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As a Registered Dietician, I recommend eating protein bars as a healthy snack throughout the day to stave off hunger and increase your daily protein intake.
However, I’ve had some clients consume multiple protein bars throughout the day, even up to 3 protein bars daily, and wonder whether this practice is healthy or not.
So, is eating three protein bars a day bad?
While eating 3 protein bars per day can provide a healthy amount of protein, carbs, and fats, it can be bad if you are using them to replace meals. This is because they lack vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can be low in fiber. Thus, eating them as a snack is okay, but eating them as meal replacements isn’t.
As well, depending on the types of protein bars you consume, some can be a higher calorie, which can lead to unnecessary weight gain if you’re not aware of the ingredients. This doesn’t mean you need to shy away from protein bars. A protein bar can be a healthy choice if you know what to look for on the ingredient panel, and pick ones that fit your overall caloric goals.
In this article, I will:
- Explore the pros and cons of eating three protein bars per day.
- Teach you what to look for in a protein bar that you’re going to consume multiple times per day
- Give you additional tips on eating three protein bars per day
4 Reasons For Eating Three Protein Bars A Day
Here is a list of reasons you might consider eating three protein bars per day.
1. Lack of Time
The most common reason for eating three protein bars during the day is lack of time.
Whether you are a busy professional or student, you often don’t have time to make snacks. Since protein bars have all the macros (protein, carbs, and fat) you need, people find it helpful to consume as a snack versus grabbing something more processed like a bag of chips.
What I’m suggesting here is that eating 3 protein bars per day is okay as a healthier snack option if you’re too busy, but not as full meal replacements (I’ll explain more about this later)
Although it might seem that protein bars are expensive, compared to a bigger meal, they can be cheaper.
For example, Quests Protein Bars have a price of $1.75 per protein bar. This provides 21 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of fat. It has the same nutritional content as 3 oz of chicken, 3 cups of veggies, ¼ cup of rice, and one teaspoon of olive oil. However, the latter option will cost greater than $1.75.
Thus, it sounds like a very appealing deal for people trying to save money or even students to get all their macros in one package.
3. Reaching Protein Intake
Having several protein bars per day can help you out if you have difficulty reaching your protein intake. On average, a protein bar contains 20-25 g of protein.
Struggling to get an adequate amount of protein occurs more frequently in people who follow a vegetarian diet.
For example, if you are a vegetarian person who weighs 180 lbs. you need approximately 130 grams of protein daily. Assuming a protein bar contains 25 grams of protein, having three protein bars per day represents 57% of the total protein intake.
Having almost half of your daily protein supplied is a massive help for people that don’t often use animal proteins.
4. Adding Calories
Another common reason people consume three protein bars per day is to add calories. For a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, sometimes it can be challenging to find different ways of including extra calories.
A protein bar can contain between 170 to 400 kcal. They are often easy to ingest and won’t make you feel full compared to having a very big meal. So for someone bulking, eating protein bars in between meals, or in addition to their regular meals, can aid in the caloric surplus they’re trying to achieve.
- Related Article: Is It Okay To Eat Protein Bars Every Day? (4 Things To Know) and 12 Best Protein Bars Under 200 Calories
4 Reasons For Not Eating Three Protein Bars A Day
Although there are valid reasons for consuming three protein bars per day, here is a list of reasons why you shouldn’t consider eating three protein bars per day.
1. Weight Loss
If you are on a weight loss journey, eating three protein bars per day is not advised for two reasons: (1) you’ll be at risk of slowing down your metabolism, and (2) you’ll be at risk of overeating.
Let’s discuss those points now.
A very low-calorie diet is below 800 kcal, while a low-calorie diet is below 1,200 kcal. If you are eating only three protein bars per day (and no other meals), you might fall in the range of having only 800 kcal per day.
For example, if you have a protein bar for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks. Depending on the protein bar that you get, you could be consuming 450 kcal up until this point (assuming that they are on average 150 kcal per bar).
Adding a dinner that could be around 350 kcal (½ cup of rice, 4 oz of chicken, 2 cups of veggies, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil) would mean that you are consuming 800 kcal per day. This is considered to be a very low-calorie diet.
One significant consequence of having three low-calorie protein bars is that it reduces your metabolism. This means that your metabolism is less efficient when it comes to burning calories. If your body burns fewer calories doing daily activities than it used to, it means that you need to consume fewer calories to burn that fat.
A study was done over 12 weeks where people who had a very low-calorie diet had a 20% decrease in their metabolism. A slower metabolism means that you burn less energy with basic aspects, making it harder to lose weight eventually.
Eating 3 protein bars per day can result in potentially eating more calories than your body needs. Some protein bars are considered low in calories (less than 150 calories per bar), while others might be high in calories (over 400 calories per bar). [Check out my other article where I talk about whether 400 calories is a lot or not.}
If you are not careful, you might be consuming more calories than your body needs, which leads to weight gain.
Additionally, depending on the protein bar it might not fill you up during the day. If you eat three protein bars during the day, you might likely feel hungry when it’s dinner time. If you are feeling extremely hungry it might make you overeat which can result in weight gain.
2. Gastrointestinal Issues
For people that suffer from IBS, Crohn’s disease, colitis, gastritis, or constipation you might want to avoid having three protein bars per day. Certain additives and artificial sweeteners can cause more gastric distress in people that suffer from any of the conditions mentioned above.
Having three protein bars per day puts more stress into your GI tract, leading to fatigue, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
3. Medical Issues
Suppose you have diabetes, liver disease, or kidney problems, you might want to reduce your protein bar intake. These are severe conditions that need to be monitored by a healthcare provider.
Depending on the situation, consuming protein bars can increase your sodium intake (which can affect your kidneys), it can give you more sugar (which can affect a person with diabetes), and the fat content can be substantial (which could affect your liver).
4. As A Meal Replacement
If you are going to use a protein bar as a meal replacement it is fine on one occasion.
However, doing it every day, where you replace 2-3 meals during the day, you might be at risk of nutrient deficiency.
Replacing three meals with three protein bars daily can lead to nutrient deficiency. Although some protein bars contain certain nutrients, they might not be enough compared to a meal full of natural and whole products (like veggies, whole grain products, and meat).
Replacing natural foods with artificial products can lack vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Related Article: Are Protein Bars Good For Breakfast? (6 Things To Consider)
Tips On Incorporating 3 Protein Bars Per Day Into Your diet
If you are thinking of including three protein bars per day, here are my tips and tricks to make it healthier.
Choose an ingredient list that is short and has names that you recognize. That way, you ensure that it is very close to a natural product. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed it will be.
For example, RXBARS has a short ingredient list with natural ingredients that you can easily understand. While Protein Crunch Protein Bars have a long list of ingredients that some are very complicated to understand.
For most people looking to use a protein bar as a snack, a good average on the caloric content is around 150-250 kcal. If you are looking to lose weight, I would recommend having a protein bar that is around 150 kcal.
On the other hand, you are an active individual looking to increase your calories or have a snack after training. I would recommend having a protein bar that is around 300 kcal or even higher.
Fiber is essential for gut health. It helps fight constipation and it provides fullness during the day. The recommended fiber intake per day is around 25 g per day. Make sure that each protein bar has at least 5 grams of fiber to aid with digestion and fight constipation.
- Some people experience digestive upset after eating too much fiber. If that’s you, then please check out my list of Best Low Fiber Protein Bars, which also includes a list of reasons you’d consider a low fiber bar.
Avoid having a bar that is very high in sugar. My recommendation is to have a bar with less than 5 g of sugar.
For example, One Bar has 0 g of added sugars since it uses sugar-free alternatives like sugar alcohols, stevia, or acesulfame. On the other hand, a protein bar like Annie’s Homegrown Cookie Dough Protein Bar, has 9 g of added sugars.
- Related Article: 10 Best Protein Bars Without Sugar Alcohols
For a food to be considered low in sodium it needs to have less than 150 mg per serving. When choosing a protein bar try for it to have less than 150 mg.
However, you can increase the sodium content up to 250 mg without producing any consequences. Make sure to avoid canned foods during the day, or adding too much salt to your meals.
On the ingredients panel, you might see three distinctions: trans fats, saturated fats, and unsaturated fats. In a nutrition label, you might find all of them, or you might only find two of them.
Trans fats are the ones that can increase your cholesterol levels. This should be 0 on the nutrition label.
Saturated fats are unhealthier for your heart, while unsaturated fats (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) are better for you. Ensure that it contains more unsaturated fats than saturated. It should be a 2:1 ratio, the maximum.
For example, SimplyProtein Crispy bars contain that nutritional ratio. It has 1.5 g of saturated, while it has 2.5 g of unsaturated fats. As you can see, it has more of the healthiest type of fats than the one that is not so good for your heart.
A protein bar should have a minimum of 12 g of protein. An ideal amount could range between 20-25 g of protein per bar.
8. Have Variety
Each protein bar has a specific formula. Some are high in fiber, others in protein. Some are made from natural ingredients, while others are more processed. If you have three protein bars per day, then mix it up.
So long as each protein bar fits the criteria above, buy three different boxes of protein bars to have a separate protein bar each time. That way, you get other nutrients and more variety.
- Related Article: 5 Protein Bar Alternatives That Are Cheaper & Healthier
9. Use It As A Supplement
Once in a while, having a protein bar as a meal replacement is ok. However, don’t make a habit out of it. Think of a protein bar as a supplement to your diet and not the main component. That way, you still have other foods that are high in nutrients.
10. Tracking Your Macros
To avoid overeating or to have a very low-calorie diet, make sure to track your macros. This ensures that you are still within your daily caloric intake and won’t drop to a very dangerous low caloric intake.
There are several apps that you can use. If you don’t know which one, MacroFactor is always a good tracking app to use.
11. Add Whole Foods
If you are going to add three protein bars per day, make sure to have whole foods during the day to balance having good nutrient sources. Make sure to have 5-6 portions of veggies and fruit per day (one portion of fruit or veggies is one cup).
Additionally, every color of veggie or fruit has a different property. Add at least 3 different color fruits or veggies during the day to get a variety of nutrients.
- To learn more, check out Protein Bars vs. Shakes: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Best?
Top Healthy Protein Bars For Eating Multiple Times Per Day
Here is a list of my favorite protein bars. All of them have different qualities that I like to recommend. Suppose you are having three protein bars per day, make sure to pick one of each to get additional benefits along the day.
RXBAR – All Natural
One of the most significant benefits of the RXBAR is that it contains only natural ingredients. You have eggs, fruits, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds in one bar. If you are going to consume a protein bar every day, this is a good one since it is less processed.
Although they have different flavors and they may vary the nutritional content. Here is an average of the nutritional information you get from each bar.
- Calories: 220
- Carbs: 22 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Added Sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 12 g
- Fats: 9 g
Although it has 1 g less fiber than I usually like to recommend, the fact that all the products are natural is why this is my favorite brand to have if you include a protein bar daily.
- Related Article: Protein Bar vs Energy Bar
Quest Bars – High in Fiber
My favorite thing about Quest Bars is that it is high in fiber. A Quest Bar has the following nutritional information.
- Calories: 190
- Carbs: 22 g
- Fiber: 15 g
- Added Sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 21 g
- Fats: 7 g
For those that have a diet low in fiber, this is one of my favorite protein bars to have. Having 15 g of fiber represents 53% of your daily recommended fiber intake. Additionally, it has 21 g of protein, almost like a scoop of protein or 3 oz of chicken.
However, it does contain sugar alcohols, and the high amount of fiber it has can cause particular problems for people with IBS.
Detour Lean Muscle Bar – Meal Replacement
Detour Lean Muscle Bar has an excellent nutritional content that can be replaced for a meal. Here is the nutritional information of one bar.
- Calories: 370
- Carbs: 33 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Added Sugar: 3 g
- Protein: 32 g
- Fats: 12 g
Why would I consider this a meal replacement? If we translate the macros and the calories to food, it will represent 1 cup of rice, 4.5 oz of chicken, and 2½ teaspoons of olive oil. On average, this means a good meal, depending on your goals.
Keep in mind that it uses sugar alcohols to add sweetness. Thus, if you have IBS, you might want to have it in moderation.
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