Are protein bars good for you, or are there better snacks and meal supplements that you should take advantage of? This is a big question that comes up for anyone interested in increasing their protein intake in order to build muscle, lose weight or simply improve overall health and well being.

While there are some healthy protein bars on the market and they are typically better than the snacks you would find in a standard vending machine, you cannot say that all protein bars are entirely healthy. Some are glorified candy bars, so you have to read the labels carefully.

If you need a fast snack and cannot get to anything healthy, having a protein bar on had is always better than going through a drive-thru or hitting the vending machine for a candy bar or bag of chips. You will at least get a dose of protein and some fiber to satisfy your body until you can get to a nutritious meal, and if you select your protein bar carefully, it will offer fewer calories and less fat than those other options.

The problem with protein bars is they are more convenient than protein shakes, so you may eat them too often or in larger servings. You don’t have to mix a bar up. You just open the wrapper and start eating, and that leaves you vulnerable to overeating, especially if you are an emotional or compulsive eater. You have to think about your eating habits and weaknesses when deciding whether you can control your servings or will get in trouble with a bar.

You also may not get as much protein for the calories when you eat a protein bar. If you need to take in a lot of protein but don’t want to drastically increase your calorie consumption, protein shakes may be better as your mainstay protein supplement. You can still keep bars on hand for those times when you need something fast and cannot mix up a shake. If you do need to increase calories, then using a mix of bars and shakes may work well for you.

Conduct a Nutritional Analysis

Before you purchase a protein bar, read the label for all of the following information:

1. Calories per serving

2. Fat grams per serving

3. Carbohydrate grams per serving

4. Sugar grams per serving

5. Fiber per serving

6. Protein per serving

You have to think about your health goals and nutritional restrictions when determining the best protein bars for your lifestyle. You typically want as many grams of protein as you can get per serving with the least amount of calories, fat and carbohydrates. The exception to that may be a professional bodybuilder or weightlifter interested in consuming more calories and protein in order to gain mass.

For example, a Power Crunch protein energy bar will cost you 205 calories and 12 grams of fat, and you get 14 grams of protein. Each bar contains 10 grams of carbs, and 5 of those are from sugar. While that is a bit better than the nutritional profile for a standard candy bar, it is not as healthy as a protein shake made with a low-calorie protein powder. Yet, this bar may be perfect as a meal replacement during a food emergency or for a hard gainer struggling to put on muscle and weight.

Pure Protein chocolate peanut butter protein bar may be a better option if you are interested in losing weight or burning fat. It contains 200 calories, 6 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein. The carbohydrate content is higher at 16 grams. You get more protein for about the same number of calories and half the fat. This is more suitable if your goals contain weight loss.

Think about your individual health and fitness goals when selecting a healthy protein bar. There are many options out there for meal supplements, snacks and emergency food stashes.

Quality of Ingredients

If you are concerned about eating a clean diet, you may have better luck with protein powders than protein bars. Protein bars often contain chocolate, nuts, caramel, peanut butter and other ingredients that may not fit into your clean eating plan. You can always find pure protein powders that contain vegan, vegetarian, organic, sugar-free, GMO-free or hormone-free ingredients. You may still want to keep a protein bar on hand for those times when you just can’t get to the clean meal you would like to consume.

If you have a sweet tooth and are trying to eat healthy, protein bars are better options than candy bars. Try keeping one on hand so that you don’t wreck your health progress when that sweet tooth bites.

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