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I must admit that protein bars are one of my favorite snacks to have on the go. They are easy to carry around in my gym bag, and they prevent me from going hungry during the day when I don’t have time to prepare a full meal.
However, is it okay to eat protein bars every day? Having a protein bar occasionally is okay but adding them every day might be causing you to miss out on important nutrients. Protein bars are very processed, and they might not have the nutrients that fruits and veggies have. Thus, add them, but make sure you have a variety of whole foods for the rest of the day.
As well, picking a suitable protein bar will be essential to determine if you can add them regularly. Some protein bars are very processed and high in calories, which puts you at risk of weight gain (good if you’re bulking, but not so good if you’re concerned about weight management).
This article will teach you everything you need to know about eating protein bars daily and how to do it the healthy way.
Eating Protein Bars Every Day: My Advice As A Registered Dietician
As a registered dietitian, I always recommend having whole, unprocessed foods since they will be more nutritious. However, I understand that sometimes we need help in the snack department when we have a busy day.
If the choice is between eating nothing or eating a protein bar, I will always prefer you have a protein bar if you are hungry and don’t have anything else to eat. This will prevent you from being hungry during the day and stop you from overeating at your next mealtime.
Not all protein bars are processed though. Some, like the RXBAR, are made with natural ingredients, which makes it the best option when you are looking to add them on a regular basis.
Still, if you decide to add other brands regularly, this doesn’t make them unhealthy. As long as you keep your natural food intake high (meaning that you are consuming lots of whole foods, fruits, and veggies), there is no risk in including one processed food daily.
Additionally, protein bars can help you achieve your protein intake, which is one of the most common problems I often see during my consultations.
People have trouble reaching adequate protein intake, especially active individuals, since their protein intake needs to increase along with their increase in physical activity. Thus, protein bars can be a simple solution.
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4 Reasons To Eat Protein Bars Every Day
There are four reasons why you would include adding a protein bar daily:
1. You Have A Busy Schedule
A protein bar is a lifesaver for those with a complicated or busy schedule where they don’t have time to have a snack.
Skipping meals once in a while is okay. However, if you stay long without eating, your hunger levels slowly increase. Without a proper snack, you might get to your next meal starving. This has two consequences:
- When you are hungry, you don’t make the best decisions. You prefer food that is available and, in most cases, high in fat and carbs
- You might end up overeating later in the day than you otherwise would due to your hunger levels being elevated.
Thus, for those that often don’t have time to have a large snack (like corporate professionals or students), a protein bar provides you with all the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) that you need for one meal.
2. You Want To Add Calories To Your Diet
Another reason to have a protein bar is to add calories to your diet. If you have a hard time reaching your total calories during the day, some protein bars that are very high in calories (above 300 kcal) can easily help you.
Of course, not everyone will want to add calories to their diet, but if you are someone who is on a bulking diet (i.e. looking to gain muscle mass), then being in a caloric surplus is key.
As well, protein bars are easy to digest. This means that you can easily obtain those extra calories without feeling too full during the day, which is a common problem when bulking (feeling stuffed all the time).
If you’re bulking, I would have the protein bar in addition to your meals, and not as a meal replacement.
3. You Have Trouble Hitting Your Protein Intake
Sometimes reaching your total protein intake can be challenging. A protein shake can help you out, but some people get bored of it after a while. Protein bars are another way of increasing your protein intake during the day.
On average, protein bars contain 20-25 grams of protein per bar, which is equal to 3-4 oz of chicken—a decent amount to have in a meal.
As well, for those following a plant-based diet, a protein bar can help you reach your total protein without having to rely too much on animal proteins. For example, if you are a vegetarian but don’t want to add too many eggs or dairy products during the day, a protein bar is a good solution.
4. You Need A Post-Workout Snack
After a workout, you need to consume carbs to replenish the energy lost and protein to help repair and grow your muscles. In most cases, people take a protein shake. However, a protein bar is also a simpler version that is easier to carry around and doesn’t require liquid.
The advantage of protein bars is leaving them in your gym bag or your car. So, if you end up forgetting your post-exercise snack, you can always have a backup with you. I always carry a few “emergency protein bars” in my car for this reason.
To learn more, check out Protein Bars vs. Shakes: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Best?
Side Effects of Eating Protein Bars Every Day
Although eating a protein bar every day might be the solution to some of our nutritional problems, it may cause side effects.
Here is a list of the most common side effects you might experience:
People with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) need to be careful with the foods that they add. When it comes to sugar alcohols, having a large intake can produce bloating, stomach cramps, and gas in people with IBS (protein bars are full of sugar alcohols).
Since your body does not digest sugar alcohols, they go straight to your gut, where your gut bacteria ferment them. They use the sugar alcohols and create gas instead, causing bloating.
To know if your protein bar has sugar alcohol, you can check the label. In most cases, like the One Bars, they establish how many grams of sugar alcohol it has.
If it doesn’t say in the food label, look for words that end in -OL. For example, erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. These are the most popular sugar alcohols added.
Related Article: 10 Best Protein Bars Without Sugar Alcohols
High Sugar Intake
Nowadays, most protein bars are low in sugar since they are made with sugar alcohols or sugar substitutes. However, there are still some bars that have high sugar content.
For example, Gatorade Protein Bars have 28 g of sugar. This represents 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in just one bar. Now, this doesn’t mean that you cannot eat them. There are some cases (like weight gain) where these are a great option. But, if that is not the case for you, you might be having a large intake of sugar for no good reason.
You Won’t Feel As Satisfied
Even if some protein bars are higher calorie, like the Met-Rx Big, which has over 400 kcal, they are not very filling.
This means that you won’t get as full as if you would have 400 kcal from whole foods. This is because there isn’t as much ‘volume’ in a protein bar compared with a normal meal.
To give you an idea, 400 kcal would represent having one apple, ¼ cup of granola, two tablespoons of almonds, and one scoop of protein shake. That is a lot of food for the same amount of calories that a protein bar has.
Thus, if you’re looking for a snack that is satisfying, protein bars may not be the best option. But like I said, eating a protein bar vs nothing is still better.
Will Eating A Protein Bar Every Day Help With Weight Loss?
Yes, a protein bar every day can help with weight loss if you choose a low-calorie bar (below 200 kcal). Additionally, if you use it as a snack replacement, it can help you increase your protein intake, and in some cases, high fiber content too. Having a diet rich in protein and fiber helps keep you full for longer.
For example, Quest Bars are an excellent option for those trying to lose weight. One bar contains 190 kcal, 22 g of carbs, 15 g of fiber, 0 g of added sugars, 21 g of protein, and 7 g of fat. Thanks to its high fiber and protein content, your hunger levels can be controlled for several hours.
Also, if you tend to skip snacks, you might be starving at the end of the day. This means that you are probably going to overeat. Having a protein bar can help maintain your hunger levels at bay (depending on the protein bar) and avoid getting too hungry.
Check out our guide How To Gain Weight Without Eating Sugar (Sample Meal Plan)
Will Eating A Protein Bar Every Day Help With Building Muscle?
A protein bar every day can help you build muscle by adding calories and protein, but only if you pick a protein bar that has higher than 20g of protein and 300 calories. For example, Detour Whey Protein Bars contain 340 kcal and 30 g of protein. This is an ideal protein bar to have if you want to gain muscle.
For your muscles to grow, you need to consume more calories than your body needs. You also need to have 1.6 to 2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily to build muscle. Hence, protein bars can help you achieve both goals.
Protein Bar Checklist: What It Should Contain If You’re Eating It Daily
Here is my protein bar checklist if you plan on having a protein bar every day:
The more extensive the ingredients list, the more processed it will be, which means you want to keep the ingredient list short.
Also, make sure that whenever you read the ingredients list, you can understand the names of the ingredients. If you don’t, it means that it has highly processed ingredients.
Since adding a protein bar daily, the more natural, the better.
For those looking to lose weight, try to opt for protein bars that have less than 200 kcal. On the other hand, opt for that above 300 kcal if you want to gain weight. If you are just looking for a healthy snack, a protein bar with 150-250 kcal is an excellent choice.
Try to keep your sugar intake to a minimum. Have a protein bar that has less than 10 g of sugar. This allows you to have other sugary foods during the day without surpassing the daily recommended amount (more than 25 g of sugar).
Fiber is essential for gut health, fighting constipation, and providing fullness during the day. To ensure that you have a good fiber intake, have a protein bar with at least 5 g of fiber.
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.
Choose a protein bar with less than 150 mg of sodium per bar to avoid having too much sodium during the day.
For a protein bar to be high in protein, it should have at least 20 g per bar. A protein bar could have a minimum of 12 g. If your protein intake is not very high, it is a good option. If you have a higher protein intake, opt for 20 g at minimum.
Trans fats are dangerous for your health since they can increase your cholesterol levels. Ensure that it has 0 g of trans fat.
When taken in large quantities, saturated fats can lead to heart disease. Unsaturated fats are healthier for your heart. Make sure that it has more unsaturated fats than saturated.
Related Article: Is Eating 3 Protein Bars A Day Bad? (A Dietician Answers)
Tips on Incorporating Protein Bars Every Day Into Your Diet
If you are going to include a protein bar every day, here are a couple of tips I often tell my clients to make it the healthiest way.
If you include a protein bar every day, ensure that you add different bars during the week. Each bar has a distinctive characteristic. Some have more protein, and others are made with natural ingredients, others are higher in protein.
Related Article: 5 Protein Bar Alternatives That Are Cheaper & Healthier
Track Your Calories
To avoid any undesired weight gain, ensure that you track your calories during the day. It can easily add extra calories to your diet with protein bars. By tracking how much you eat during the day, you can adjust accordingly to your goals. I recommend using the Macro Factor App (click to read my review).
Natural Is Always Better
Whole foods are going to be better since they are higher in nutrients. However, if you have a protein bar daily, make sure to add real food for the rest of the day. For example, if you have a protein bar as a morning snack, then have a whole food snack for the evening.
Related Article: Are Protein Bars Good For Breakfast? (6 Things To Consider)
Top Recommendation For Protein Bars
Here is a list of my favorite protein bars:
One Bar – Low Sugar
One Bar is an excellent option for those looking for a low sugar bar. It has 0 g of added sugars since it uses sugar alcohols to provide sweetness. This means that if you have IBS, you need to consume it in moderation to prevent any stomach problems.
One bar contains 220 kcal, 23 g of carbs, 9 g of fiber, 0 g of sugars, 150 mg of sodium, and 20 g of protein.
When it comes to flavor and texture, I must admit, the donut flavor is my favorite.
RXBAR – Natural Ingredients
RXBARs are an excellent option since they are made with natural ingredients. Since it is less processed, it is a top choice to add regularly.
One bar contains 210 kcal, 24 g of carbs, 4 g of fiber, 0 g of added sugars, 140 mg of sodium, and 12 g of protein.
The only negative is that it might not contain as much protein as any other bar, but it still has a good amount for a snack.
No Cow Protein – Vegan Option
No Cow Bars are made without animal products. It is plant-based and has a high amount of protein since each bar contains 21 g, the same amount of 3 oz of chicken. This makes it the perfect choice for those following a vegetarian or vegan approach.
One bar contains 190 kcal, 25 g of carbs, 17 g of fiber, 0 g of added sugars, 220 mg of sodium, and 21 g of fats.
It is a little higher in sodium than the recommended amount (140 mg), and it is very high in fiber. Although this is a good thing, for people with IBS, it might not be the best bar to have.
Gatorade Whey Protein Bars – High in Calories
If your main goal is to gain weight through protein bars, you need one that has more than 300 kcal per bar. Gatorade whey protein bars are an excellent option for those with this goal in mind.
One bar contains 350 kcal, 41 g of carbs, 2 g of fiber, 28 g of added sugars, 160 mg of sodium, and 20 g of protein.
Since it has a lot of added sugars (28 g, which is almost six teaspoons of sugar), this bar is only advised for highly active or looking to gain some weight. It doesn’t have a lot of fiber, which won’t make you feel full.
Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.