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Published Oct. 6, 2021

When it comes to nutrition, the first thing you might think is protein. Wellness is about balance, and the best protein bars come with the essentials with fiber, fats, and carbs all mixed in. Some are made out of animal proteins, others are nut-based, while others rely on legumes. Whether you use protein bars as breakfast on the go or as replenishment after a workout, picking the healthiest options is the key to success. This breakdown highlights the must-haves and avoid-at-all-cost options so you can pick your protein with ease. 

How We Picked These Products

Depending on the kind you pick, protein bars can have as much sugar as a candy bar, or they can supply you with essential nutrients when you don’t have time for a meal. In compiling our list of the top protein bars, we researched the varieties on the market and looked for established brands with good track records of healthy products. We also looked at customer reviews and considered each bar’s nutritional profile, efficacy as a meal replacement, portability, taste, and price.

The Best Protein Bars: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: No Cow Protein Bars

Low Carb, High Flavor

Healthy, tasty, and well-balanced, these power bars offer a substantial kick of protein to build muscles and sustain your appetite. No Cow

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Why It Made the Cut: These delicious protein bars taste like dessert while providing plenty of essential nutrients.

Specs: 

  • 12-flavor sample pack 
  • Vegan
  • Comes in flavors like Chocolate Glazed Doughnut and Lemon Meringue Pie

Pros:

  • Keto friendly with 20 grams of protein
  • Entirely free of GMO ingredients
  • Low in sugar and carbs

Cons:

  • Requires cool storage

If you’re looking for a go-to power bar, the No Cow Protein Bars are a great option. Instead of using sugar, the formula touts a unique combination of monk fruit, erythritol, and stevia. Low in carbs and packed with 20 grams of protein, these bars are non-dairy, gluten-free, and vegetarian friendly. Generally safe for those with common allergies, these bars are made with pea protein and brown rice. By combining the two protein sources, all essential amino acids are properly represented. Relatively low in calories relative to other carb-heavy options, these make a great post-workout snack and come in yummy flavors like Birthday Cake, Raspberry Truffle, and Mint Cacao Chip. Provided you store them in a cool area, these bars can last. 

Best Value: Orgain Organic Plant-Based Bars

Affordable Price

These bars help you get your protein in from organic ingredients at a budget-friendly price. Orgain

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Why It Made the Cut: Made with brown rice, pea, chia seeds and coming in at only 150 calories, these plant-based bars are perfect meals on the go.

Specs: 

  • Comes in a 12-pack
  • 150 calories per bar
  • Flavor: S’mores

Pros:

  • Gluten-free and kosher formula
  • Includes sugar and balanced protein
  • Fiber is well-represented 

Cons:

  • Low-calorie bars are only a small snack
  • Less protein than similar bars

Orgain Organic Plant-Based Bars come in a set of a dozen, well-balanced bars. Made by a manufacturer with a climate-forward pledge, these affordable bars are free of animal products, soy, and gluten. They’re also kosher and safe for most common diets. 

Made to taste like S’mores, these bars are formulated with pea protein balanced with brown rice and chia for ten grams of protein, four grams of sugar, and three grams of fiber per bar. These well-balanced bars are great as an emergency breakfast, a post-workout snack, or an on-the-go bite. Affordable and easy on the palate, these Orgain protein bars let you eat healthy on a budget. 

Best Premium: Rise Whey Protein Bars

Refuel Post-Workout

These bars double as a high-protein breakfast or a way to build muscle after a workout. Rise

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Why It Made the Cut: Made with just three ingredients, these protein bars are made with high-quality whey protein to help facilitate muscle growth without additives you don’t need. 

Specs:

  • 12-pack of bars
  • 20 grams of protein per bar
  • Flavors include Almond Honey and Mint Chip

Pros:

  • 20 grams of balanced protein
  • Made out of natural ingredients in small batches
  • Whey protein isolate helps body metabolize protein

Cons:

  • Basic ingredients mean you could bake them from scratch
  • Not suitable for those with nut allergies or vegan diets

Made with high-quality ingredients, including quality honey and protein-dense almonds, Rise Whey Protein Bars are both healthy and tasty. Crafted by artisans in California, the case comes with a dozen bars, each with 20 grams of protein. The gluten- and soy-free bars are safe for most common diets. 

While they aren’t vegan, if you’re comfortable with animal-based proteins, these bars are made with nuts and whey, and all amino acids are represented along with four grams of fiber. While they’re more expensive than other options, these bars come in flavors like Almond Honey and Mint Chip and are a premium choice for serious muscle building. 

Best Keto-Friendly: IQ Bar Brain and Body Protein Bars

Extra Fat

Accommodate your keto diet with the ample supply of fat and protein found in these power bars. IQ BAR

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Why It Made the Cut: These bars are packed with essential nutrients and are formulated with a balance of protein and fat that’s ideal for the keto diet. 

Specs: 

  • 12 bars per pack
  • 12 grams of protein per bar
  • Vegan

Pros:

  • Each bar has 12 grams of protein
  • Accommodates a ketogenic diet 
  • Six flavors, including Chocolate Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Chip

Cons:

  • Not safe for peanut or nut allergies

IQ Brain and Body Protein Bars are made with essential nutrients like iron, potassium, and calcium to help you replenish after a workout. Each bar contains 12 grams of protein, made up of tapioca, pea, acacia, and coconut. In line with the keto diet, these bars also include a full 12 grams of fat, of which only three grams are saturated. 

With 8 to 10 grams of fiber, healthy omega 3s, and choline, these bars are a good addition to a workout regime. Plus, they come in tasty value packs for chocolate lovers and fruit lovers. 

Best Low-Carb: Kind Breakfast Protein Bars

Gluten-Free

Streamline your carb intake and balance your macronutrients post-workout with the help of these tasty power bars. KIND

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Why It Made the Cut: If you’re watching your carb intake, these bars provide plenty of essential nutrients, making them a good breakfast replacement on the go.

Specs: 

  • 8 bars per pack
  • Gluten-free
  • Flavor: Almond Butter

Pros:

  • Box contains 32 bars with long shelf lives
  • Low in sodium yet high in fiber 

Cons: 

  • Much less protein than an average bar
  • Not suited for those with nut allergies

Kind Breakfast Protein Bars are a great way to cut down on gluten and limit carbs without foregoing protein. Each bar is made primarily of oats, balanced with canola oil and almond butter, and sweetened with honey and raisin paste. Incorporating buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, and soy protein, this formulation provides complete protein while being vegetarian. 

Free of trans fats, these high-fiber, low sodium bars work best in conjunction with electrolytes to make sure you’re getting your essential nutrients during your workout. Low enough in calories to work pre-or post-workout, you can use these protein bars anywhere from hikes to emergency breakfasts.

Things to Consider Before Buying Protein Bars

Vegan or or Animal-based Protein

Not all protein is made alike. All the essential amino acids must be present, regardless of the source. When opting for a vegan protein, ensure that it is a balanced protein.

Allergens

Allergens and irritants can range from nut-based systemic reactions to gluten intolerance to insulin issues. Make sure to read the ingredient list before making a purchase.

Ratio of Carbs to Protein to Fat

When it comes to power bars, you aren’t getting your fruits and veggies—it’s about getting quick calories that burn sustainably until you reach the next meal. While a protein boost sounds great, a sugar crash doesn’t.

Shelf Life

Being sure the bars will last is important. Letting them sit beyond the natural shelf life makes matters worse. There’s some buffer room, but unless you plan on eating the protein bars as a part of a workout regimen, it’s better to shoot for a distant expiration date.

FAQs

Q: Are protein bars actually good for you?

Protein bars can be good for you if they are made with all-natural protein sources, such as whey protein or pea protein; are high in fiber, low in sugar, and have no artificial ingredients. They can provide extra protein after a workout or serve as a meal on the go, but they should be part of an overall healthy diet with lots of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.

Q: What protein bars should you avoid?

Avoid protein bars that are high in sugar or contain high fructose corn syrup, are made with lots of chemical additives, such as the emulsifier carrageenan, which can cause bloating. Also keep allergies and your dietary preferences in mind. Many protein bars contain dairy products like whey and casein and nuts like almonds and peanuts.

Q: Do protein bars help you lose weight?

Protein bars, like the choices we outlined above, can serve as a great replenishment post workout or an occasional replacement for a meal on the go. Look for varieties that are high in protein and fiber and low in sugar and calories.

Final Thoughts

Getting all the nutrients you need in a day can be challenging, but fortunately, there are some products that can help pick up the slack. The best protein bars provide what you need to feel satisfied and build muscle without added sugars and artificial additives. Whether you prefer plant-based or animal-based protein, there are plenty of options that are both nutritious and delicious.

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