The Best Energy and Protein Bars

Best Energy and Protein BarsNot All Energy Bars are Created Equal: The Good, the Bad, the Unhealthy!

Being able to decipher nutrition label information, aside from flashy packaging and hype, is often crucial to discovering which nutrition bars are healthy options. Scottsdale, AZ based celebrity personal trainer, Lucas James and nutrition expert, Jason Apfel give you the break down of the best energy and protein bars on the market. Find out which are best for maintaining your weight loss or reaching your strength training goals!

With so many different brands and types of bars on the market, it’s often hard not to get confused.  Supplement bars include: meal replacement or diet bars, energy bars, fiber bars, breakfast bars and our favorite, protein bars. All these options can make choosing one that’s healthy and suits your goals both confusing and a challenge.

-‘Meal replacement bars’ are commonly used as ‘diet’ bars because they are packed with higher amounts of calories, primarily from carbohydrates, to fuel you with quick energy and ‘replace’ other higher fat options or snacks. While they can help to curve your appetite, they are often lower in protein than their nutrition bar counterparts.  More so, these bars often include pig or cattle derived binding agents & fillers, such as gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen.  Both collagen and gelatin lack the essential amino acids found in complete protein such as egg albumin. This translates into inferior protein sources and quality. The best time for these carbo- loaded bars is either before or after working out, to help boost your glycogen levels, for energy use or tissue repair.

-‘Energy bars’ are generally designed to give a boost to endurance athletes and active individuals, such as runners, swimmers, cyclists, triathletes, marathoners or even the avid group fitness aficionado. Be aware, ‘energy’ equals ‘calories’; similar to meal replacement bars, the main component in these bars are mainly carbohydrates.  Look for options with fewer sugars and good sources of complex carbs such as nuts or fruit, to fuel your high intensity workouts.

-Fiber & Breakfast bars focus on creating a nutrition bar with relatively similar levels of carbohydrates and fat, but with a small amount of protein and extra fiber to aid digestive health.  Watch out for bars frosted in sugar or syrup or packed with sugary fillings, such as store bought oatmeal bars or nutrigrain bars. Also, look for the amount of high fructose corn syrup, which can spike blood sugar levels and negate any potential benefits you might otherwise get from healthy ingredients such as oats and fiber.  Also, try and avoid sugar alcohols that can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea in large doses. While they are lower in calories, they are often added in bulk to achieve a similar taste. Note: ‘Low Fat’ options such as granola bars, does not translate to low sugar or low calories.

-Unless you have food allergies or digestive or kidney issues, protein bars are typically one of the best options for nutrition bars.  While they too can be coated with sugar or chocolate, they typically have the highest amounts of protein in relation to carbohydrates and fats.  They are designed with resistance / strength training in mind to help you build muscle and lose fat when you train. Look for a bar whose ingredients list hydrolyzed whey protein, whey isolate, whey concentrate, casein protein or a blend of all four. These milk-based proteins contain all the essential amino acids your muscles need to repair and build themselves up after workouts.

The Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, found that whey protein stimulates a rise in muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men (Age 21±1 yr), supportive of a positive net protein balance.

Our Top Picks

A++         “Power Crunch Protein Bars’ by BioNutritional

15g of Protein, 10g of Carbs, 5g of Sugars. These creme filled wafer cookie taste just like a real cookie and pack high quality Proto Whey, and almost no sugar.

A+           Kind Fruit & Nutt Bars, Kashi bars and Lara bars.

If you’re stuck on the convenience of eating a nutrition bar, look for products with no more than five ingredients. All have natural complex carbohydrates and ingredients, no additives and are high in Fiber!

A-          Promax LS

(low sugar) protein bars pack 18 grams of replenishing protein, have ‘all natural ingredients’, 14 grams of fiber and contain 40% less sugar than leading regular energy bars (9 grams versus 15-21). There are also no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, maltitol, or gelatin used. An added plus: they are gluten-free, kosher, and vegetarian.

B         ‘Cliff Builders’ protein  bars / Cliff energy Bar by Clif Bar, Inc.

Clif Bar is made with all-natural ingredients such as organic soy flour and soy protein. Its goal is to provide a boost of energy (or 20g protein from the ‘builder bars).  Regular cliff bars have a 4:1 carbohydrate : protein ratio, great for an energy-replenishing post-workout snack. Just watch out for their high levels of sugar!

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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