Buyers Guide: The Best Pure Protein Bars You Can Buy!
Review of The Top 3 Pure Protein Bars
The only way to do a comprehensive review is, in my opinion, to look at each bar one by one. I will start with the highest rated and work my way down. One aspect that all the bars have in common is that they are all very affordable when it comes to cost per bar when compared to many other brands.
Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter
These have the exact same nutritional breakdown as the chewy chocolate chip bars (#2). The reason that people tend to rank this above is because of the excellent taste. One of the best things about Pure Protein products is that even though they are relatively inexpensive you don't have to sacrifice taste or value.
The reason that people tend to rank this above is because of the excellent taste. One of the best things about Pure Protein products is that even though they are relatively inexpensive you don't have to sacrifice taste or value.
With just 2g of sugar, 6g of fat and 20g of protein, it's no wonder these bars are so highly rated.
2. Pure Protein Chewy Chocolate Chip
These bars still taste excellent but are slightly lower rated. Time to look into the nutrition info. First and foremost it makes sense to look at the protein, which comes in at 20 grams per bar, you can't do much better than that.
Secondly, they have 15 net carbohydrates (1g fiber), which includes 2 grams of sugars. I tend to prefer lower carb bars myself, but depending on why you want to use protein bars you might actually want to have carbs, maybe as part of a meal replacement.
Finally, the overall calories are 200g /bar, which is a good size as a snack, or you can have a couple for a meal replacement.
3. Pure Protein S'mores
Again the taste of the S'mores bar is solid, so I won't talk any more about that. The nutrition is similar but there are some significant differences. The protein is slightly less at 19 grams per bar, which isn't a huge deal.
The biggest changes are the carbohydrates and fats. These bars have 19 net grams of carbs, but overall only have 200 calories in the bar which means, there are fewer fats. If you are trying to lose weight having a lower calorie bar could really add up over time.
The S'mores packing over 200 all important calories taste amazing and it almost feels like you're “cheating” by eating them as they are as close to a chocolate bar as you can get…whilst still being ‘good'…!
What To Look For When Buying Protein Bars
One really useful tool for weight loss is the humble protein bar, but that's a really vague statement to make and the fact that so many personal trainers say things like this result in a lot of confusion. So we need to dive a bit deeper to understand how protein bars can be good for weight loss and what you need to know before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Some Background on Protein Bars
One of the reasons that kind of statement is so vague is because the protein bar has become the catch-all term for the ‘health industry' for any type of snack bar they want to sound healthier. So whilst there are definitely many quality products out there that are indeed healthy, there are just as many that are garbage and you need to stay away from them.
The best protein bar for weight loss depends on a few different things, I'm going to break them down here in short sections and then we'll combine them to get an overall picture.
Unless you have diet restrictions (read: vegetarian, vegan), protein is protein for the most part. If you were using the bars for other reasons like a post workout snack you might want to lean towards bars made with only whey protein, which most do nowadays. For weight loss, we're more concerned with having a decent supply of protein so that our muscles aren't degrading whilst we are losing weight.
The term net carbohydrates refers to the total carbohydrates minus the dietary fiber, since you can't absorb that (Note that fiber is not included in calorie counts on labels either). As a general rule of thumb we want to avoid carbohydrates in bars for two reasons:
- Carbs in bars are usually from poor sources like processed sugars
- Carbs trigger an insulin release which we want to avoid in order to lose weight
This shouldn't be a huge surprise but if we're trying to lose weight it is a good idea to minimize calories for the most part. Whether you intend for these bars to be a snack or meal replacement we'll try to keep the calories low.
Putting it All Together
Let's summarize what we're looking for in the ideal best protein bar for weight loss in order of priority:
- Low calories
- Low carbohydrates
- High Protein
Remember the comparison chart on I mentioned earlier? Now's the time to actually use it. There's no one perfect bar that wins on all these criteria, so you have to weigh what's most important to you (including taste).
If we sort by calories and then look at all the different net carbs (carbs minus fiber remember), the winner seems to be the Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars with 200 calories and only 7 net carbs. Is this the best bar for you?
When is the Best Time to Eat Protein Bars?
So you have these protein bars laying around, maybe you bought them, maybe someone gave them to you, a friend or co-worker, but what are you supposed to do with them? If you're unfamiliar with protein bars don't worry, I'm going to walk you through when you should eat protein bars in this post.
What Protein Bars Offer
The first thing we need to understand before going any further is what's in a protein bar. You probably guessed there's some protein in it, but you need to check just how much because it can range from a few grams to up to 20 grams of protein per bar.
The next thing you want to look at is the total calories in the bar while the protein will make up a good portion of the calories, the rest is usually made up of a combination of carbohydrates and fats, both are energy sources for the body.
On top of the caloric content, bars often offer added vitamins and minerals, which won't be our main consideration, but still a positive aspect of the bars that you should know about.
When to Have Protein Bars
Now you know what's in these things, the next step is to determine when to eat them. Think of the bars as a normal food, with X number of calories in it, typically 200 or so. Over the course of the day you need to eat around 2000 calories if you're a woman, and 2500 calories if you are a man.
This is if you are simply maintaining your bodyweight and not looking to gain or lose mass.
Factoring this in, with a bar being roughly 8-10% of your daily calories. If you wanted to have the bars as a meal, maybe for a quick breakfast or a convenient lunch at work when you're busy, you will have to figure out how many calories you need.
For example, if you eat 4 meals a day and are an average sized woman, you need approximately 500 calories per meal. If your particular protein bars have 200 calories, you should aim to have 2-3 to replace a meal. Just remember that if you have 2 you need to make that extra 100 calories up somewhere else unless you're trying to lose weight. On the other hand, if you have 3 you will have to have 100 calories less at one of your other meals.
Bottom line is that protein bars are food just as much as they are tools for your diet. Use them to get your daily calories in, whatever your goals are.
The Best Protein Bars: The Ultimate Nutritional Guide
Some of the most common reasons for consuming a daily protein bar are:
- To meet daily protein needs
- For a healthy snack
- For a convenient meal replacement
- As a great tasting snack
What you’ll notice from that list is that protein bars are extremely versatile. The term itself can refer to any number of bars, which means there is a good bar for everyone if you know what to look for. However, you also need to know how to avoid candy bars that are in disguise as real healthy protein bars.
In this guide, we’ll be going over the following:
- What to look for in a bar, and what to avoid
- The best bars on the market for your specific needs – that are within your budget!
- Reviews of all the bars talked about
1. What to Look For in a Protein Bar?
There are many important factors behind a bar, here are the main ones you need to know about and look for:
- 1a. Protein: high quality and quantity
- 1b. Carbohydrates and fats: Which are good sources and which are bad
- 1c. Calories: How important is this for you? Lower isn’t always better
- 1d. Dietary restrictions: If you have allergies or a special diet, learn how this affects your choice of bar
1a. Protein Content and Quality
It’s a red flag right away if a PROTEIN bar has a low amount of protein. This is usually the case with low-quality meal replacement bars that are trying to pretend to be healthy. While the size of bars varies, and there are a few special exceptions, an average high-quality product will have 20 or more grams of protein.
There are many different types of protein, and some are better than others. Most bars feature a high amount of nuts, which are OK sources of protein, but not complete. The best sources are whey isolate and egg proteins. All this means is that while protein bars can definitely be a part of a great diet, don’t rely on them for a high percentage of your protein needs on a regular basis.
1b. Carbohydrates and Fats
To keep it simple, you’ll typically see two types of carbohydrates in most products: natural sources and refined sources. It shouldn’t be a surprise that refined sugars are bad and should be avoided for many reasons.
Look for these carbohydrate sources in the ingredients:
- Maple syrup
And avoid these…
- Rice syrup
- Sucrose (table sugar)
A good quality protein bar rarely has a high amount of carbohydrates. Unless you have a reason to look for high carbohydrate bars, aim for under 5 grams per serving.
While carbohydrates typically are added to improve taste, fats are usually in the product because they come along with the protein. A relatively high amount of fat isn’t necessarily something to be scared of, just check the ingredients to see where it’s coming from.
Fats from nuts? Good.
Fats from processed vegetable oils? BAD!
1b* An Addendum: Sweeteners
As mentioned, carbohydrates are often added to improve taste, but sometimes, sweeteners and sugar alcohols are added in their place.
These are not necessarily bad or unhealthy, but some can cause you to feel sick due to their intense sweetness. This varies from person to person, so you’ll have to try each to see if they cause you any issues.
The most common sweeteners that are generally considered safe as far as overall health concerns go are:
- Sugar alcohols: Sorbitol, erythritol, maltitol, and xylitol
1c. Calorific Content
The overall calorie level of a bar comes from the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Some bars will have a high amount of calories, others have a low amount. There is a good deal of variety, so you should be able to find a suitable option for you.
Low-calorie bars are good for: Losing weight and low-carb/ ketosis diets (If a bar has low calories and a lot of protein, it’s hard for there to be many carbohydrates)
High-calorie bars are best for gaining weight (muscle mass) or for meal replacements as they will keep you satisfied for longer.
1d. Dietary Restrictions Explored
First, look at your diet. If you're on Keto or a low carb diet of any kind you need to be really careful choosing because many have significant amounts of carbohydrates.
Do you eat animal products? Most bars are based on whey protein, but there are options for soy/vegetarians; these bars have been shown to be as effective as whey bars in past studies.
Also, consider allergies; I hate to say it, but if you're allergic to nuts you are going to have a very tough time finding a safe protein bar. Look first for bars composed of whey protein (unless you also have a dairy allergy), or instead, look into making your own.
Another dietary consideration is fiber. If you lack fiber in your diet this can be a great opportunity to fill that gap. Some bars have a considerable amount of fiber while others have very little.
Section 1 Summary
Now that you know what you are looking for and what to avoid, write it down or keep it in mind. I’m about to show you how to find a bar that perfectly fits your exact needs.
2. The Best Protein Bars on the Market
I've researched as many leading products as I could and compiled a chart of all the different properties of each bar. Explanations are below the chart if needed, but it’s pretty intuitive, click on the header titles to sort.
If you’re just looking for a versatile and high-quality protein packed bar that you’ll love, the protein bar comparison table should be enough. But, I also talked about specific goals before, which I would like to address individually, so you can scroll down or use these quick links to see the most appropriate products for your goals:
2a. Which Bar has the most Protein?
Whether you are just looking for a simple snack or you’re looking to build muscle mass, protein is important. Using the chart above, finding the product with the most protein is simple:
The Most Protein Packed Bar (by quantity)
MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Meal Replacement Bar
No bar even comes close to the whopping 31 grams of protein per Met-Rx Meal Replacement bar. The problem that you may have with it is that it also comes with 410 calories, which is the highest calorie protein bar on the market.
Now if you’re looking to build mass and gain weight, high-calorie protein bars aren’t a problem, and this is the best option for the amount of protein and calories for the price that you’ll pay.
However, if you’re looking for the bar that contains the highest proportion of protein, you might want to consider the following option…
The Most Protein Packed Bar (by percentage)
When you look at the amount of protein a bar has as a percentage of its calories, there are several bars that still offer good ratios and better ones than Met-Rx bars.
The best of the best are Quest Bars, which contain a solid 20 grams of protein, or 80 calories or their 170 calorie total. This equates to a protein percentage of just under 50 percent. The Met-Rx bar, on the other hand, is only about 30 percent.
With this option, you will pay more per calorie and per gram of protein, but you also get the added benefit of higher quality ingredients. There are many good options for getting your protein in, so feel free to check out the other bars in the review chart above if you’re still curious.
2b. Finding a Healthy Protein Bar
Like I mentioned before, there are lots of good reasons for incorporating protein bars into your diet.
This isn't really a yes or no topic, like many things in nutrition it can depend. First and foremost it requires thought ahead of time before buying and eating. If you are already at your allotted daily calorie intake and you're snacking on bars for no reason, then yes I would consider that unhealthy. On the other hand, if you have planned to eat a bar or two and have incorporated that into your daily diet it can be very good.
The main aspect that will affect how healthy or not a bar is the ingredients. I would have liked to include this in some way in the protein bar review chart but did not see an effective way because the ingredients vary widely in each product. Nonetheless, you should look at what is in the bar before buying it.
Typically the chocolate/candy flavored ones are going to have more added sugar compared to the ‘Natural' or organic bars. The best bars will typically have higher quality ingredients and are packed with protein. A shortcut for this is to look at how many net carbohydrates are on the chart by subtracting the fiber from the total carbohydrates. If net carbohydrates are high it is going to be likely that there is more added sugar.
Like anything you typically get what you pay for. The ones on the chart with a low $ per bar price are the cheapest and typically going to be lower in quality when compared to the $$ or $$$ marked products. It's up to you to decide how much the quality in each bar is worth to you and what you can afford.
After going through all the bars on the market, here is my pick for the healthiest protein bars:
The Healthiest Protein Bar
Quest Nutrition – Quest BarE
Quest bars are renowned for their quality ingredients and are in my opinion the healthiest bars you can eat. The protein is high quality, with most of it coming from whey and milk protein isolates.
The almonds add a nice texture and a bit of quality fats and decent protein while the cocoa brings a lot of healthy minerals to the bars. The only questionable ingredient is sucralose, an artificial sweetener that most people can handle just find, but some people may have issues with. I recommend trying them out if you are worried about this.
The 24 grams of carbohydrates might seem high at first, but 19 of those are dietary fiber, meaning you don’t digest them. So really there are about 5 grams of carbohydrates, not too high.
There are a ton of flavors (over 10), so the ingredients will vary a bit from bar to bar. In general, though, Quest bars are as healthy as they come.
2c. The Best Meal Replacement Bar
A great reason to have a box of bars laying around is to be able to grab one as a meal replacement whenever you’re busy or in a rush to get something to eat.
Certain protein bars can be considered as meal replacements due to having a substantial calorie content. Having significant amounts of protein and fat, which leads to a high-calorie count, contributes to how satiating a meal is, which is why these bars can keep you full until you find a chance to get a normal meal in.
The Best Meal Replacement
MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Meal Replacement Bar
Given that MET-Rx designed this product to be a meal replacement, it really lives up to its name.
These bars have a massive 410 calories each, which is a solid meal for most people. Two of them is more than enough for just about anyone.
These bars are also fairly cheap, which adds to the appeal.
The big drawback is in the quality of the ingredients. In my opinion, you wouldn’t want to rely on these very often. There is a high amount of sugar due to containing fruit concentrates, sugar, glucose syrup, and corn starch. There are also some low-quality oils like palm oil and canola oil.
The protein quality is actually decent, a combination of soy protein and whey protein isolate.
In summary, these are good meal replacement bars on a budget, but you wouldn’t want to consist solely on them.
or, here’s an alternative option for you that’s healthier…
The Best Meal Replacement (Alternative with fewer carbohydrates)
Organic Food Bars, Protein
An organic food bar doesn’t contain quite as many calories, but still more than an average bar at 330 each.
There is also only 22 grams of protein in these, which isn’t quite as much as MET-Rx products.
The saving grace is in the quality of the ingredients. This is a more expensive, but a healthier option.
While the protein quality isn’t as high, mainly composed of brown rice protein, the rest of the ingredients are far more desirable than the alternative. The bar features all organic ingredients and high-quality carbohydrate sources like dates and agave nectar, paired up with fat sources like almond butter
2d. Which are the Best Tasting Bars?
If you want a good tasting bar that’s healthier than a candy bar, there are many products that cater to you. At the same time, realize that the best tasting options are also not usually the healthiest.
To predict how you will like the taste I suggest looking at two things in the review chart above on this page: flavor and rating. The rating tells you what at a minimum 100 people thought of the overall product, the main component of this rating will obviously taste.
Secondly, combine the rating with the flavor based on if you like that flavor in general, like chocolate or peanut butter. Using these two together you should be able to have a good idea of which is the best protein bar for you.
The most popular tasting protein bar
Power Crunch High Protein Energy Snack – Cookies and CreamE
Notice how I said most popular and not best tasting. I highly encourage you to look at the options in the chart and finding one that matches your preferences. However, I will provide this as an option that is widely popular with consumers.
The fact that the product is called a snack indicates the quality of the ingredients. There are a ton of processed sugars and syrups, along with low-quality vegetable oils.
Surprisingly, the protein quality is pretty good. Most of the protein in this snack bar are from whey protein blends and isolates.
Overall, a fairly inexpensive and good tasting bar. Power Crunch also offers many other flavors as well if you’re not a fan of cookies and cream.
The Ultimate Protein Bar Nutrition Guide Summary:
So there you have it, everything you need to know about choosing a perfect bar. You should now know:
- High and low-quality proteins
- Good and bad sources of carbohydrates and fats
- How to accommodate dietary preferences
- How to use the review chart at the start of section 2 to find the best protein bar for you
What Are The Healthiest Protein Bars?
The quest for the healthiest protein bars is not an easy one, partly because it's difficult to define healthy. Nonetheless, in this article, we attempt to identify the critical components that make up a protein bar's nutritional spectrum and try to classify bars in order of ‘healthiness'.
Factors that Affect Protein Bars Nutrition
We use ‘Healthiest' here as a term to describe the nutrition breakdown of food and also the quality of ingredients. There are 4 main parts of a protein bar that contribute most to whether or not the bar is healthy.
Protein: This is obviously a primary element of the bar given that they are protein bars. There are a few different types of proteins; whey, casein, and soy are the most commonly used in health products. Whilst they absorb at different rates (whey is fastest, then soy, and casein) there is no substantial difference in terms of health impacts, they are all complete proteins (offer all essential amino acids).
Fiber: There is no quality metric for fiber, basically there is one type and fiber in one product is as good as fiber in another. What does matter here is the quantity? The average person does not have enough fiber in their diet, which for an average woman is 25 grams and for a man is 38 grams per day. Protein bars can make up a substantial portion of this and it's a shame to waste this opportunity.
Carbohydrates: This is perhaps the hardest area to classify as healthy or not. Excess carbs in any form are not healthy. Also, carbs from whole grains are preferable to carbs from sugars. While there's no easy way to check this aside from the label, in general, cheaper protein bars will contain more sugar. As far as healthiness is concerned we don't need to completely eliminate carbohydrates, but we want to limit them and observe the quality.
Vitamins and Minerals: This is the hardest to compare from bar to bar. In general, we know that we want vitamins and minerals but it depends on a lot of things whether or not one vitamin or mineral is more important than another for any one person. Because of this, they should be thought more of as a bonus unless you specifically require something.
What are the Healthiest Protein Bars?
Based on the above our criteria for a healthy protein bar are:
- High fiber
- Low Carbohydrates
- Quality Carbohydrates
Using the chart above as an aid to help compare the bars the top 3 best protein bars are….drumroll, please…
Quest Nutrition Protein Bars
Net Carbohydrates: 5g
Quest bars are well known in the health bar industry and it appears for good reason. There is a ridiculous 19 grams of fiber in each one of these chocolate protein bars along with a very low amount of carbohydrates.
Quest Bar 100% Natural Coconut Cashew
Net Carbohydrates: 7g
While not quite as high in fiber or low in carbohydrates, the coconut cashew flavored bar is also offered by Quest and is the second healthiest protein bar in my opinion based on our criteria.
Organic Food Bar
Net Carbohydrates: 24g
This bar actually surprised me and was the third healthiest. Instead of whey, casein, or soy, it uses brown rice protein which is also a complete protein, but maybe, more importantly, is a vegetarian option. Along with that, it also has 9 grams of fiber, which may only be about half of the Quest bars but is still very high. The net carbohydrates are a little on the high side which is the main reason it is not as healthy as the aforementioned bars.
In summary, you should now have an idea of what to look for in a bar. If you don't like my recommendations head on over to the homepage and use the protein bar comparison chart to find the healthiest protein bars in your opinion.