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The simplest way to pick the best protein bar that will help you rather than sabotage your progress.
We’ve all been there. You need some quick protein fix to help you stay somewhat awake in the meeting you have in 5 minutes. Not to mention the meeting crosses over into your normal eating time and you’re not yourself when your hungry. But you don’t reach for a Snickers; although delicious, you are doing really good with look better naked.
Pop quiz hot shot, What do you do? What do you do?
There’s no time to warm up the food you brought in.
The vending machine will only ruin the awesome streak you’re on.
AAAHHHHHH the stress!!!!
But then you remember… You have protein bars in your desk!
You smart son-of-a-beesting! Look at you thinking ahead and stuff.
But how do you know that protein bar is better than a Snickers, other than the label saying it’s a protein bar?
Could you even tell if it was any better or just a more expensive Snickers bar?
My guess is probably not. Not a knock against you, we’ve all fallen prey to health food advertising.
SO… HOW DO YOU PICK THE BEST PROTEIN BAR
Like anything else profitable, there are endless varieties of companies toting the best protein bar. Call me cautious, but I’m always weary of taking the advice of someone that makes money off me. If they have the goods to back up the claim, then I’m in, but most companies are just trying to get their share of the market.
So in order for you to keep your progress going and not lining the pockets of the bad companies, this is how you can take the power back in picking the best protein bar for you and your goals.
Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself next time you are searching Amazon for protein bars…
IS THIS A MEAL REPLACEMENT OR A SNACK?
Most companies will put MEAL REPLACEMENT on the label. Meal Replacement just means there is a shit ton of calories. Like enough calories to replace a meal. Pretty tricky wording.
Odds are that you’re trying to lose weight and you’ll just need these bars for snacks in between the bigger meals. Even if you plan on using them for meals I’d stick to protein bars under 250 calories.
If you are trying to gain weight then opt for the meal replacement bars regardless, you need the extra calories you genetic jerk.
Quick Recap: Losing weight – Less than 250 calories. Gaining weight – Go meal replacement with a side of my jealousy.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOUD IT HAVE?
Sounds crazy but some protein bars are packing a whopping 10g of protein. That is not a protein bar, it’s a glorified candy bar.
Rule of thumb for protein bars: if it has less than 20g of protein put it down.
More protein is better, less is a waste of time.
So what makes 20g the tipping point of a protein bar and candy bar?
According to research, 20g is the tipping point for protein synthesis aka making gainz brofessor
Another benefit, is the satiating level associated with higher amounts of protein. With higher amounts of protein, you can make it through that marathon meeting and make it home without stopping for a snack before dinner.
Quick Recap: Look for at least 20g of protein for it to be considered a legit protein bar.
WHAT TYPE OF PROTEIN SHOULD BE IN THE INGREDIENTS?
Whey and casein are the best (isolate or concentrate doesn’t matter) and stay away from Soy – which I’ll get into later.
Whey and casein are expensive which is the difference between the Snickers for .99 and the $3.49 of the protein bar. A good bar will have one if not both as the first ingredient.
Sometimes the ingredients list will have protein sources listed other than whey and casein. Here is an acceptable list:
isoleucine, leucine and valine
Brown rice protein
Quick Recap: First ingredients should read some form of whey and/or casein protein. Stay away from soy.
WHAT ABOUT CARBS?
Ahh the the “popular” girl at the party. Is she DTF? Is she just a tease? Is she just going to pass through or is she going to hang around and mess some stuff up?
Some bars have a label that says something along the lines of “Xg of Net Carbs!”. You get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside and then you go for it. Only to find out later that there is really no such thing as “Net Carbs”. That temptress bitch!
The idea behind the Net Carbs is that fiber and sugar alcohols are subtracted from the total carbs to give you your Net Carbs. Some fiber doesn’t digest in the body and kind of just pushes shit out – literally. Overall, a lower net carb means a lower sugar content.
There is still more research to be done on the effects of fiber and total calories but for now a little fiber in your diet is a good thing and shouldn’t negatively impact your progress.
Look for inulin and galactooligosaccharides as the fiber source.
Now that you’ve checked your fiber content, let’s dive into sugars and sugar alcohols. We all know sugar is the devil so limit the amount of that, usually less than 5g is good. Too much and you start crossing into that candy bar range.
Sugar alcohol benefits are subject for debate, they provide sweetness and the prevailing though is that they don’t effect the net carbs and contribute a very small amount to the overall calories due to either being poorly digested or poorly metabolized. The main sugar alcohols you’ll find are maltitol and erythritol.
The only downside is that sugar alcohols tend to give some people a whole host of gastrointestinal problems like bloating, gas and my personal favorite… disaster pants.
The best and quickest way to find a half way decent protein bar is to look for a 2:1 protein to net carb ratio. The better the ratio favors the protein the better the bar usually.
Quick Recap: Look for fiber and sugar alcohols to reduce the carb amount. Aim for as close as you can get to a 2:1 protein to carb ratio.
WHAT ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF FAT?
If you’ve already checked the total calories (<250) and your protein makes up at least 20g and your net carbs are around 10g then I wouldn’t concern myself with the fat content. The fat will slow down the release of carbs into the blood stream. This helps your insulin levels stay in check and limit the insulin crash sleepiness you get from a normal candy bar. Just be weary of the trans fat amount, which should be low with the regulations out now.
If you find a protein bar with Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT oil) as an ingredient, buy it. MCT oil, like in coconut oil has been shown to do great things with weight loss and is not a cheap alternative to other forms of fat.
Quick Recap: Waste your time worrying about the other macros.
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE INGREDIENTS?
The first ingredients should be some source of protein like I mentioned earlier. After that, a fiber source then comes all the fillers and other crap. The shorter this list the better and if you can’t pronounce it then it’s probably not the best for you.
Quick Recap: Keep the ingredients list short and on your pronunciation level.
SO WHAT IS A GOOD PROTEIN BAR?
I did a little Googling and a little Amazon searching to find, in my opinion, the best protein bars around using the criteria I listed above. So here they are in no particular order:
All the links above have my affiliate link in them. Basically Amazon pays me for giving them business – like they need it – at no extra cost to you. So everyone wins.
DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVES TO PROTEIN BARS
As I was prepping for this I thought what if people wanted an alternative to protein bars because maybe sugar alcohols give them disaster pants or gas. I sympathize with the gas people. There is nothing worse than having to hold it in all day only to explode when you get in your car.
So if you’re looking for a cheap, quick protein snacks to hold you over until your next meal here is a few I could think of and a couple of handy dandy recipes.
Nuts- peanuts, almonds or walnuts; preferably no salt added or low salt
1 scoop of casein protein
¼-1/2 cup of water.
Put the scoop of casein protein into a small container. Add water. Stir until you get a pudding like consistency. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Enjoy!
Homemade Beef Jerky
3 pounds of lean beef
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 small bottle of Worcestershire sauce
1 small bottle of soy sauce
8 tablespoons of liquid smoke
Freeze the meat partially so that it will be easy to slice into thin strips. Cut off all visible pieces of fat. Slice the beef horizontally in 1/2 inch slabs. Then cut thin strips of meat from these slabs, making sure you’re cutting against the grain. Make the strips as thin as possible.
Mix the other ingredients in a bowl. Lay the strips of meat in the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Pour the marinade over it and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, drain the meat strips and set them directly on wire oven racks. The strips should be close together but not touching. Set your oven on the lowest possible setting and with the oven door slightly open, put in the racks of strips. Leave in the oven 12 to 24 hours, checking it for brittleness. The jerky is done when it snaps as you bend it.
Place finished jerky in brown paper bags to protect it from the light. Then place brown bags in sealed plastic bags. The jerky will keep for a year without refrigeration.
MY BEEF WITH SOY
The health benefits are about as clear as mud. The people of Okinawa, Japan have the longest life spans of any population in the world. They diet contains a high percentage of soy. So the thought is soy = good right?
Well there is also cases of men in the US that eat soy that develop breasts and can’t get hard.
Whatever the difference between the people of Okinawa and the US it’s too much for me. Soy is off the table.
What we know about how soy interacts with our bodies is subject to whoever publishes a study. What I do know is that soy contains compounds that reduce the efficacy of some digestive enzymes.
They also contain phytoestrogens which are similar to estrogen. These activate the body’s estrogen receptors and carry out effects changes that you don’t want happening, like developing your very own set of C-cups.
This is why I stay away from soy and soy related products. I am all about boobs but I have no desire to have my own.
As a side note: it turns out that farm raised chickens are mostly fed with soy products. With the massive consumption of chicken and eggs I eat weekly I’m thinking about switching over to grass-fed chicken and see how it effects me.
If you know anywhere that offers grass fed chicken and beef for a reasonable price let me know. I’d prefer to buy from someone that is reputable.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
“What’s your favorite protein bar?”
“What you eat for snacks that I might have missed?”
“If you eat soy and any negative effects it might have had.”
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