7 issues to look out for when shopping for a greater protein bar

For most men, protein bars seem like a no-brainer: promising the protein you need to fuel your muscles in an ultra-convenient package while offering all sorts of delicious flavors. There are now entire grocery aisles filled with countless options.

With so many of these damn things on the market, it can seem like a Sisyphean task to find a bar that tastes good but doesn't disguise itself as a candy bar full of questionable ingredients and too little protein does a lot of good. We all shouldn't be so quick to associate the word "protein" with healthy. And it's important to look beyond the front-of-label promises and enticing flavors. Let the nutritional information and ingredient list do the talking.

To help you find the perfect high-protein between-meal or post-workout option, follow these guidelines when shopping for a bar and consider purchasing one of these outstanding diet-preserving products .


1. Go bigger on protein

For a bar that will tame hunger longer and help you build your biceps, look for a bar that provides at least 10 grams of protein (that's more than an egg!). This can come from animal proteins like whey or egg whites, or from plants like pea protein and nuts.

2. Keep track of calories

You may have noticed that the calorie counts on bars vary widely. For in-between snacks, stick to bars that are about 250 calories or less. If you're replacing a meal or eating a bar after a particularly strenuous workout, it may make more sense to eat up to 400 calories.

Variety protein bars with protein scooperNatalya Bond / M+F Magazine

3. Scan the sugar

With flavors like fudge brownie and salted caramel, many bars are straddling dessert territory. In other words, they can be sugar bombs that can be bad news for your ticker. This 2023 study in the journal BMC Medicine found that it's not the total amount of carbohydrates in your diet that matters for heart health, but the kind you eat — total intake of added sugars was a strong indicator of heart disease. Ideally, choose a bar with no more than 8 grams of added sugar and prefer sweet things from natural sources like dried fruit or more harmless low-calorie sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia or erythritol. Thankfully, nutrition labels are now required to state how much added sugar is in a bar.

4. Identify the fats

For a bar that's easier on your heart, you want one with healthier unsaturated fats, which come from ingredients like nuts, seeds, and nut butters, rather than a product full of less desirable sources like palm kernel oil or anything hydrogenated.

5. Know your grains

If a protein bar contains grains, they should be whole, like oats or quinoa. This gives you a bar with more essential micronutrients and fiber.

Nutrition Facts Calories CountingEkaterina_Minaeva / Shutterstock

6. Battle for Fiber

Fiber is important for keeping you feeling full and promoting gut health, but not enough men eat enough. It's not essential that a protein bar also be high in fiber if your diet is already high in high-fiber foods like vegetables and legumes, but finding one that's 3 grams or more per serving can help. With that caveat, if you're not used to eating lots of fiber at once, reach for bars that contain large amounts of isolated fiber like chicory root or corn fiber to avoid potential digestive issues like bloating and bloating.

7. Less is more

It's also a good idea to look for a shorter ingredient list to ensure your bar is a little less processed. A laundry list of mystery ingredients should be a red flag.

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