.
The uncomplicated peanut butter recipe contains a careful blend of just four ingredients.
The recipe includes chocolate chips, peanuts, dates, and sea salt.
Here are some of the health highlights of the Larabar peanut butter/chocolate chip Bar:
Total carbs 26g
Total fat 17g
Dietary fiber 3g
Larabar likes to point out that this is food made from food.
That's no small detail.
For generations now we’ve been consuming food-like fare, so getting back to basics is a big deal.
The combination of real fruits, nuts, and chocolate is what makes this Larabar a surefire winner among athletes and people on the go.
It's an uncomplicated protein bar but one that's flavorful and satiating.
All five of these protein bars are winners because they've been around for a while and are popular.
There's no such thing as the perfect protein snack though.
Each one has its advantages and drawbacks as highlighted in the short reviews.
Our victor is the first pick 'BSN Protein Crisp Bar'.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's the best all-around energy bar for you.
These things are subjective after all.
You may choose something different.
It all depends on personal taste, texture, budget, ingredients, and athletic needs.
There's sure to be something in our five picks that checks all your boxes though.