Are Protein Bars Bad For You?


Protein bars can be a great solution for busy people who have no other access to get high-quality protein. But they also can be like buying a cat in the sack.

Are protein bars bad for you?

In general, protein bars aren’t bad for you. They can be a good addition to help people who don’t get enough protein in their diet. They are an easy, convenient, and portable source of high-quality protein for people who seek out fat loss and well as to gain muscle.

But you need to remember that the supplement industry isn’t strictly regulated and anything that’s on the outside on the label may or may not be what is inside the bar.

Are Protein Bars Unhealthy?

As a general rule, protein bars aren’t unhealthy. The majority of the supplements and protein products are acceptable to consume. However, they aren’t controlled by the same, relatively strict, regulations that cover either food and drug companies and manufacturers.

Here’s how the food regulations work.

  • If you buy a can of coconut milk, it must have coconut milk inside, not pickles
  • If the can says 200ml, it must have 200ml
  • It must have to be purified and not contain any foreign objects

Guess what?

Supplement companies aren’t covered by these regulations (source).

This means that protein bars can have on the title:

  • “sugar-free” and still be full of sugar
  • “good source of protein” and have almost no protein at all
  • “vitamins” and have little to none

They can have whatever they want on the label.

  • Organic
  • Natural
  • Bioavailable
  • Functional

All the fancy names that mislead us to think that this product is somehow better or healthier than the one next to it.

They fall into this grey area. They are not really a food, and they are not really drugs.

But it doesn’t mean they are unhealthy. It just means that when choosing your protein bars you should be spending extra time to find out as much as you can about the company and manufacturer.

Related article: Do Protein Bars Help You Gain Weight?

Dangers Of Protein Bars

The dangers of protein bars can come from the fact that in some countries (including the United States) supplements don’t have to be proven safe before they are sold. And to remove unsafe supplements from the market, the FDA has to prove that specific supplement isn’t safe.

So unless some people got sick or reported official complain, there is no regulation for any action to be taken.

The perfect example you can see in the classic documentary movie Bigger, Faster, Stronger with Chris bell who hires casual people from the street to his house to fill capsules with rice flour in his kitchen.

After that he prints the labels including “proprietary blend” as a secret ingredient and don’t reveal what’s included.

How Do You Know Which Protein Bars Are Safe?

As a consumer, you should know which protein bars are safe to take. Start by looking for stickers and labels that indicate good manufacturing practices, is verified by the independent agency like GMP, USP in the United States, and ECFSA in Europe.

Also, the folks at Examine.com have an extended list of research-based supplements.

What to do:

  • Buy from reputable manufactures and distributors (China has been repeatedly caught exporting contaminated products, where non of their factories can be inspected by the American regulators)
  • Don’t hesitate to contact companies and ask about their manufacturing practices and how they obtain their ingredients
  • Be skeptical

NOTE: It doesn’t mean protein bars are somehow bad. It just means you don’t really know what is inside.

Related article: Are Protein Bars Worth It?

Are Protein Bars Junk Food?

In general, protein bars aren’t junked food. Apart from the high-quality protein, some of the companies add robust ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and green extracts that have been compacted and distilled into a powder form like spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella, and barley grass.

Some of the companies gone one step further and offer protein for people with special needs

  • Vegans and vegetarians (pea, hemp, rice, pumpkin seed protein)
  • FODMAP (egg white and lactose-free for people with food intolerance)

This means there are some independent companies that add plenty of value into the quality.

Which is great for:

  • people who just started to eat and move better and need extra protein while they transition into building their healthy eating habits
  • people on the go who need healthier snack option than chocolate bars from the convenience store
  • people who struggle to gain weight and need extra calories but less food quantity

Do Protein Bars Have Sugar?

On average, protein bars do have either sugar or artificial sweeteners. During the manufacturing process, protein bars are fortified with additives artificial flavors, or simple sugars to hide the bitter, metallic, or generally unpalatable flavors from herbs, B-complex vitamins, and minerals.

Sometimes to avoid using the artificial sweeteners, companies add flavor masking ingredients.

These compounds don’t add and contribute to the flavor of the product.

Instead, they cover or mask the off-flavors of other ingredients.

Related article: Can You Eat Expired Protein Bars?

Conclusion

Protein bars aren’t bad for you if you treat them as a transition while you’re working on building your healthy eating habits.

They are the perfect solution for people who are chronically busy and travel a lot and struggle to get enough protein or calories from better sources than cookies or chocolate bars.

When choosing the protein bars always read the labels and do not hesitate to ask the seller or the manufacturer about the ingredients that you’re not familiar with.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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