Best protein bar 2022: The tastiest protein bars from £12
Protein, protein, protein: it’s everywhere. Gone are the days when only hardened athletes indulged in it – these days protein is available in solid and liquid form on supermarket shelves. If your muscles need to be replenished after a workout, the best protein bars are a quick and easy way to fill up on this much-needed macronutrient.
But you should look beyond any shiny packaging, because there are plenty of protein bars out there that aren’t exactly good for you. Many bars contain as much sugar as protein, for example – an ingredient that can easily add inches to your waistline rather than your muscles.
Luckily, we’ve put together this guide to finding the right protein bar, which includes a list of the best bars currently available.
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How to choose the best protein bar for you
What should I pay attention to in the list of ingredients?
Obviously, the main type of ingredient you’re interested in is protein, but you need to be on your guard for less healthy ingredients that might also be hidden in the bar. In particular, it’s a good idea to look for what’s called “macronutrient composition” – the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Most protein bars contain between 15-25g of protein and it is important to know how much protein you are consuming per calorie. Most good bars contain around 200 calories per 15g of protein to around 250 calories per 25g of protein. Also keep an eye on fiber levels, as this roughage is something that many people don’t get enough of in their diets. Five grams or more is a good amount.
What ingredients should be avoided?
If you exercise, a certain amount of calories should not worry you since you will burn them quickly. (If you’re following a fitness program to lose weight, it may be best to avoid bars in favor of natural high-protein foods such as eggs, nuts, and lean meats.)
However, the important thing to watch out for is an abundance of carbs, because that means you’re looking at an energy bar, not a protein bar. They’re great for snacking on before a workout or during endurance activities like biking or hiking, but they won’t necessarily help you recover from exercise and build muscle mass. And then there’s that old troublemaker: sugar. That’s never a good thing and you’ll usually find more in cheaper bars.
What difference does the type of protein make?
You will find many types of protein in an average protein bar. But you don’t have to worry about the details as much as you would with protein powders because the rate of absorption is much slower in the solid form and when combined with fats and dietary fiber.
How much should I spend on a protein bar?
The price of protein bars varies wildly and things can get expensive if you eat them regularly. Avoid the bars at the very bottom of the price scale: not only do they taste pretty awful, but they’re also made with poorer ingredients. You won’t find any of these in our roundup below.
Of course, everyone has different amounts of money to spend, but if you’re incorporating protein bars into your diet daily or several times a week, it’s a good idea to plan for long-term costs. Buying in bulk online, rather than one-time purchases at the gym’s vending machine, will significantly help you get your money’s worth.
What else should you look out for in a protein bar?
Unfortunately, the last thing you should be thinking about isn’t something you can tell from the label and that’s how hard they are on your teeth. Seriously, the simple chewing involved in some protein bars is a workout in itself.
Additionally, in many protein bars, you will find that manufacturers replace natural sugars with sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol because they reduce the calorie count. These substances can cause stomach upset in many people, so take a look at the ingredient list if your gut is particularly sensitive.
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The best protein bars to buy
1. Barebells Protein Bar: The tastiest protein bar
Price: £23 for 12 bars | Buy now on Amazon
Barebells’ protein bars are as good as they look, and given the eye-catching retro styling of the packaging, that’s a big plus in our book. The range contains eight tasty flavors, with the crunchy fudge and white chocolate almond stand out for us. This range also includes two delicious vegan options: salted nougat with peanuts and hazelnuts.
That great taste wouldn’t matter if Barebells hadn’t also nailed the texture of the bars, each being just the right level of goo to satisfy without straying into the boring chewy category that many protein bars fall into.
The key stats are as impressive as the taste and texture, with 20g protein per 55g bar (15g protein in vegan bars). The sugar content is low at 1.9g per bar and each contains around 200 calories. As a bonus, you also get a good amount of fiber, with some flavors containing over 4g per bar.
Key Specs – Weight: 55g; Protein per bar: 20g; The flavours: 8
2. Optimum Nutrition Protein Crispy Bar: Best Low Sugar Protein Bar
Price: From £15 for ten bars | Buy now on Amazon
These bars are almost incredibly sweet and satisfying considering there’s a measly 1.8g of sugar in each 65g serving, and they do a great job of reminiscent of the Rice Krispies snacks that have been the highlight of many childhoods. This hit of nostalgia is achieved by Optimum Nutrition putting a layer of puffs on top of a chocolate base, and the combination of textures is a surefire winner.
The nutrition stats also make for enjoyable reading. Each bar contains 20g of protein and only 215 calories. Another huge benefit is the whopping 13g of fiber – that’s almost half your recommended daily intake of 30g. Be aware, however, that the lack of sugar is compensated by a load of artificial sweeteners, which can cause an upset stomach.
Key Specs – Weight: 65g; Protein per bar: 20g; The flavours: Chocolate brownie, marshmallow, peanut butter
3. Kind Protein Bar: The Best Protein Bar
Price: From £12 for 12 bars | Buy now on Amazon
The Kind Protein Bar definitely shouldn’t be your first choice if you really want to pack protein because there’s only 12g in each. But the flip side is how good it is. That’s what happens when you craft a snack bar from peanuts, almonds and dark chocolate – a fantastic reprieve from the often indistinct, synthesized gloop inside many protein bars. Plus, what these bars lack in protein, they make up for in fiber, with 4.9g each. Snack on these if you’re craving a well-deserved post-workout treat.
Key Specs – Weight: 50 grams; Protein per bar: 12g; The flavours: Crunchy peanut butter, double dark chocolate, roasted caramel nuts
4. M&M’s Hi Protein Chocolate Bar: The Best Chocolate Bar Substitute
Price: £21 for 12 bars | Buy now on Amazon
If you’re stocking up on protein bars to use as healthier alternatives to traditional chocolate bars, you’ll be pleased to hear that several big names in confectionery have started releasing protein-rich versions of their bars. In addition to this M&M’s bar, there are also Mars and Snickers protein bars to consider if you’re worried about your overconsumption of traditional chocolate snacks.
The M&M’s bar does a great job of capturing the flavor of real chocolate candy, and there are big chunks of M&M’s in the bar itself. At 15g of sugar per bar, it’s not as healthy as the other protein bars on this list, but it’s a slight improvement over a regular chocolate candy and it still tastes great. Each 51g bar contains 15g of protein and the peanut version is a bit more caloric at 207 versus 182 for the M&M’s Chocolate Protein Bar.
Key Specs – Weight: 51g; Protein per bar: 15g; The flavours: Chocolate, peanut
5. Barebells Vegan Protein Bar: The Best Vegan Protein Bar
Price: £23 for 12 bars | Buy now on Amazon
Forget the cardboard-like consistency of other vegan protein bars, Barebells Vegan Salty Peanut variety offers something different: a delicate chew on a delicious Snickers-esque bar that will have you devouring each one in seconds.
You won’t find the high sugar content of a Snickers, nor the dairy content, as it’s limited to just 0.9g per serving – with a ‘no added sugar’ promise beyond the natural chunks – which is quite impressive. Especially considering you also get 15g of protein (soy, peas, and rice); not the best numbers, but definitely the highest level in the vegan world. Like sugar, calories are also kept to a minimum at an excellent 215 while still providing 6.3g of fiber for that important roughage.
There’s 1g more fat and 0.1g more sugar in the equally tasty flavor of vegan hazelnut nougat, though we’d recommend sticking with salted peanut if you’re looking for the ultimate vegan bar experience.
Key Specs – Weight: 55g; Protein per bar: 15g; The flavours: Salted Peanut, Hazelnut Nougat