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Need Help Picking a Protein Bar? Here Are Some Tips

Updated on August 25, 2019

20 grams of protein, 40 grams…is 10 grams of fat too much? Should I even be eating protein bars at all? There are so many questions, and so many protein bars. Here are a few tips so you can spend more time lifting and less time picking a protein bar.

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Be aware of how much protein you need in a day. For your average Joe, a common dietary recommendation is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The recommended amount varies based on things like the amount of physical activity you do in a day. For example, the recommended consumption for athletes is 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight based on the position of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. This may mean eating roughly 1.4-1.8 grams/kg of protein per day for a strength training/power athlete, and for endurance athletes (shout to all our runners out there) roughly 1.2-1.4 grams/kg of protein per day. Based on these dietary recommendations, a way to calculate roughly how much protein you need, is to multiply your body weight (in kilograms) x 0.8 grams of protein/kg. The multiplier may change based on, for instance, the amount or type of physical activity that you do.

Exceeding these recommended ranges may not result in much benefit. Let’s take a 170lb (67 kilogram) male weight trainer as an example. If you multiple his weight, 67 kilogram, by 1.8, you get 120 grams of protein. Based on this formula, he likely needs roughly 120 grams of protein in a day. If he’s already getting the amount of protein that he needs, and consuming that protein at optimal times throughout the day (e.g., following a weight-training session), he may achieve minimal (if any) benefits from also consuming a protein bar. For individuals who are already meeting protein requirements, creatine may be an alternative option to help gain muscle mass.

Limiting Sugar Intake

In terms of sugar content, one recommendation it to start by looking at the sugar content and limit your options to bars that have 10 grams of sugar or less. This will help you limit your overall sugar intake and keep that lean frame. But some bars reduce sugars by using artificial sweeteners to make them taste good. Look for sucralose, aspartame or sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorvitol, xylitol) on the ingredients label. The effects of artificial sweeteners on human health are not well understood (the word is still out on whether artificial sweeteners are healthier than real sugar). They can also cause bloating and gastric distress, so it may be wise to avoid these ingredients.

Primary Protein Source and Other Factors to Consider

You should also be looking at the primary protein source. The most common protein sources are whey protein or soy. Its been debated for decades whether whey or soy protein has better muscle building effects, with some studies showing that soy is and others showing that whey is better. Other factors to consider include the number of ingredients (less is usually more), fiber (generally look for more than 4 grams).

Finally, let’s talk about the costs. There are a few good protein bars out on the market that are also affordable, but many come with a high price tag. I recommend looking for good options that are also available for bulk purchase at stores like Costco. Buying in bulk may help save a few dollars.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Gen Raz

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