There are many reasons that people choose to eat protein bars. For some, they help to meet protein goals that are required for successful workout results. For others, they function as a healthy snack that helps to fill them up so that they can resist the temptation to ruin their diet with less healthy snack options. Some people like to take them along as a snack when they are traveling, hiking, or otherwise out-and-about and need a quick and easy energy source.
But finding the right protein bar can be tricky. Protein bars are often packed with necessary or unhealthy additives which can detract from the original intention of their product and use. Even when products have all the right ingredients, they sometimes fail to live up to the taste expectations that consumers have for their protein bars. The goal for many consumers is to find a protein bar that strikes the ideal balance between health and taste.
This guide will help users find the right protein bar for them by providing a rank of the best protein bars in 2023, as well as answers to some of the most commonly asked questions users have about protein bars and protein-based workouts.
Top 10 Best Protein Bars for Nutrient-Packed Snacks
Whether your goal is to lose weight, grow muscle, or just keep a quick and easy snack in reach, there are a wide variety of protein bars designed for your specific needs. Here we have ranked the 10 most popular protein bars based on our review of their true quality.
Maintain muscle gain & weight loss, while satisfying your cravings by snacking on these low in sugar, carbs, and calories protein bars. We ranked the top protein bars in 2023 and outlined frequently asked questions about protein bars in this guide.
1. Clif Builder’s Bar
The Clif Bar has been a popular protein bar product for a very long time now, and there was once a time that it would have graced our list. However, due to the current market opinions of unnecessary sugar, poor Clif got the boot.
The same brand that makes the Clif bar does make other products though and the Builder’s Bar does make the cut, although just barely. It contains 20 grams of protein which is a very good and impressive amount, but unfortunately, it also contains 22 grams of sugar and only 2 grams of fiber. While this product does offer more than enough protein, it comes at a sugar price that is just too steep to pay.
2. KIND Bars
KIND Bars contain significantly less sugar, but they also contain less of pretty much everything else. With only 9 grams of sugar to speak of, they also only have 7 grams of protein. They do have more fiber than the Builder’s Bar with 2.5 grams, but there just isn’t enough of anything important in this bar to do what a protein bar is meant for.
Larabar puts pretty much all of their eggs in the all-natural basket, so to speak. They build all of their bars with real fruit and dates, and they don’t use a single artificial ingredient. This makes their bars very healthy, but they’re also very heavy in carbohydrates.
Each bar has as much as 16 grams to 19 grams of sugar, though it is important to note that all of these sugars are from fruit and not a bit of it is from added sugar. It’s pretty low in protein for a protein bar at only 4 grams to 6 grams each, depending on the flavor.
4. thinkThin High Protein Bars
thinkThin isn’t just a protein bar for snacking or working out; this one is for replacing entire meals. It’s marketed as having 20 grams of protein with no sugar, which sounds a bit over the top. In reality, each bar contains a whopping 21 grams of sugar alcohols and absolutely no fiber. This bar has tons of protein to offer, but it’s far from the healthy option it claims to be and isn’t likely to fill you up like a meal should if it doesn’t have any fiber.
5. Pure Protein Bar
The Pure Protein Bar provides a massive dose of protein and has a ridiculously low amount of sugar. For most people searching for a great protein bar, this fits the bill pretty darn well. Unfortunately, they can achieve this only because they use a ton of artificial sweeteners. If you’re not a fan of huge doses of sugar alcohols, then you probably want to choose a different option.
6. OhYeah! Nutrition ONE
The Nutrition ONE bar gets its name from the fact that each bar contains only 1 gram of sugar. Most bars with such low sugar content are also low in everything else that matters, but this product provides 9 grams of fiber and 21 grams of protein, which is exactly the kind of balance that most people are looking for in a protein bar.
OhYeah! achieves this by using a 10 gram serving of sugar alcohols and a heavy-handed amount of saturated fat to make every bar taste good, which might not be what you’re looking for, especially if you want your protein bar to be healthy in its own right. If sugar alcohols and saturated fat don’t bother you, then you may decide the product is a good choice for your needs.
7. Epic All-Natural Meat Bar
The entire purpose of protein bars is to provide a quick and easy source of protein that you can take on the go. After all, most meals that are high in protein aren’t very portable. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until Epic created their All-Natural Meat Bar that anyone bothered to try getting that protein from the most obvious source.
This bar is made with preserved lean meat that is seasoned with various spices and packed with chia seeds. It provides 15 grams of protein and contains absolutely no sugar. The only real downside it the fact that it also contains no fiber, so if that’s something that’s important to you in a protein bar you should probably keep looking.
RXBar went in an entirely different direction with this product than anyone else has before. They basically rebuilt the idea of what a protein bar should be as if one has never existed before. This bar only has 6 ingredients, which are sea salt, chocolate, cashews, almonds, egg whites, and dates. The combination provides 15 grams of sugar, which is a bit high but all of it is natural, 12 grams of protein, and a massive amount of fiber.
9. Optimum Nutrition Opti-Bar
This protein bar is designed specifically for bodybuilders, so it focuses on being a carb lean source of massive protein doses. It does a pretty good job of that, and with each serving, you get 20 grams of protein, 10 whole grams of fiber, and just 1 gram of sugar. That’s pretty impressive.
It’s also the first product on our list to achieve this sort of balance without using massive amounts of sugar alcohols. The method it does use is an ingredient called isomalto-oligosaccharide, which is another 0 calorie sweetener used as an alternative to sugar. It’s up to you whether or not you care that this ingredient is used.
10. NuGo Slim
This bar from NuGo is probably the best option we could possibly find on the market. They are able to keep their carbohydrate count low, and they don’t have to throw in a ton of sugar or artificial sweetener to do it. Instead, they use chicory root as a natural sweetener, along with just a smidge of chocolate.
Every NuGo Slim bar has only 2 grams of sugar, but 7 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein. This is a pretty great provision for a product that also doesn’t contain any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Benefits And Side Effects
Protein is a vital nutrient for anyone who wants to lose fat or gain muscle. Ideally, your sources of protein would come from homemade meals that a fresh-cooked and full of lean protein, but most of us don’t have that option. This is especially true for those who are constantly on the go.
This is exactly why protein bars were invented. Most of the companies who made the first protein bars were focused on providing an adequate protein source for athletes, and now the industry has grown to cover a much larger market.
These days, protein bars have 3 distinct common uses, and many products focus primarily on 1 use case over the other 2. Protein bars can be used as a snack that provides a healthy energy source when you’re on the go, as a total meal replacement when you are trying to lose weight, or as a workout supplement to help you gain muscle. The use each bar is best for is most easily determined by the ingredients used to create it.
Any good protein bar is designed for one primary purpose, and that is to provide you with a quality protein source.
Everyone knows that protein helps you to build muscle, and this is such common knowledge that scientific proof isn’t really needed anymore. That being said, this doesn’t mean that the proof isn’t out there, and there are a number of studies that have shown how protein works within the body. The thing about protein that many people might not know is that it doesn’t only work for young people who love to work out. Protein is an energy source that can help anyone who knows how to get the right amount and put it to good use.
One group of researchers from The Netherlands published a study in 2012 that showed how protein could be used to help elderly subjects gain muscle and become less frail. They did this using a combination of protein and weightlifting to put that protein to work.
The protein source used in the study was a 15-gram supplement taken 2 times a day, which is about the same as what you can get from most quality protein bars. If simple exercises combined with regular use of protein bars can help strengthen weak elderly patients, it’s pretty likely to work for your needs as well.
No matter what your reason might be for wanting to gain muscle mass, your method should be fairly similar, and the primary priority of that method should be making sure that you get plenty of protein. This is why it’s important that your protein bar is able to provide plenty of protein without upping the carb and sugar dosage too much.
It’s you’re trying to lose weight then what you will want from a protein bar is a little bit different. You still want to make sure you get the same high dosage of protein, though. Nutrition and Metabolism published a study in 2008 which proved this.
The study followed a group of subjects who were given a protein shake every day and another group of subjects who were given a similar supplement that contained carbohydrates. The group who took the protein supplement was able to lose more fat and retain a higher muscle mass than those who had the carbohydrate supplement. If you want to maximize your results and get to your goal fitness level faster, protein is the way to go.
This might seem a bit counterintuitive at first. It does make very much sense that eating more of anything could help you lose weight. It makes sense that it would help you maintain and grow muscle mass, but how does protein help you to actually lose weight faster?
The biggest reason that a high-protein diet can help you to lose weight is that protein can increase your satiety, which is you’re the feeling you get when your body starts to get full. Many people think that carbohydrates are the best type of food to help you feel full, but studies have proven that proteins will outperform carbohydrate in this right every time.
There was a European researcher who wrote an article about exactly how this works in 2008, but it’s not important to know every scientific detail. The overall point is that protein fills you up faster, and high protein content in your diet can help you to eat less, therefore losing weight.
Protein isn’t the only thing that factors into satiety, though. There is also fiber. Obesity research has confirmed time and time again that the higher someone’s fiber content in their diet is, the more likely they are to weigh less.
Researchers and nutrition experts have been studying the way dietary fiber works in your body to decrease hunger and stave off weight gain for a long time, and they’ve been reporting conclusive results since 2000. All of this means that if you want your protein bar to help you feel full and work as part of a weight loss plan, then you should look for a bar that contains not just a high amount of protein but a high amount of fiber as well.
The last piece to the weight loss puzzle when using protein bars is to also ensure your selection has low sugar content. All of the current research suggests that sugar is the primary culprit in causing the body to gain weight. There have been a variety of studies about the connection between weight gain and sugar intake, both small-scale and large-scale, and they have all shown that sugar is a primary cause of weight gain, as well as the negative side effects that obesity can cause, such as Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The Lancet published a paper by Dr. David Ludwig and some other researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University in 2001 that grew to become very influential, and it found that every added serving of sugar had a measurable effect on subjects. For every serving of a drink that was sweetened with sugar per day, there was a 0.24 kg/m2 increase in their overall mass. The line between healthy and overweight is only a few digits on the BMI scale, so this is a pretty significant finding.
So what is the actual suggested serving of sugar for each person per day? According to The American Heart Association, women should only consume about 25 grams of sugar a day and men should not have more than 37 grams a day. This really puts those protein bars that have as much as 20 grams a sugar in each bar into perspective.
If you are looking to gain muscle mass, you should focus on high protein content. If your goal is to lose weight, then you should keep the protein content high and also focus on high fiber and low sugar. If all you really want from your protein bar is a healthy snack, then it’s safe to assume that the protein bars which are best for weight loss are also the best options for your snacking needs. They will help you to feel full from your snack without pumping a bunch of sugar or artificial junk into your system.
At the end of the day, any good protein bar is no different than any other food. There are really very many side effects related to them because they don’t contain any substances that are out of the ordinary.
That being said, too much of any good thing is going to be bad for you. This is even truer if the product you have selected isn’t exactly top-shelf. If you eat too many protein bars that don’t have enough fiber or have too much sugar, this could have a negative effect on your metabolism. As always, you should carefully monitor how much you are eating and make sure the bar you choose is a healthy one.
If the protein bars you select have a high amount of sugar alcohol, usually because of artificial sweeteners, this could be a problem. Taking in too much sugar alcohol can lead to bloating, stomach aches, and other gastronomic issues.
Kauko K. Mäkinen published a research article in the International Journal of Dentistry that rather graphically details the possible side effects that people can experience if they overdose on sugar alcohols. If you are 1 of the many people who are more sensitive to artificial sweeteners than usual, you should keep this in mind when selecting your ideal protein bar.
Protein bars really are just food, and how often you should eat them depends entirely on what you want to get out of it. If you’re trying to build muscle, you need to carefully calculate what your daily intake of protein needs to be for you to achieve the results you are looking for, and then you can divide that amount by the protein in your protein bars to determine how many you will need each day.
Regardless of your reason for using protein bars, it is probably best to avoid eating more than 3 of them a day. If you’re taking any more than that, it is probably safe to say that you aren’t getting enough nutrients from other sources, like normal food.
If you are using protein bars to replace your meals to help achieve weight loss, then you shouldn’t take more than 1 or 2 each day. It’s important that you still get good, quality meals every day. No matter how aggressive your diet is, you still need to get real food at breakfast and at dinner. This way you can still get your daily dose of fiber, fruit, and vegetables which are also vital to any healthy diet.
If your only reason for wanting protein bars is to get a convenient and filling snack, it’s not quite as important to track your protein intake. However, you should still be careful not to eat protein bars that are too high in sugar or too low in fiber. If not, you’re basically just eating a candy bar. It’s the protein and the fiber that makes you feel full and satisfied, so without them, there isn’t much point in eating protein bars at all.
Frequently Asked Questions About Protein Bars
While this section could never be truly comprehensive and complete, we have gathered and provided answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about protein bars within this growing industry of bars and protein snacks.
Q: What is a protein bar?
A: A protein bar is a nutrition bar that contains a high proportion of protein relative to carbohydrates and fats. Protein bars mainly function to maximize the intake of protein in users, although the bars are used to a variety of ends, depending on the fitness goals of the consumer.
Q: What are the best protein bars?
A: The most popular protein bars available today include the protein bars sold by Gatorade, Clif, Rise, Vega, Pure Protein, Quest, Grenade, and Kind. However, protein bars vary widely in terms of ingredients and nutritional value, so we recommend choosing the best protein bar based on your unique needs. Consumers should also consider that the most popular bars might not be the best ones, especially where quality control and healthiness are concerns.
Q: Are protein bars good for you?
A: Protein bars contain a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat, making them an ideal snack or post-workout meal. However, some protein bars contain excessive amounts of sugar or calories, which could make them bad for you. To make sure that they are using protein bars that are good and healthy for the body, users should carefully evaluate the ingredients included in the protein bars they choose.
Q: Do protein bars make you gain weight?
A: Protein bars can support a weight loss routine or make you gain weight. It all depends on your exercise and diet habits. Generally, protein bars will help you lose weight when taken at recommended doses to support a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, protein bars high in sugar can make you gain weight more easily.
Q: When should you eat protein bars?
A: Protein bars are best eaten after a workout. Your body needs protein to recover after a workout. However, protein bars can be taken at any time of day, especially if you're mainly eating the protein bars as a healthy snack.
Q: Is it okay to eat protein bars everyday?
A: Yes, it should be okay to eat protein bars every day, as long as you’re fitting the protein bars into your daily macronutrient requirements. Users that aren't exercising at all or are not maintaining a healthy diet might want to avoid excessive protein bar usage.
Q: What protein bars are the healthiest?
A: Any protein bars that emphasize high levels of protein, low levels of sugar, and simple, whole food ingredients with minimal processing should be healthier for you than other protein bars.
Q: What are the best protein bars for weight loss?
A: The best protein bars for weight loss are protein bars with high levels of protein and low levels of carbs and calories. However, the best protein bars for weight loss will vary depending on your diet, exercise levels, and nutritional habits. As always, protein bars are best chosen after a conversation with your doctor or nutritionist about your body's needs and deficiencies.
Q: How many protein bars can you eat each day?
A: As long as you’re meeting your macronutrient intake, there’s no limit to the number of protein bars you should eat each day. However, most people should take no more than 2-3 protein bars per day, especially if they lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Protein bars still have calories, so they can cause weight loss if users don't move around sufficiently.
Q: Do protein bars help you lose weight?
A: Protein bars can help you lose weight when paired with an effective diet and exercise routine.
Q: Is it okay to eat two protein bars a day?
A: If you’re fitting protein bars with your macro-nutrient intake, then it should be okay to take two protein bars per day. Make sure that you're maintaining a workout regimen and proper diet to avoid gaining weight through the use of protein bars.
Q: Is it bad to eat protein bars daily?
A: It’s not bad to take protein bars daily, as long as you’re maintaining a healthy nutritional balance overall and you avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Q: When should you eat a protein bar?
A: You should eat a protein bar after spending energy, such as after a workout of strenuous physical activity. Your body needs protein to recover after a workout. Protein bars can also be eaten as a healthy snack.
Q: Will protein make you poop?
A: Eating too much protein can make you constipated, especially if you’re not drinking enough water. Certain sources of protein, including dairy and processed food, can cause you to have loose stool, however. Users with digestive issues or IBS should consult the label for more information about relevant ingredients.
Q: How much protein should you eat in a day?
A: The average sedentary man requires 56g of protein per day, while the average sedentary woman requires 46g of protein per day. These numbers are different if you workout consistently or do a job that requires strenuous physical activity.
Q: How do you know if you're eating too much protein?
A: Symptoms of overindulgence include bad breath, weight gain, constipation, diarrhea, dehydration, and calcium loss. If you eat too much protein for an extended period of time, it could lead to kidney damage or heart disease.
Q: How much protein should you eat a day to lose weight?
A: Daily protein intake varies based on weight. However, nutritionists suggest taking 1.6g to 2.2g of protein per kg (0.73 to 1g per pound) to lose weight. Athletes and heavy exercisers should take 2.2 to 3.4g of protein per kilogram (1 to 1.5g per pound) for weight loss.
Q: What happens if you eat too much protein?
A: Too much protein can lead to weight gain, constipation, bad breath, diarrhea, dehydration, and calcium loss. In more extreme cases, it can also lead to kidney damage or heart disease.
Q: What happens if you don't eat enough protein?
A: If you don’t get enough protein, then you are protein deficient. You might experience muscle cramping, weakness, and soreness. Your body starts taking protein from muscle tissue to use as energy to support other vital body functions when protein is low.
Q: Does protein burn fat?
A: Protein can help you lose weight and burn fat – including belly fat. Protein shakes have been shown to help with weight loss in certain studies. However, protein will only help you lose weight when paired with a healthy, balanced diet and exercise routine.
Q: Does protein improve athletic performance?
A: Protein can help improve athletic performance by building muscle and strength. Athletic performance in a variety of sports is linked to muscle and strength. A high protein diet can certainly improve athletic performance.
Q: What is a high protein breakfast?
A: High protein breakfasts include overnight oats with fruit, cottage cheese toast, smoked salmon, avocado toast, turkey sausage and egg sandwiches, eggs, whole wheat English muffins, peanut butter, cheddar cheese, and whole wheat bread.
Q: Does protein help burn belly fat?
A: Protein can help you lose weight and burn belly fat. However, protein works best when paired with a balanced diet and exercise routine. Protein will not help you lose weight if you don’t adjust other lifestyle habits.
Q: How can you reduce my stomach fat?
A: The best way to reduce stomach fat is to lower weight overall. Losing weight can significantly reduce your stomach fat. Protein bars can help with this by providing you with the energy and nutrients necessary to exercise consistently. Protein bars can also present a healthier alternative to sugary snacks and treats that might ruin your diet.
Q: How can you reduce my tummy in 7 days?
A: The best way to lose short-term weight is to stop eating or drinking and start exercising. Be aware, however, that short-term weight loss may not be healthy or sustainable. Losing tummy fat in seven days is not healthy, and in many cases it is not possible.
Q: Does drinking hot water make you lose weight?
A: Some studies show that drinking hot water before a meal could increase metabolism by up to 30%. As with any weight loss strategy, however, you need to pair it with a healthy diet and exercise routine to be successful.
Q: How can you lose your muffin top?
A: The best way to lose a muffin top is to lose weight overall. It’s impossible to target weight in specific parts of your body. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to lose your muffin top. For serious weight loss concerns, approach your physician about diet and exercise advice.
Q: How can you lose my muffin top in 2 weeks?
A: The best way to lose your muffin top in two weeks is to significantly reduce all calorie consumption and start exercising. However, short-term weight loss may not be safe or sustainable, and users should aim for consistent weight loss over a long period of time (1-2 pounds per week is recommended).
Q: What causes a muffin top?
A: A muffin top is caused by excess weight. Stress seems to particularly lead to weight gain around the waist, as stress raises levels of cortisol, which increases belly fat.
Q: How can you make your waist small?
A: The best way to make your waist small is to adopt a healthy diet and exercise routine. Protein bars can help by providing a healthy alternative to sugary snacks and providing the energy necessary for weight loss workouts.
Final Words on Best Protein Bars
If you’re traveling or too busy to fix a proper meal, protein bars can be a great snack to help fill you up and give you the energy you need for your day without ruining your diet in the process.
The best protein bar products are those that have a good amount of fiber as well as protein without overdoing it on the sugar. The best products can do all of this and also still taste good. This combination can be hard to find, with the actual flavor seeming to be the hardest part to achieve after all of the other pieces have been put into place.
Even though protein bars aren’t medical, you should still be careful not to eat too many of them. Overdoing it on these products is just as dangerous as having too much chocolate, or pizza, or even water. Balance is a vital key to any good life, and also to any good protein bar.