by Matt Weik
Protein bars have been under fire for years now and a group called Safefood is claiming protein bars are unhealthy and unnecessary. Being in the industry, not only did I find this funny but somewhat true. While brands have been improving the profile on their protein bars, some are still lacking. But things seem to be trending in the right direction, yet people still want to throw shade at protein bars for some reason.
Most of what I found in the article I read regarding protein bars I do not agree with, however, there are some solid points – but not many. Let’s go over what was said and my thoughts.
You Don’t Need Protein Bars
I’ll agree with Safefood on this one and say you definitely “don’t need” protein bars. However, you also don’t need to sit on your couch all night and watch The Bachelor while claiming you don’t have time to exercise. Busted! See where I’m going with this?
While it’s true that you can get all of your protein from your diet, most people don’t. Two macronutrients that people have no problem getting their daily intake for though are carbohydrates and fats. Let’s face it, the American diet is full of junk. And while the population is getting more and more educated and making better buying decisions when it comes to food, they are still a long way away from having a well-balanced diet. Therefore, I don’t see anything wrong with the use of protein bars where needed in order to take in your daily recommended amount of protein to take in a quick meal in a pinch.
You should be having protein in all of your meals, yet many people don’t. And even those who do, aren’t taking in enough in the grand scheme of things (unless you’re a bodybuilder or someone in the fitness industry where most of your diet revolves around protein sources).
Protein Bars Are Unhealthy
Yes and no. Are there still protein bars on the market today that are unhealthy? Absolutely. But are they much better than they were years ago? Without a doubt. With brands line One Bar, Quest, and Best Bar Ever to name a few, you have some fantastic choices with a wide variety of flavors.
Safefood claimed that MOST bars have the first ingredient being “chocolate.” I’m not sure what protein bars they are looking at (they never said in the article) but most of the bars I’m looking at do not have chocolate as a first ingredient. They also claimed that consuming above the “recommended intake” for protein does not provide any health benefits. My question is, what are they considering the “recommended intake” to make such a claim? And what’s not to say that an individual isn’t lowering another macronutrient such as their carb intake and increasing their protein to compensate for the difference in calories? And what about the ketogenic diet that is so popular today? So, I’m not sure where they are getting their information from to be making some of the claims that they are.
Another area where Safefood demonized protein bars is with the content itself – calling it “highly processed protein.” Say what? A high percentage of protein bars on the market these days are using some sort of whey protein as their protein source. Whey concentrate, whey isolate, whey hydrolysate, or something like a casein or soy source. I’m not sure what their beef is with whey protein but that is the source used by nearly every supplement brand out there in any of their protein products (bars, powders, RTDs, functional foods, etc.). Whey has been used for years without any issues or adverse health effects when used as directed.
It’s Just a Glorified Chocolate Bar?
I will say that there are SOME bars out there with a horrible nutritional profile. But you can say that about just about every other food category on the market today. Not every company is going to have the healthiest product and the price tends to reflect that. Look at a candy bar for example. They tend to be much less expensive when compared to protein bars. And speaking of protein bars, the article stated, and I quote, “On average, high-protein bars are comparable to a small standard chocolate bar in their calorie, fat, saturated fat, and salt content.”
Let’s discuss their statement. For starters, a straight candy bar really doesn’t provide any true nutritional benefit. Sure, if you go with a dark chocolate bar you’ll get some benefits such as antioxidants but that’s about it. Protein bars, on the other hand, do. Look at the size of a candy bar with a given calorie count and now look at a protein bar with the same calorie count – the protein bar is larger and more dense, correct? So, if you are in a pinch and grab a protein bar and a chocolate bar, which do you think will not only fill you up but be healthier? The protein bar.
Now, I’m not here trying to sell you on protein bars, you can make your own decision. However, you can’t take everything you read as gospel as many companies are simply out there with an agenda to damage the reputation of another brand or industry. Now, does this mean Safefood has a hidden agenda? I don’t know. But they didn’t have one positive thing to say about protein bars so you can’t help but be a little skeptical of where all of this is coming from.
All in all, I’m not going to tell you NOT to eat protein bars. I eat them, myself, and I don’t have a problem with them. That being said, you need to look at the profile of any protein bar you pick up and decide of the ingredients and profile are what you, personally, are looking for.