Protein bars are a popular snack and are a very convenient source of nutrition, whether one is looking for a meal replacement or an on-the-go snack to grab between meals. Most people consume protein bars, as they contain protein along with other nutrients. Plus, they are easy and quick to have during an active and busy lifestyle. Given a wide variety of protein bars in the supermarket, it is crucial to know that all of these are not the same; many of them aren’t actually healthy. Some bars may state that they are protein bars but in reality, they contain more carbohydrates than protein.
Here are six things to look out for while choosing the right protein bar for yourself:
1. Protein: Look out for a protein bar that offers at least 10 grams of protein per serving. Proteins help in building muscles as well as in recovery after exercise. It helps keep the stomach full between meals and even reduces cravings. Choosing the correct protein bar may take you some time, because a number of protein bars actually fail to meet our protein requirements. They do not contain enough protein, in order to be called a protein bar.
While selecting one, keep a rule in mind – the more the protein, the better the protein bar. Choose bars that have high-quality protein. A dairy-based protein source like whey isolates or hydrolysed whey is good.
2. Carbohydrates: It is good to pick a protein bar that offers less than 10 grams of carbohydrates. Any excess in the amount of carbohydrates leads to increased amounts of fat in the body, which can further lead to more carb cravings. If one is looking to shed some weight, a high amount of carbs in the diet can make the process difficult. Also, there should be at least five grams of fibre in a protein bar. Fibre equals slow-digesting carbs that keep us full for a long time, stabilize blood sugar levels and improve digestion.
3. Sugar: Choose a protein bar that offers no more than six to eight grams of sugar per serving. Manufacturers often add artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols to make protein bars taste better by masking the taste of protein. These added sugars may have some side effects too, so be aware of them while purchasing a protein bar.
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Sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, etc. are popular substitutes, as they are not sweeter than sugar and also have fewer calories. However, these sugar alcohols cause gastrointestinal problems like bloating and gas, and even have a laxative effect. So, they should be avoided in high quantities. Also, you should avoid refined sugars such as corn syrup, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup.
4. Fats: Look out for protein bars that offer healthy fats, are low in saturated fats (fewer than 3 grams) and have no trans fats. Healthy fats in protein bars are present in coconut oil, nuts, nut butters or seeds like chia seeds. Always go through the ingredient list to avoid trans fats completely. These are usually named as partially hydrogenated oil.
5. Oils: Protein bars that contain palm oil or kernel oil should be avoided completely. These ingredients are often included in protein bars coated with chocolate.
6. Calories: It is very important to check the calorie amount of the protein bar, before choosing it. For men, an appropriate protein bar should have between 170-250 calories per serving. For women, a good protein bar should have between 140-200 calories per serving.
Choosing a good protein bar might not be an easy task, but with these tips to follow, the search for the right one should be worth it. There are numerous benefits of adding protein bars as part of meals and it is a personal choice whether to make them a part of your diet or not. Just ensure to always check the nutritional labels of the protein bars before buying them, and be aware of the ingredients used in it!