The 15 Best Healthy Protein Bars, According to an RD
Whether you’re looking to build muscle mass, improve muscle recovery after a hard-charging workout, or simply quell hunger between Zoom meetings, protein bars can be a great go-to option. But what are the best protein bars, of all dozens on the market?
Not all protein bars deliver top nutrition. Some are little more than candy bars full of questionable ingredients masquerading as health food. So how do you find the stand-outs that play by the nutritional rules and deserve a spot in your panty or gym bag?
What Are the Best Protein Bars Made From?
The first step in figuring out a healthy pick is to read nutrition labels carefully. When you’re looking for the perfect protein-packed option, here’s your cheat sheet:
Check the Protein
Aim for a bar with at least 10 grams of protein to satisfy hunger longer and build muscle. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To determine your daily protein intake, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36, or use this handy online protein calculator. For a 40-year-old man who weighs 190 pounds and is active, that translates into 69 grams of protein a day.
Keep Calories in Mind
Calorie counts on bars range widely. For between-meal snacking, stick with bars that have about 250 or less. If you’re replacing a meal, going all the way up to 400 calories can make sense.
Scan the Sugars
With flavors like salted caramel and fudge brownie, many protein bars straddle dessert territory. In other words, they can be sugar bombs. Our picks are made with no more than 5 grams of added sugar, with a preference for the sweet stuff coming from natural sources like dried fruits or more benign low-calorie sweeteners such as monk fruit. Be careful of high amounts of sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol which in some people can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Identify the Fats
Ideally, you want a bar made with healthier unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, and nut butters instead of less desirable sources like palm kernel oil or anything hydrogenated.
Know Your Grains
If a protein bar contains any grains, they should be whole such as oats or quinoa.
Fight for Fiber
We also feel that fiber is important to help keep you feeling full and to boost gut health. Besides, most guys fail to meet their daily fiber needs: Only five percent of men hit their target, according to a recent study. Skimping on fiber is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, two of the most common diseases in the U.S.
Most of the bar choices on our list have 3 grams of fiber or more per serving. If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber at once, ease into bars that include high amounts of isolated fibers like chicory root or corn fiber to help side-step digestive woes like gas and bloating.
Keeping those factors in mind, here are the best protein bars for men.
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