How to pick the best protein bar (PS. It’s not the same for everyone)

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Wesley Lo

Wesley Lo

Wesley is a health and fitness coach in Hong Kong, with a passion for finding ways to improve health, longevity and athletic performances.

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If you are a fitness enthusiast, I’m pretty sure you have tried different types of protein bars. Most people will choose the bar with a higher protein content, or the one that has a better taste.

But actually, more protein doesn’t mean much if the quality of the protein isn’t great. And better-tasting bars could have ingredients that may not be all that good for you.

What’s the protein made of?

The different types of protein ingredients in the bar make up its “amino profile” – and different bars will have different profiles. What you’re mainly looking for is an amino acid called “leucine”.

Leucine triggers muscle protein synthesis, which facilitates muscle growth and repair. That said, there are also other considerations, depending on your goals and diet.

Here’s an example. If two protein bars both have 20g of protein, but one is a plant-based protein, versus the other, which is whey protein from milk, you’ll have to decide which one is more suitable for you. If your purpose is muscle growth, then absolutely the whey protein option will be of higher value to you.

This doesn’t mean the protein bar made with plant protein will have no benefit – perhaps your purpose is to increase your daily protein intake while being vegan. Plant-based protein bars also tend to have more natural ingredients, which could be healthier for you.  

Sweeteners and oils

There are many types of sweeteners on the market and some of them have already been proven to be potentially harmful to you if you consume too much of it. In my experience, the best options for sweeteners are stevia, monk fruit and erythritol.

Unlike artificial sweeteners and sugar, stevia can suppress your plasma glucose levels and significantly increase glucose tolerance. It’s also not an artificial sweetener, technically speaking, because it’s made from the leaves of the stevia plant.

Monk fruit is a fruit and when made into an extract, can be a great sugar substitute as it is zero-calorie, zero-sodium, and zero-fat. Sugar alcohols like erythritol are naturally found in plants and berries. The types most often used in the food industry are synthetically created.

Besides sugar, also try to make sure you avoid hydrogenated oils, which are arguably the worst type of oil for nutrition. Examples of good oils include flax seed oil, sesame seed oil, and olive oil. If possible, pick the protein bar that has a comprehensive ingredient list so you can understand what actually goes into the making of the bar.

If protein bars are not your thing, don’t worry! Consuming as many whole foods as you can is still the best thing you can do for your body. Good luck!

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