So this is a post I have been meaning to do for a while and seeing as though I was chillin real hard the past few days (Family Day holiday over here in Canada on Monday), I figured this would be the perfect time to relax and bang out a few much needed opinion posts. But first I must say…
…Make that…I hope you HAD a happy Family Day…yeah I started this post a few days ago and just getting it up now. #ConfessionsOfAChattyBlogger
Do you get to have some famjam fun this holiday Monday?
Sunday was mostly inside as nothing was open…other than the gym ;-)… but Tuesday my Dad and were planning to make a trip down to the big TO to check out the Torque Barbell Club (owned by a friend of ours, Mike, whom we met at our Georgetown Goodlife) finally and hit up the St. Lawrence Market for some game meat! I was super excited because as you know I likee my wild, exotic meats.
Unfortunately, the random snow dump kinda killed our plans…
BUT all was not lost! Instead we decided to not only hit up Whole Foods on the way back to Hamilton (always awesome!) but we also finally got to stop into Agram Farms near my house. I have wanted to check this place out for months now as they advertise local, free range, organically raised BISON!
My Dad has also wanted to see what’s in this lil shop so he was excited to join me. We were not disappointed let me tell you! They carry such a great variety of local meats from their two farms including all sorts of game meat (deer/elk/bison) and your common finds (lamb/beef/pork/etc). I snagged some ground bison as well as 2 lamb burgers and 1/2 a lb of organic beef liver for Andre. We will both make another appearance to that shop that is FOR SURE!
Some of my readers have asked for my opinion on these handy lil snacks and I am finally answering. Sorry it took so long. I wanted to make sure I did a thorough job explaining myself so I knew this one was going to be a bit on the longer side. PLUS I wanted to give a quick lil review of my favourite protein bar brand, Quest Nutrition, as well.
What do I think of protein bars?
Lookin at them as a whole I would say avoid if you can, unless you can make’em yourself. I love my Questies (more on that later), but more often than not, any other brand of protein bar is basically a candy bar with a hint of whey.
Not only is the sugar through the roof in many bars, but their ingredient’s lists are also a mile long. #NoBueno
Can you even understand half of the ingredients in these protein-power-energy-musclefood-beast bars?
Here’s a few examples to show you what I mean. Many of these bars are popular too so please don’t be offended if you favourite bar is listed and I tear it apart. I’m just stating my opinion.
Cliff Builder’s Bars.
Sorry Erik (my GoodnessMe! coworker) but these bars make my hit list as they are extremely popular and people should really be takin a look at what’s in these things. Lets break them down shall we, startin off with the nutrition stats as those are what most people tend to look at first.
Okay so 20 grams of protein is pretty good for a protein bar as many don’t get that high. The fat is not too bad either because it will leave you feeling more satisfied for longer (don’t fear fats people!) BUT than you look down to see that there is 5 grams of saturated fat. Hmmmm…not so impressive. Carbohydrates are debatable here. Why? 30 grams is not that bad right? Depends. Check out the fiber…only 4 grams. This means that the carbs are coming from another source. In this case they are probably coming from that heaping 20 grams of sugar which is not really what you want if this is your choice of afternoon snackage to curb that mid day energy slump. #SugarCrashAnyone? It’s not aaaaasss bad if you are having this as a pre-workout snack but I still want to know where those sugars are coming from. Sugar from fruit would be much better for you than if its coming from refined sugar. We will have to check out the ingredients list for that one. Lastly, for carbs, what is this “other carb” stuff listed?
The huge list of vitamins and minerals is nice to see too but I have never seen a bar put so many on their packaging. Interesting. Is that just for better advertising? Finally, sodium is meh, but hey its a packaged product so less than 10% is not bad I suppose when comparing it to others.
Okay, so now that we checked out the stats, lets move onto the ingredients…
Surprisingly most people will only check out the stats and not look at what specific ingredients that make up said stats. Realistically, you should be doing it the opposite way. Ingredients first, stats after if you want. The ingredients are the more important thing to look at.
Here’s the Chocolate Builder’s Bar
Ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Beet Juice Concentrate, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Rolled Oats, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa, Organic Soy Protein Concentrate, Vegetable Glycerin, Natural Flavors, Organic Almonds, Rice Starch, Cocoa Butter, Inulin (Chicory Extract), Organic Flaxseed, Organic Oat Fiber, Organic Sunflower Oil, Soy Lecithin, Salt.
Here’s my issues with these:
- Soy, soy and more soy. I personally don’t eat soy due to it being genetically modified (Franken-foods) 99% of the time if not organic AND because it’s a phytoestrogen or a plant based xenoestrogen. This means that the molecules in soy are so similar in structure to that of your natural estrogen ones that it can be then into the body and bind to your estrogen receptors, fooling your body. This can either have estrogen blocking or activating effects. There has been talk that this can lead to breast cancer, but the research is mixed thus far.
- Hello sugary syrups gallore. They advertise this bar as low glycemic but how can a bar containing 2 types of sugar be low glycemic? I also don’t like how they are both within the top 5 ingredients listed. This means they are some of the heaviest ingredients % wise in the bar. So basically you have more sugar than oats…Are those 30 grams of carbs startin to look a bit worse now?
- Added oils. I would have been fine with coconut oil (healthy saturated fat that has shown to provide numerous benefits) but palm kernel (not enviro-friendly, high in saturated fats, used for deep frying and in margarines/shortenings in it’s solid state) and sunflower (not the worst thing in the world but it’s really high in Omega 6’s and has literally no Omega 3’s. We are always high in 6’s and the imbalance can cause inflammation)…not so much.
But hey, there’s flax and oats in there so it’s all good right?
Oh Yeah! Victory Bar.
Okay so here are the stats on one of these guys (Cookie Dough):
First thing I noticed was the difference in the fiber between these bars and the Cliff Builders. 20 whole grams of fiber and a whole lot less sugar! So far so good…well better (8g is still too high for my liking, but compared to 20g, it’s much better!). The protein and carbohydrates are pretty much in the same ball park as the previous bars at 21 grams and 28 grams which is good. As mentioned though, the carbohydrates are clearly coming from a different source in this bar. If you follow the whole ‘net carbs‘ thing thang, you would be left with only 8 grams of net carbs (28 total carbs- 20g of fiber). The fat is also around the same BUT the saturated fat is much lower.
Okay, so these aren’t lookin terrible from the nutritional statistics alone BUT don’t stop your detective work short…What’s actually in these bars?
- Lots of syrups and sugars once again. Although the total number of grams may not seem that bad, within the bar you have tapioca syrup (gross), sugar in the chocolate, agave (this ‘low glycemic’ sweetener is now know to spike blood sugar even more than things like honey and maple syrup), and evaporated cane juice crystals. Ouch.
- Soy Lecithin. It’s back, more soy based chemicals. To be fair, this nasty substance is found in waaaayyy too many things BUT knowing that it’s the gross byproduct of the sludge that is created in the making of soybean oil should be enough to make you rethink eating something out of a package with this guy on the label.
So what have we learned? Read the ingredients as the nutritional info can be misleading.
Okay so the last bar I will put on the choppin block before giving my general opinion about the use of protein bars is this one:
Pure Protein Bars
Now when you take a look at these bars you may think “hey those look decent. Yogurt coating is healthy right? Only 4g of sugar and 20 grams of protein. All good!” Again, lets take a closer look.
Once again, the carbohydrates, fats and protein are all around the same as the previous two bars. Fiber is low again (3g) on these ones which then should shift your attention to the sugar count…hmmm 6g that can’t account for all 30g of carbs. Then you look down and there is a sugar alcohol category. Uh oh. #DoYouEvenBloat? Anyone else have an issue with artificial sweeteners? I do. Majorly. That will have to be looked into. Something else to check out is where that 3.5g of saturated fat is coming from. So without further chit chat, here’s the ingredients.
- Sugar Gallore. I don’t even want to take the space to list all of the sugars here. Even the fruit in the bar has more sugar than fruit. What’s with that? Corn syrup in my dried strawberries?!?!
- Artificial Sweeteners. As I mentioned, artificial sweeteners can cause a lil digestive stress in quite a few people. I’ll take a side of farts and belly bloat with my protein bar please. No thanks. Where are they hidin? Sucralose at the bottom and the maltitol syrup half-way through.
- Soy. Geez everyone likes soy but this one also adds in MORE SOY with their soy crisps. I like my GMO’s crunchy…
- Added Oils. Palm oil and canola both make an appearance in these. Palm oil is a lil bit different from the palm kernel oil in the OhYeah! bars as it’s a difference extraction spot but, for the most part, the negatives are the same. I have a major issue with canola too. Often GMO, this oil is also processed at high temperatures rendering any of the omega fatty acids less beneficial for your health and quite possibly rancid. Not to mention, chemicals are used in said processing.
So once again, check the ingredients and be wary of suuuuupper long lists. Also, apparently you need to double check that your fruit is actually fruit..
So, this post is getting huge. Sorry. I get a lil gabby when scrutinizing processed
crap products. So lets restrict my chatter a bit by looking at some of my readers specific questions.
Is it bad to have a protein bar as a meal replacement?
Bad? Doesn’t have to be. If you make your own than at least you know what you are puttin in your body and I would assume that all of the nutrition would than be coming from whole foods. I still wouldn’t recommend having a bar for a main meal as it won’t leave you as satisfied as a meal would and will probably lead to a snacky monster in an hour or two. That being said, I know that sometimes time has run out for making a grab and go meal and you just need something to eat quick. This is when the ever so convenient protein bar comes in. If you are in a major pinch, don’t grab one of the bars I mentioned above. Instead your best option is to grab a homemade bar. If you don’t have those, the best option of pre-made bars, in my opinion, is a Questbar. Other ones that are pretty decent are Simply Bars, RiseBars (They use natural sweeteners so if you don’t mind the sugar, they contain only natural ingredients and their list is only about 3-5 items in length), 180 WOD bar (these have some natural sugars BUT you would be amazed at the ingredients they put in these things. I’m impressed), and lastly, probably the weirdest bars I have seen but are paleo approved and contain wholesome ingredients with no added sugars, sweeteners or chemicals are EPIC bars.
What things should I look for in a protein bar?
- Decent amount of protein. If you’re looking for a PROTEIN bar, as opposed to a snacky type bar, you want a good 12+ grams of quality protein. Quality protein would be that coming from whey (grassfed is the ultimate) and casein OR if you’re vegetarian, raw, paleo, vegan and so forth, sprouted grains and/or hemp seeds and other nuts work too. I wouldn’t suggest soy, but once again the soy thing is my own opinion.
- Quality carbohydrates. Two bars containing the same amount of carbs may differ dramatically in the quality and usefulness of those carbs. For example, if one bar has 30 grams of carbs, 15g of sugar and 1 gram of fiber you know that the majority of the carbs are coming from sugar heavy sources. While another bar having the same amount of carbs but containing 8+ grams of fiber has the carbohydrates possibly coming from more wholesome and fueling ingredients. Keep in mind that this category includes fruits and natural sugars. It’s up to you as to how strict you want to be with these but my preference is to have as little as possible (unless its for pre-workout, where a lil bit of fruit can be beneficial for some quick digesting carbohydrates) as even natural sugars will make your blood sugar ride a roller coaster for hour following your snack.
- No artificial sweeteners. Bloat, digestive stress, inflammation, gas, etc. Enough said.
- No syrups/agave/dextrose/etc. These are not necessary and are just plain sugar that will spike your blood sugar and not really help you much.
- Watch the sodium. Some protein bars can get super high in sodium as a way of preserving the bars on the shelf.
What is a good carb to protein ratio in a protein bar?
This one is very much dependent on your needs. Having one a pre-workout snack? Ensure you have a good amount of carbohydrates (at least 20-30grams if you are lifting) AND a good amount of protein so that you will be properly fueling your workout. Some fat and fiber would also help to sustain you longer. Post workout you are going to be looking for a decent amount of protein and MORE carbs. This would be the time where you can lead a lil bit more with your sweet tooth. No I’m no saying sugar, but if you wanted a bar with some dried fruit or perhaps even some honey or maple syrup (don’t go overboard!), this is when your body is craving carbohydrates and quick ones (simple carbs) at that. Keep the fat low to nothing after a workout as that slows your digestion down. This means that your starving muscles will have to wait longer for the carbs and protein they need for repair and you may step into a catabolic state (breaking down your own body tissues for fuel) which is not what you want.
I will end this essay of a post with this final question. It will lead nicely into my review of my favourite protein bar…
Best bars on the market?
You knew this was coming but in my humble opinion, the best bars are definitely…drumroll please…
These babies are the only protein bars that I eat. Period. Not only are they amazingly delicious BUT they also…
- Contain 20-22 grams of protein each
- Contain plenty of fiber (most have 17-18 grams)
- Contain healthy fats coming from coconut and nuts to keep your fuller and satisfied.
- No sugar added
- Gluten and soy free
- Their natural line is sweetened solely with Stevia (a leaf), lo han guo (monkfruit extract) and and erythritol all of which have no effect on blood sugar levels and have not been found to have any negative digestive side effects. Erythritol, despite being a sugar alcohol, has not been found to have the same laxative effects of other commonly used sugar alcohols such as maltitol or xylitol.
As with anything packaged, I do have a few itsy bitsy issues with them. It is me after all. I’m never 100% happy with something apparently. 😛 Nothing too out of this world though as I eat one every day. 😉 #QuestAddict
- Having the sensitive tummy that I do, I can’t actually eat a whole bar is one sitting because of the amount of fiber.
- There is some sucralose in the bars outside the natural line BUT it’s the very last ingredient on the list which means that, proportionally, it is the smallest addition to the bar
- The sodium is a bit high for my liking as well. I only have half a bar but I would still prefer it if that number dropped quite a bit.
These bars are truly amazing. Baked. Raw. Cooked into desserts. There are so many ways to enjoy them! I have had almost every flavour so I figured I would share a lil about each one.
Cookies and Cream. The newest Quest member to come out and has been rockin my world as of late. I haven’t even been able to enjoy it baked yet because I fell in love with it instantly and have just been eating it raw. Huge chunks of “cream” and lots of cookie crumbles all formed into a super soft bar. This is probably one of the softest and the most crumbly bar in their line BUT it’s out of this world amazing.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The fan favourite. This is another very soft bar and literally tastes like a cookie, especially if you bake them! Scattered throughout the bar are large pieces of chocolate (unsweetened, yet not bitter) that just makes you melt a lil bit.
Double Chocolate Chunk. Another fan favourite. Apparently chocolate is everyone’s thing. Ha! This one is very similar to CCCD but it’s a lil bit firmer of a bar and the chunks of chocolate are larger and crunchier. This one is great baked or raw.
White Chocolate Raspberry. This one is the one competing now with C&C for top spot. It was my favourite by far since it came out. Chunks of unsweetened white chocolate and tangy raspberry pieces in a super soft bar. I never expected to fall in love with this one like I did but man it’s good! Again, raw or baked it’s amazing but I tend to bake them when I can as the chocolate pieces then melt.
Peanut Butter Supreme. Surprised the PB addict didn’t choose this one for her favourite? Me too. It’s super yummy and is definitely up there. This one has a great peanut flavour with chunks of peanuts scattered throughout. Although it’s good raw, it is on the firmer side and thus bakes up nicely.
Peanut Butter and Jelly. This one is super similar to peanut butter supreme taste and texture wise. It’s firmer, has the peanuts spread throughout but also has some lil fruit pieces to give it a lil extra. Great baked or raw.
Vanilla Almond Crunch. This one is very neutral for me. It’s tasty but there’s nothing overly WOW about it. Of course, the flavour choice is on the basic side so I really can’t say much. Similar to the previous two, it’s a lil bit firmer and therefore bakes nicely.
Mixed Berry. I didn’t actually try this one for quite some time because I figured it wouldn’t be anything too special. Once I did try it though, I was surprised at how good it was. A lil bit softer than the peanut butter ones, it does have a similar nutty-berry note to the PB&J just with more fruity pieces. This one was a great addition to my proats when I decided to switch up my fruit to bloobs rather than banana.
Coconut Cashew. This is one that I haven’t tried. I’m not a coconut fan (flavour wise) so I don’t see myself trying this one out. A ton of people love this flavour though!
Lemon Cream Pie. This is the other one I decided to opt out of trying. This is the only Questbar flavour I have heard some negative reviews on but in Quest’s defense I think it’s because everyone has had some traumatic run in with a disgusting lemon medicine as a kid and is left being not a huge lemon fan.
Cinnamon Roll. This one is always one that I forget about but tastes amazing. It’s nice and soft and actually delicious raw as well as baked. With lil chunks of nuts in it, the cinnamon notes come out quite nicely in this one and the taste really stays with you. Lil tip when baking, watch it like a hawk as it burns quickly.
Apple Pie. This was the first bar that I tried and was probably stared at with concerned faces as I was having a mouthgasm. Chunks of dried apple and nuts, this soft bar is quite amazing. When you bake it this bar really does remind you of apple pie as the outside gets crispier and the inside stays soft and the apples get chewy. It’s also amazing raw and as an addition to some apple pie proats!
Chocolate Brownie. This one is my dad’s favourite. It’s for all you die heart choco-holics out there. For me, it’s a lil bit on the drier side compared to their other flavours and I would say that I prefer it to be raw over baked as baking tends to bring that dryness out more. These ones I love baking into things that require chocolate chips OR having chunks of brownie pieces in my oatmeals.
Strawberry Cheesecake. Now, I have never actually had cheesecake so I can’t make the comparison. To me, this bar is good because it’s nice and sweet from the strawberries. It wouldn’t be my top favourite to grab, but this soft bar is yummy eaten as is, baked and tossed into various baking creations. This one also randomly has the lowest sodium of all of their bars, if that matters to you.
Banana Nut Muffin. This was another one that I automatically assumed would be a top favourite and it didn’t disappoint. The banana-addict in me really savoured the banana chunks that were found throughout the bar and the addition of the nuts just adds a nice texture and flavour. This one is great raw and also good baked. Just be careful with baking this one as it tends to burn easier.
Chocolate Peanut Butter. I feel kinda the same way about this flavour as I do the brownie one. It’s a bit on the drier side and because of that I prefer it to be raw. Due to having the lil peanut pieces and flavour, I like this one a bit better than brownie but rarely eat it as is. Instead, like the brownie, I throw in into baked goods and my oatmeal for some ooey, gooey chunk action.
If I had to pick a top five…it’s really hard I swear, it would have to be..
- Cookies and Cream Or White Chocolate Raspberry
- Cookie Dough
See I’m really bad at it. They are just soo good! Banana Nut Muffin, Peanut Butter Supreme, Double Chocolate Chunk or Cinnamon Roll could easily fall into that slot. Oh! Or apple pie…ugh. I will stop now.
Can you pick a top 5?
Phew, this post is HUUUUGGE. Sorry for the long read.
I think I’m officially done. You’re welcome. 😛
I hope this helped any of my readers with questions regarding protein bars. I wanted to ensure that I really put forth the reasons why I don’t really care for them (other than Questies) and give examples to actually show you what I meant. Feel free to ask any more questions you have related to this topic in the comments! 🙂
How do you feel about protein bars?
Favourite protein bar?
What do you look for in a bar?
Helpful aids and sources of info mentioned in this post came from: