Protein Bars With The Most Protein (We Examined 200+ Bars)

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When you eat protein bars as part of your total daily protein intake, you might wonder which bars provide the most protein for the lowest number of calories.

So, which bars provide the most protein per calorie?  Primal Strips Vegan Jerky provides the highest protein per calorie (0.14g/cal).  This bar isn’t a traditional protein bar that’s made with whey protein.  Instead, it uses meat alternatives, like soy, to increase the amount of protein per serving.  

Our approach to ranking the protein content in protein bars is unique.  

Instead of just listing bars based on their total protein content, we are looking at how well these bars supply protein relative to their total calorie content.

It’s not usually helpful to eat a protein bar with 30g of protein if that bar has 600 calories – it would be hard to meet your protein target for the day without exceeding your calorie target when eating bars like these.  

In this article, we’ve done this analysis for you, plus we will also cover:

  • The top ten protein bars with the most protein per calorie
  • The top three highest protein bars overall (regardless of calories)
  • Who should consider a “high-protein” protein bar
  • How much protein is needed in a protein bar

How We Calculated The “Most Protein” For Protein Bars

We reviewed over 200 protein bars to look at their calorie content, as well as protein, carbs and fat.  For each bar we calculated how many grams of protein there were per serving compared with how many calories per serving:

For example, a protein bar with 22g of protein and 250 calories per serving would have 22g ÷ 250 calories = 0.088 grams of protein per calorie.

Compared with a similar bar with 22g of protein and only 200 calories per serving (0.11 grams of protein per calorie), the first bar does not provide as many grams of protein per calorie.

Key Takeaway: If you were looking to maximize your protein intake while minimizing your calorie intake, the second bar would be a better choice. You could more easily hit your total daily protein target without exceeding your total daily calorie target.

Should you take whey protein?  If so, when and how much?

Top 10 Protein Bars With The Most Protein

The 10 best protein bars with the most protein are: 

  • Primal strips mesquite lime meatless jerky
  • Julian bakery paleo thin sunflower butter protein bar
  • Built bar coconut chocolate creme protein bar
  • Kirkland signature cookies and cream protein bar
  • Nugo smarte carb chocolate black cherry protein bar
  • Quest bar birthday cake protein bar
  • Pure protein chocolate deluxe protein bar
  • No cow lemon meringue pie protein bar
  • Nutrativa chocolate caramel almond whey protein bar
  • Carbrite diet chocolate brownie protein bar

1. Primal Strips Mesquite Lime Meatless Jerky – 0.135g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 74 calories
  • Protein: 10g
  • Carbs: 7g
  • Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 347mg
  • Serving size: 28g

The Primal Strips brand offers several flavors of meatless, vegan jerky with a similar calorie count and protein content.  These strips are a great alternative to meat-based jerky for vegetarians and vegans, providing a similar amount of protein per calorie and less sodium per serving.

The strips are predominantly soy-based, though, so they are not suitable for people looking to avoid soy.

Related Article:  Do Bodybuilders Eat Soy? (read this article if you want to learn whether soy is an effective protein source)

2. Julian Bakery Paleo Thin Sunflower Butter Protein Bar – 0.133g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 150 calories
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbs: 25g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Sodium: 120mg 
  • Serving size: 59g

Julian Bakery provides an excellent range of products that are paleo-friendly.  The protein in their bars comes from egg whites and sunflower seeds and they are naturally sweetened with monkfruit extract with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

These bars are not suitable for anyone with an egg allergy.

3. Built Bar Coconut Chocolate Creme Protein Bar – 0.131g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 130 calories
  • Protein: 17g
  • Carbs: 18g
  • Fat: 2.5g
  • Sodium: 45mg 
  • Serving size: 49g

Built Bars have a range of sweet flavors in a soft and chewy coated bar.  If you prefer a firmer texture, you can store them in the fridge or freezer before eating.

Built Bars do contain gelatin so they are not suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

4. Kirkland Signature Cookies and Cream Protein Bar  – 0.129g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 170 calories
  • Protein: 22g
  • Carbs: 22g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Sodium: 170mg 
  • Serving size: 60g

Kirkland Signature protein bars (available online and at Costco) have several delicious flavors with 21-22g of protein.  The Cookies and Cream bar has the lowest calorie total, so it provides the highest protein per calorie.

The bars do include erythritol as one of the sweeteners, so if sugar alcohols cause digestive distress for you, avoid these bars.  The bars also contain nuts (cashews).

5. NuGo Smarte Carb Chocolate Black Cherry Protein Bar  – 0.120g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 150 calories
  • Protein: 18g
  • Carbs: 22g
  • Fat: 3g
  • Sodium: 170mg 
  • Serving size: 50g

NuGo offers a variety of low-carb protein bars with a soft-baked texture.  The primary source of protein in the bar comes from soy.

It is worth noting that the bars are sweetened with several kinds of sweeteners including maltitol (a sugar alcohol), polydextrose (a sugar) and Sucralose (an artificial sweetener).  

One bar has 14g of sugar alcohols and 6g of fiber, which could lead to digestive upset if you are sensitive to these ingredients.

Related Article: 10 Best Protein Bars Without Sugar Alcohols

6. Quest Bar Birthday Cake Protein Bar – 0.117g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 180 calories
  • Protein: 21g
  • Carbs: 24g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 220mg
  • Serving size: 60g

I am a long time fan of Quest bars for their great flavors and yummy “inclusions” – they were one of the first brands to incorporate extra elements into their protein bars for texture and flavor like chocolate chips, cookie dough, marshmallows or sprinkles like the ones in the Birthday Cake bar.

Quest bars are very high in fiber (14g in this flavor) so they can be helpful for people looking to boost their fiber intake but problematic for people who need a low-fiber diet or prefer a lower fiber content in their protein bars.

Related Article: 10 Best Low-Fiber Protein Bars (As Rated by Dieticians)

7. Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe Protein Bar  – 0.117g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 180 calories
  • Protein: 21g
  • Carbs: 17g
  • Fat: 4.5g
  • Sodium: 85mg 
  • Serving size: 50g

The Pure Protein brand makes a range of protein products including bars, protein powder, and protein shakes.  Similar to the Kirkland Signature bars, these budget-friendly options are available online and at Walmart, and they have several flavors.  As a bonus, they have added vitamins and minerals.

Also similar to the Kirland bars, Pure Protein bars contain sugar alcohols and allergens in the form of milk, soy, peanuts and tree nuts (almonds).  They do, however, have a lower sugar alcohol total (4g) than the NuGo bars.

Related Article: 5 Protein Bar Alternatives That Are Cheaper & Healthier

8. No Cow Lemon Meringue Pie Protein Bar – 0.116g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 190 calories
  • Protein: 22g
  • Carbs: 25g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Sodium: 170mg
  • Serving size: 60g

“No Cow” gets its name from the fact that it makes vegan protein bars with no dairy or whey.  Instead, the company uses a plant-based protein blend including brown price and pea protein, but no soy.  This is a great option for vegetarians and vegans who want to limit soy intake.

The bars do have a very high fiber content, similar to Quest bars (16g per serving) and also have 5g of sugar alcohol per serving.

9. Nutrativa Chocolate Caramel Almond Whey Protein Bar  – 0.112g of protein per calorie

Nutrativa chocolate caramel almond whey protein bar
  • Calories: 170 calories
  • Protein: 19g
  • Carbs: 20g
  • Fat: 5g
  • Sodium: 45mg 
  • Serving size: 50g

Nutrativa bars have a sweet, crispy texture with a smooth chocolate coating that makes them seem more like a candy bar than a protein bar.  They are also kosher and gluten-free.

Similar to the Built Bars, Nutrativa bars contain gelatin, so they are not suitable for vegans and vegetarians.  They also get some of their protein from egg whites.

10. CarbRite Diet Chocolate Brownie Protein Bar – 0.111g of protein per calorie

  • Calories: 190 calories
  • Protein: 21g
  • Carbs: 23g
  • Fat: 3.5g
  • Sodium: 140mg
  • Serving size: 57g

CarbRite bars provide protein from several sources (soy, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed protein and from peanut flour and almonds) in a sugar-free bar with rich chocolate flavor.  

CarbRite bars do not include artificial sweeteners, but they are very high in glycerine which is a form of sugar alcohol that is often ignored when companies claim that their bars are free of sugar alcohols.  In this case, each 57g bar has 20g of sugar alcohols.   

Related Article: 30 Yogurt Brands With The Most Protein (Complete List)

Top 3 Highest Protein Bars (Regardless of Calories)

If you’re not worried about the calorie content in a protein bar, and you just want to know what bars provide you with the highest protein content, we’ve got that list:

1. MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Protein Bars Super Cookie Crunch – 32g protein per bar

  • Calories: 410 calories
  • Protein: 32g
  • Carbs: 42g
  • Fat: 14g
  • Sodium: 430mg
  • Serving size: 100g

2. Fit Crunch Protein Bar – 30g protein per bar

  • Calories: 380 calories
  • Protein: 30g
  • Carbs: 27g
  • Fat: 16g
  • Sodium: 490mg
  • Serving size: 80g

3. Oh Yeah Peanut Butter and Caramel Protein Bar – 27g protein per bar

  • Calories: 380 calories
  • Protein: 27g
  • Carbs: 30g
  • Fat: 19g
  • Sodium: 115mg
  • Serving size: 85g

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Should Eat A High-Protein Protein Bar?

A protein bar that has a high protein content relative to its total calories is a great choice for someone who is struggling to meet their protein target for the day while staying within their total calories.  This is most likely when pursuing a calorie deficit for weight loss or cutting body fat. 

How Much Protein Do You Need In A Protein Bar, Anyway?

The amount of protein that you need in a protein bar will depend on your total daily protein requirements as well as the other sources of protein in your diet.  

FeastGood Registered Dietician Brenda Peralta recommends: 

“A protein bar should have a minimum of 12g of protein.  An ideal amount could range between 20-25g of protein per bar.”

As we saw, the amount of protein also needs to be balanced against the number of calories.  

Aside from the vegan strips, the protein bars in the top ten list above provide an average of 20g of protein for 168 calories (0.12g/cal).  This is well within Peralta’s recommendation of 150-250 calories for a protein bar.  

We generally recommend a target of 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day, providing 25-35% of total daily calories.  For a 130lb person, this would be 130g of protein per day.  

One bar with 20g of protein provides 15% of this daily total, with 110g remaining to get from other sources of protein such as whole foods, protein shakes or protein powder.

Can You Get Enough Protein From A Protein Bar?

Yes, you can get an appropriate serving of protein from a protein bar to provide the protein content for a meal or snack, unless you have a very high daily protein target and/or a small number of meals.  However, you should not rely solely on protein bars to meet your total protein requirements for the day.

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About The Author

Lauren Graham
LAUREN GRAHAM

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.