Protein Bars: How Healthy Are They Really?


Key Information

Protein bars are convenient snacks

Protein bars provide a quick and easy way to get protein intake on the go.

Protein bars have drawbacks

Protein bars contain added sugars, inflammatory oils, artificial ingredients, and inferior protein sources.

Protein bars are not meal replacements

Protein bars lack the nutrients, fiber, and satiety of whole food meals.

Protein bars have better alternatives

Homemade bars, whole food snacks, and quality store-bought bars are smarter options.

Affiliate Disclosure: Holistic Nootropics may earn affiliate commissions if you purchase through the links on this page. Here's how it works.

Protein bars have exploded in popularity in recent years as a convenient high-protein snack. But are they really a nutritious option or just dressed up candy bars? Let’s analyze what really goes into protein bars to determine if they deserve a place in a healthy diet.

Biohack Your Brainpower

Stay ahead with our newsletter: cutting-edge biohacking tips and the latest in nootropics, all in one place.

What Makes Up Protein Bars

Protein bars contain:

  • Protein sources like whey, soy, eggs, collagen
  • Sweeteners such as sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners
  • Nuts, seeds, grains
  • Dried fruits
  • Flavorings and preservatives
  • Binders and stabilizers

They deliver anywhere from 10-30g of protein per bar, aiming to provide adequate protein intake in an easy-to-eat snack. But they come with added sugars and artificial ingredients as well.

Science-backed nutrition for your brain

Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro
Shop NowBuy 3 bottles, get 1 free with our links
Shop NowBuy 3 bottles, get 1 free with our links
  • Designed to optimize cognitive functions through 11 natural ingredients that work in 6 bio-pathways

  • Boosts serotonin levels which can help improve your mood, sleep quality, appetite control, stress management,

  • Mind Lab Pro helps improve focus, memory, clarity, energy levels without relying on stimulants or artificial additives

  • Contains premium forms of each ingredient for enhanced potency and activity, while avoiding potential side effects associated with lower quality ingredients

The Good: Benefits of Adequate Protein

Protein plays a crucial role in building muscle mass, preserving lean body mass with aging, keeping you feeling fuller longer on fewer calories, and may even support longevity. As long as intake remains within healthy limits, protein offers many benefits.

But excessive amounts from supplements on top of a high-protein diet brings potential harms like kidney stones, liver issues, calcium loss, weight gain, and disease risk. Moderation is key.

The Bad: Why Protein Bars Fall Short

With an attractive nutrition label boasting protein, do these convenient snacks support health goals like weight loss, fitness and blood sugar control? Let’s dig deeper.

Inflammatory Oils, Chemicals and Preservatives

Protein bars pack in cheap fats like soybean, canola and vegetable oils that drive inflammation. They also contain long lists of lab-made thickeners, stabilizers, flavorings and preservatives. These processed ingredients counteract any of protein’s anti-inflammatory goodness.

Blood Sugar Spikes

Although advertised as “guilt-free sweets” or meal replacements, the typical protein bar gets over 50% of its 200+ calories from sugar and refined carbs. All this rapidly-absorbed sugar causes blood glucose spikes and crashes soon after eating.

Inferior Source of Protein and Nutrients

Protein bars provide incomplete proteins from cheap collagen or plant sources missing key amino acids compared to whole foods. Plus isolating the protein removes the additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you would get by eating lean turkey, eggs, Greek yogurt or other high quality protein sources with nutrients intact.

Safe, Convenient Home Red Light Sauna Therapy

Faraday Infrared Sauna by Sauna Space

Faraday Infrared Sauna by Sauna Space
Buy NowUse Code HolisticNootropics for 15% off entire order
Buy NowUse Code HolisticNootropics for 15% off entire order
  • Full-Spectrum natural red light

  • Full Body Red Light Benefits

  • Infrared heat benefits

  • Enhanced Cellular Energy

  • Unique shielded design

  • Lowest EMF Exposure Red Light Device

Smarter Protein Bar Alternatives

Rather than break the bank on highly processed snack bars, you have better options:

1. Make Your Own Bars

Homemade bars let you control the quality of ingredients. Use nut butter, oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, spices, dark chocolate and just enough honey or maple syrup to bind. Ditch inflammatory oils for coconut oil or avocado oil instead.

2. Choose Whole Food Snacks

Nutrient-dense whole foods also provide quality carbs, healthy fats and fiber lacking in commercial bars:

  • Beef sticks
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Pre-cooked grilled chicken

3. Select Better Store-Bought Bars

If you must buy bars, read labels thoroughly and watch for:

  • At least 15g protein
  • 3g+ fiber
  • No corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, fractionated oils
  • Less than 5g added sugars
  • Short ingredient list focused on whole foods

So convenience protein bars can serve a purpose but shouldn’t replace real, whole food. Scrutinize labels and ingredients to determine if what sounds too good to be true really is.

Focused Energy On-the-Go

Neuro Gum Energy and Focus

Neuro Gum Energy and Focus
Buy NowUse Code HolisticNootropics for 15% off entire order
Buy NowUse Code HolisticNootropics for 15% off entire order
  • Quick energy boost

  • Convenient and portable

  • Focus-enhancing ingredients

  • Scientifically backed

FAQs About Protein Bars

Are protein bars good meal replacements?

Protein bars don’t provide complete, quality nutrition compared to real meals. While convenient, rely on them only occasionally not as regular meal substitutes.

Should I eat a protein bar before or after a workout?

Both times are beneficial. I find it best to consume protein after a workout when the body is finding its way back into an anabolic state to help build muscle.

Can protein bars fit into healthy diets like Keto or Paleo?

Read labels carefully on low-sugar protein bars to ensure they align with programs like Keto or Paleo. Many use processed, high-glycemic ingredients that don’t qualify.

Will protein bars cause digestive upset?

Excess protein, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and emulsifiers may cause issues like gas, bloating or diarrhea if over-consumed. Stick to whole food sources.

Let me know in the comments your experience with protein bars! Do you make your own bars at home? What store-bought brands have you found that meet dietary needs? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Biohack Your Brainpower

Stay ahead with our newsletter: cutting-edge biohacking tips and the latest in nootropics, all in one place.
Photo of author


Erik Abramowitz is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Naturopathic Doctoral student, health coach, and father. He is the primary content creator for and the host of the Holistic Nootropics Podcast.

Leave a Comment