Can't decide if your favorite protein bar really benefits? You are not alone. A variety of choices can confuse anyone. Therefore, in cooperation with experts in the field of nutrition, we have compiled a list of what you should know about when making your next purchase.
So, the first thing you need to know about when studying a display case with a variety of protein bars in search of a suitable one:
Not all protein bars are equally healthy.
And to be honest, most bars with the label “healthy” have more in common with chocolates than with a handful of cabbage or a protein shake.
This is a healthy food industry, where it is much easier to put words on the label than you know, in reality, give you what you need.
But instead of letting you give up on marketing methods (they are applied in every business and for every product), we want to simplify your life. Because there are a lot of good protein bars on the market.
We are here to make it easier for you to distinguish a worthwhile purchase from a dummy.
This does not mean that you will have to earn a Ph.D. in nutrition. Just adhere to these five rules and no matter what bar you choose, you can be sure that you have not spent your time (and calories) on lousy candy.
5 rules for determining a good protein bar
Rule number 1: In a good bar, sugar is not in the composition in the first place
This rule sounds obvious, but here's why it is so important:
- Most people do not study the real composition. They just look at the amount of calories and protein.
- Most people do not know that the location of the component in the composition reflects its quantitative content in the product. If sugar is the very first, it means that it contains more than any other ingredient.
- Sugar has many different names, so it’s easy to be deceived. Topping the list of ingredients is dextrose (glucose), high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar or turbinado (brown sugar), all mean “sugar”.
And, if it looks like the bar is made from whole foods, don’t think that it has less sugar than sweets.
“Even if nuts and raisins are visible through the packaging, the bar may be coated with sugar,” says Valerie Goldstein, a registered nutritionist. “It looks like a handful of nuts and therefore looks very innocent. But even these “healthy bars” must be bound together. And usually it's sugar syrup. ”
IF YOU WANT TO BE SURE THAT THE BAR IS REALLY USEFUL, THE BASIC INGREDIENTS IN IT SHOULD BE THE SOURCE OF THE PROTEIN, FRUIT OR VEGETABLES, OR SOURCES OF USEFUL FATS, EXAMPLE.
Proteins, fats and carbohydrates, when consumed together with fiber (found in fruits and cereals), are digested more slowly than simple sugars, so they feel full longer. This means that you do not need sugar to be energetic; you just need a good source of energy.
The benefits of having good “essential” ingredients (proteins, fruits / vegetables, or a source of healthy fats) are part of what makes a good protein bar different from snacks.
These nutrients also have a beneficial effect on your weight and waist.
From every 10 grams of fiber you eat, the amount of fat in your abdomen will decrease by 4%. According to a 2013 study, monounsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, and oily fish, help people lose weight. And a review of studies published in Nutrition in 2015 showed that people on a high protein diet have lower BMIs and lower waist sizes.
Rule number 2: A good protein bar contains at least 10 grams of protein
This rule follows from what should be obvious “if”.
If you use the bar as a protein supplement or as a meal replacement, you want to get at least 10 grams of protein, and ideally even more.
“The most important thing I say to people is“ Understand how you plan to use the bar, ”says Anthony D'Orazio, director of nutrition and bodybuilding at Complete Human Performance. “If I want to find a complete protein replacement, I need a protein content of about 20 grams.”
This means that the source of protein will most likely go first in the list of ingredients. Whey isolate, casein, peas or egg white - any one of them will be a first-class option.
Soya chips appear on many labels and are considered “proteins”, but they are not the highest quality source. Therefore, if “soya chips” are in the first place, even if the bar has a high protein content, this is probably not the best choice.
If you do not use the bar as a protein supplement, then you can choose the option with a lower total amount of protein. In fact, D'Orazio sometimes supplements his breakfast bar with a higher content of fats and carbohydrates than protein. Why?
“I use it as a quick source of healthy fats .” - says D'Orazio. “The main ingredients are the familiar peanut butter and oatmeal.”
Rule number 3: Sugar content below 15 grams
Remember, we said that many protein bars are just sweets disguised as something good for you?
Here is the proof itself.
Did you know that the Gatorade Whey Protein Bar contains 29 grams of sugar? And in CLIF Builder Bars, 1 gram more sugar (21 g) than protein (20 g)? Compare this with the Met-RX Big 100 Colossal bar. A lot of protein (30 g). But at the same time, 400 calories and 32g of sugar.
What is the price?
Before you worry about sugar, know that this is not such a terrible villain as they expose him. And there are many excellent bars (RX Bar comes to mind) in which there are more than 10 grams of it. What's the catch? If the sugar content in the bar is more than 10 grams, most of them should come from fruits or other natural sources, such as lactose.
Why is natural sugar better?
Lactose from dairy products and fructose from fruits, like all sugars, contain 4 calories per gram. But unlike refined, natural sugars come with other nutrients that you get from fruits or dairy products, such as vitamin C, potassium, calcium, vitamin D and other elements that help your body function.
Good protein bars are often determined by the nutrients in their composition. This is exactly what makes a healthy bar different from a sweet one. Refined, added sugars do not carry any additional nutrients with them.
They can also harm you in the long run. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, the risk of dying from heart disease in people who get more than 21% of their daily calorie content from added sugars is twice as high as those who get only 10% of their calories from them .
Rule number 4: Watch out for sugar alcohols
No, there is no alcohol in the bars. Sugar alcohols are a category of artificial sweeteners.
They are known as xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt and glycerin. You will find them in all products labeled “sugar free”. And in many people, they can cause stomach problems, depending on the reaction to them.
“This is purely individual. “I personally do not have problems with them, but other people may have difficulty digesting because of them,” says D'Orazio.
As with whey concentrate, you need to pay attention to how the ingredient affects you. If, instead of a feeling of satiety from a bar, you have a desire more like a feeling that you need to run to the bathroom, you will want to stay away from it.
Rule number 5: Look for protein bars that have less than 400 calories
It is understood that good protein bars are used as supplements - what you use to strengthen weaknesses in your diet, like protein powder or multivitamins. They are designed to provide nutrients, protein, or calories from the rest of your diet, or if you were busy and skipped meals.
When a bar contains 400 calories or more, it’s more calories than you would have eaten Voper, a burger from Jr or half a plate of chipotle. And the bar is not necessarily “more useful” than these options.
For example, some popular bars contain 200 calories, of which you get only 6 grams of protein, but a hard-boiled egg will give you 7 grams! And it has less than 80 calories. Therefore, if you have a chance to eat a full meal, eat it. But of course, this is not always possible.
“You may find it difficult to carry food because there is no refrigerator in the workplace,” says D'Orazio. In such cases, the bars offer you some advantages. “Their portion is easy to control and they are pre-measured. They provide food that you won’t get in fast food. (But even so, the 400-calorie rule is still a good reference.)
“It's hard to overeat if you only have what you need with you.” If you plan to eat two bars, and you take only 2 pieces with you, you can use them as a tool for self-control. You control your consumption with a mobile product. ”