It has become popular to combine the world of protein and snacks. Since everyone is always on the go, it is no surprise that protein bars have become a popular snack choice, especially among those who train.
Full disclosure: I am an overthinker when it comes to—well, everything—but especially when choosing any packaged food. I don’t eat many pre-packaged foods, but when I do, I want what I want. And when I am looking for a packaged food that is a snack that won’t derail my nutrition, I tend to like a protein bar. And I’ve tried a lot of them.
Just like every packaged food, we are now left with shelves and shelves of choices. So it’s taken some time to find my ideal choice.
So what do we want from a protein bar?
When I look for a healthful snack, I look for something that will fuel me, not just fill me. This means something with protein and some carbs, something that is hopefully, tasty. Real food is always my first choice. Still, sometimes, when I am on the go (especially after a workout when I am running errands and won’t be able to grab “real food” for awhile), I want something quick and easy, something that keeps nicely in my purse. I also like a protein bar if I’m feeling like I want something sweet that won’t mess up my nutrition plan.
Ideally, a protein bar is a supplement. It’s not real food, so let’s not pretend for a minute that it is. Protein bars are popular in the fitness community because they contain that magic fitness elixir: protein.
A protein bar makes a great snack—between meals, post workout. And for those moments when you find yourself stuck somewhere and you haven’t eaten in awhile and you’re not going to eat anytime soon (i.e. “hangry” moments), protein bars are far more convenient than carrying a chicken breast or a yogurt in your backpack—and far less smelly than eating a hardboiled egg. (Thank you for not peeling in public.)
What to look for
Personally, I like a protein bar to come in at around 200 calories or less, at least 20g of protein, and around 20-25 carbs. (I am not referring to “net carbs.”) I find that to be the perfect ratio of calories/protein/carbs. It keeps me from getting peckish* and doesn’t spike my blood sugar or derail my nutrition plans. It’s also not enough to be a meal replacement, so I will still be fueling with real food later.
Also, I don’t want a lot of sugar or sugar alcohols (<5g). Too much sugar is just a candy bar in disguise. Sugar alcohols do a number on my stomach.
Without discussing every protein bar on the market, let’s just say that a lot of protein bars don’t make the cut because they are either too high in calories and carbs (usually sugar), or they simply don’t taste good.
Is the Quest Bar the answer?
If the question is, “Can I find a decent tasting protein bar that has mostly good ingredients and fits the macros I want and tastes good?” Then I have to say, “Yes.” Quest bars have low sugar alcohol content, and a few flavors with no sugar alcohols at all. They all come in around 200 calories, give or take 10 calories, and carbs are all around 20-25. Protein comes in at 20-21g. They have many sweet flavors to choose from.
So many protein bars, so little time.
Wait, aren’t there bars with more natural ingredients? Also bars with more protein?
You bet. But the bars with more natural ingredients don’t meet that ratio I want for my fitness nutrition goals. They tend to have way more carbs than protein, and they are often sweetened with dates and other fruits that do a number on my stomach. The bars with more protein always have a lot more sugar/sugar alcohols, and those really do a number on my stomach. And they don’t taste as good. (Anyway, it’s a snack, right? How much protein does it need to have?)
Are quest bars the best way to get protein?
Absolutely not. Real food is always the best way to get protein. But sometimes, when you want a quick snack or “treat” that’s got a protein punch, after trying many many bars—my vote is Quest Bars.
Remember, just like everything else, it’s all give and take.
If you are looking for a high carb snack, then protein bars are probably not your best choice.
If you are looking for real food, then protein bars are clearly not your best choice.
If you are looking for a sugary treat (we all need that sometimes), then protein bars are NOT the real deal.
If you are looking for a sensible high-protein sweet snack, then Quest Bars may just be a good choice for you.
Note: If you wrestle with sugar, you can overdo Quest Bars just like any other “treat.” (Any food can become a problem to those of us with food issues—even protein bars!)
Remember to fuel wisely.
* Peckish is an awesome and pretentious word that I have wanted to use in an article for a long time.