Most people need about 50 - 70 grams of protein each day, and people trying to gain muscle mass require even more. When choosing which protein bar is right for you, consider your goals. Some protein bars are better for gaining muscle, while others are better for maintaining weight. Remember that protein bars aren’t always the best way to lose weight, especially bars that are high in calories or fat. For weight loss, consider meal replacement shakes as an alternative to protein bars.
What are the best protein bars?
We considered nutrition, taste and price to select our top protein bars. All these bars have at least 7 grams of protein and no unhealthy ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup. Remember there isn’t one bar that’s right for everyone or one bar with everything you need. When deciding which protein bar is best for you, consider your nutritional goals and dietary restrictions — but don’t forget to factor in your flavor and texture preferences.
Not all protein bars are good for you. The best protein bars provide a balance of protein, carbs, fiber, fat and other nutrients. In addition to being a convenient protein source, the benefits of protein bars include raised energy levels, increased calorie burning and decreased appetite. In combination with exercise and other healthy habits, eating protein bars can increase lean mass, power and strength.
Athletes often use protein bars to recover after an intense workout. Others eat protein bars to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Protein is especially important for menopausal women because it works with calcium to increase bone strength.
Nutritionists don’t recommend more than one
protein bar per day
Protein is an essential macronutrient everyone needs in their diet. All proteins break down into amino acids. Animal protein sources include meat, eggs and dairy, and plant proteins sources include nuts, beans and lentils. Plant-based proteins are considered to be incomplete proteins because they lack some essential amino acids, but complementary plant-based proteins can be eaten together to form complete proteins. Foods rich in animal proteins also often contain vitamins B12 and D, plus omega-3 fat, heme-iron and zinc. People with high plant-protein diets are at lower risk for heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
What to look for in a protein bar
Look for protein bars that are high in protein with moderate fiber and low sugars and carbs. Before you make a purchase, compare protein bar nutrition facts to check for synthetic ingredients and added sugar. Consider your budget as well — protein bar prices range from less than $1 to $4 or more per bar. You should also pick a taste profile you enjoy.
The role of protein in your diet is a significant factor when deciding which protein bar is right for you. If you’re trying to gain lean body mass, for example, look for protein bars with creatine. Keep in mind that many protein bars are high in calories and carbohydrates. For weight loss, look for bars with a 2:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates. Some diets require you to count net carbs, which is the number of carbs minus the amount of fiber and a portion of sugar alcohols, instead of total carbs. Companies also sell vegan or animal protein bars with supplemental vitamins or minerals for those with special dietary needs.
Best tasting protein bars Nutrisystem Double Chocolate Caramel protein bar
Nutrisystem Double Chocolate Caramel Bars taste great and keep you full for hours. They are on the sweeter side of protein bars — imagine an Oreo, but dipped in chocolate and with caramel in the middle. This guilt-free protein bar is especially suitable for dieters with a sweet tooth, but remember to keep your serving to one bar.
Best protein bars for weight loss WW Snickerdoodle Baked protein bar
WW Snickerdoodle Baked protein bars contain a soy-whey protein blend, cinnamon, nuts and other natural flavors. These bars are great as a breakfast replacement — they aren’t too sweet and have a nice, crunchy texture. WW Baked protein bars aren’t especially high in fiber, so dieters should supplement their fiber intake through vegetables, fruits and nuts. WW Snickerdoodle Baked protein bars work best for weight loss when used along with the WW diet plan.
Best protein bars for women IQ Bar Peanut Butter Chip protein bar
IQ Bar’s Peanut Butter Chip protein bar is great for women because it contains calcium, iron and 11 grams of plant-based protein. There are also six brain nutrients — MCTs, omega-3s, flavonoids, vitamin E, choline and lion’s mane — and the bar has only 160 calories and less than 1 gram of sugar. Its ingredients include peanuts, chocolate chips, coconut oil and stevia. Soluble tapioca fiber and protein crisps (pea protein, pea starch and rice flour) give this bar a semi-sweet flavor with a satisfying texture. IQ Bars are also gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, kosher and non-GMO.
Best organic protein bars Orgain Organic chocolate chip cookie dough protein bar
Orgain Organic protein bars are a convenient way to get 10 grams of plant-based protein and 6 grams of dietary fiber without gluten or soy. These bars taste great and have a thick texture with rich chocolate chunks. Orgain protein comes from brown rice, peas, rice flour and chia seeds. All Orgain protein bars are also vegan, gluten-free, non-dairy, lactose-free, soy-free, kosher and non-GMO. The company also makes peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chunk and s’mores flavors without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Best keto protein bars Keto Krisp Almond Butter protein bars
Keto Krisp Almond Butter protein bars are excellent for people on keto diets because of their fat to net-carb ratio. Keto Krisp bars are packed with almonds, chicory fiber, whey crisps, cocoa butter and MCT oil from coconuts. They’re sweet, but not too sweet, and the chicory fiber gives the bars a subtle woody or nutty flavor. The combination of chicory fiber, cocoa butter and whey crisps give this bar a great texture, too.
Best protein bars for men ProBar Base Peanut Butter Chocolate protein bars
ProBar Base Peanut Butter Chocolate protein bars are a great choice for men — they’re an easy dose of plant-based protein, omega-3 acids and fiber without added sugar alcohols. ProBar Base bars are coated in rich chocolate and have a crispy, crunchy texture similar to a cookie. Other ingredients include tapioca syrup, chia seeds, flax seeds, cocoa and rosemary extract. The protein bars are also gluten-free and non-GMO certified.
Best vegan protein bars GoMacro Macrobar Oatmeal Chocolate Chip protein bar
The ingredients used in GoMacro’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bar are vegan, raw and non-GMO. The company uses organic sprouted brown rice, peas and seeds for protein, which keeps them nut-free. Other tasty flavors in the bar include coconut sugar, maple sugar, organic cocoa and sea salt. The texture is chewy but not tough, and the bar has the added benefit of iron and calcium. The GoMacro high-protein variety pack includes other popular flavors, including maple sea salt, mocha chocolate chip and cashew caramel.
Best low-sugar protein bars Quest Bar Cookies & Cream protein bar
Quest Bars Cookies and Cream bars contain 21 grams of protein from dairy-based isolates and only 1 gram of sugar. The protein bars have real cookie crumbles and white chocolate chips that are sweetened with stevia and erythritol, so they have a good flavor but are still an option for keto dieters or those with diabetes. The cookie chunks break up the bar’s chewy texture, and they taste even better when slightly heated in a microwave for about 15 seconds.
Best protein bars for muscle gain Clif Builder’s Protein Vanilla Almond bar
Clif Builder’s Protein Vanilla Almond bars taste great and have an ideal protein-to-calorie ratio for building muscle. These bars have a satisfying, crunchy texture and sweet flavor, and they contain no chocolate or peanuts. The ingredients include soy protein, almond butter, organic oat fiber and organic vanilla extract. In addition to protein, these bars are packed with calcium, magnesium oxide, potassium and B vitamins. It’s best to eat Clif Builder’s protein bars within two hours of exercising so the protein helps your muscles repair and grow.
Best protein bars for diabetes RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt protein bar
RX Bars are a smart choice for people with diabetes because the simple ingredients — including dates, egg whites, almonds and cashews — are ADA-compliant. These bars are flavored with chocolate, cocoa and sea salt and have a texture similar to a Fig Newton bar. Chocolate Sea Salt RX bars contain 13 grams of natural sugar (for context, a medium-size apple has 19 grams of sugar). Chocolate Sea Salt RX bars aren’t ideal for ketogenic diets, but the carb-to-protein ratio makes them a smart choice for people with diabetes, especially after a workout.
Best low carb protein bar Atkins Chocolate Peanut Butter protein bar
Atkins Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar is a top-rated low-carb protein bar with a low number of net carbs and a high amount of fiber. The protein blend is a combination of soy and whey protein with peanuts, cocoa powder and other natural flavors. The bars contain glycerin, which is naturally sourced from vegetables and adds to the soft texture. Keep in mind that Atkins protein bars contain saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels if consumed in excess.
Best natural protein bar Wella Cranberry Crunch protein bar
Wella Cranberry Crunch bars are packed with dry roasted peanuts, honey, dried cranberries and 12 grams of protein boosted with egg whites and milk powder. Cranberries contain disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber, and peanut butter is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc and potassium. The bars are also USDA-certified organic, gluten-free and non-GMO. Remember, Wella Cranberry Crunch bars should be refrigerated — the oils separate and turn the bar into a glob of peanut butter if left out too long.
Protein bars are ready-to-eat sources of protein that benefit people with many lifestyles and activity levels. The best protein bar for you is determined by if you want to gain muscle, lose weight or replace meals. Generally, look for high protein and low sugar and carbs. Some protein bars look good from the box but taste chalky or bitter. Remember, health experts don’t recommend eating more than one protein bar per day.
As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kathryn Parkman believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase, which is why she spends hours researching companies and industries for ConsumerAffairs. She believes conscious consumption is everyone's responsibility and that all content deserves integrity.