Choosing your pre or post workout snack can be a stressful ordeal. You walk into the local health food shop and find yourself bombarded by hundreds of brands and variations of protein bars, snacks, powders and gels. Faced with so many, I often end up grabbing the one that most resembles my favourite chocolate bar or has “peanut butter” on the packaging; the one that is also probably the most unhealthy. So which bars are the best for you? And does a “good” protein bar really have to taste like sand? I went to Holland & Barrett and picked up 7 protein bars and tested them all to find out the answer.
Before I start, it’s important to note that my opinions are based on my own personal goals. I am a 5ft-nothing female who spends 80% of my time sat at a desk. I am therefore on the hunt for protein bars that are relatively low in calorie and have the highest possible protein content. Contrast this with the opinion of a 6ft tall bulkin’ male who likes to spend 2.5 hours in the gym every day, and the outcome would probably be significantly different. I also just want to add that I do not eat a shop-bought protein bar every day. Not only are they painfully expensive, but I am also extremely wary of the amount of ingredients in some of the manufactured bars. Therefore I much prefer to get my protein from food sources and high-protein ingredients to make my own pre- and post-workout snacks.
Battle Oats Double Chocolate Brownie (70g)
P: 15.4g, C: 26.6g, F: 11.9g
Number of ingredients: 15
Not the bar for you if you’re cutting or leaning-up. The Battle Oats bars are high in calorie, carb and fat, so one to avoid if you’re meticulously tracking or in a calorie deficit. However, if you’re in the bulking phase, the high carb content makes this bar a great morning and pre-workout snack. Overall, I’ve got to rate this one low in terms of nutrition as the macros just aren’t what I’m after. On the plus side, it is gluten free!
I was super excited to try this bar, but honestly? I was left feeling pretty disappointed. Whilst the bar didn’t have that protein powder taste, it was rather bland and boring. The bar was also extremely dense and hard to chew.
Reflex Nutrition R-Bar Cookies & Cream (60g)
P: 20g, C: 10g, F: 9g
Number of ingredients: 11
In terms of nutrition, the R-Bar has everything I look for in a protein bar. I tend to eat post-workout so the protein and carb content is perfect. With under 250 calories, these bars also mean I’m not having to sacrifice calorie intake throughout the day. The only thing that would improve this would be a marginally lower fat content.
I have to try more. ASAP. This was DELICIOUS. Think of a Quest bar, but softer and much easier to eat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still dense, but in a good way as I find this keeps me more full. Easy full marks for taste.
Precision Engineered Caramel Peanut Protein Bar (70g)
P: 23g, C: 21g, F: 9.1g
Number of ingredients: 32
Whilst the protein content is great, calories and carbs are a little high. As with the Battle Oats, this bar is probably better suited to someone who is bulking. On the plus side, the PE bar is slightly lower in fat than Battle Oats and much higher in protein. One more thing… 32 ingredients!
The PE bar tasted great. There was a good amount of chocolate and I thoroughly enjoyed the large peanut chunks (surprise surprise). The texture of the bar was extremely dense and pretty hard to eat but this didn’t bother me that much as it was so delicious!
PhD Diet Whey Chocolate Cookie (50g)
P: 25g, C: 14g, F: 4.5g
Number of ingredients: 17
If you’re a macro-tracker, this is the one for you. The PhD cookie contains around the same amount of protein as a 1 scoop shake, some added carbs for an energy boost and very low fat and calories. Macro perfection! Just be wary of the funky ingredients.
Whilst the PhD Diet Whey bar wins on nutrition, the taste was definitely the worst of the lot. The flavour was okay, but the texture was extremely unenjoyable. Very stodgy, very chewy and almost impossible to eat.
Pulsin Maple & Peanut Protein Snack (50g)
P: 13.1g, C: 12.8g, F: 12.7g
Number of ingredients: 9
Whilst Pulsin bars are probably the least fitting for the protein bar category, I thought that it would be useful to include a snack that uses much more “natural” ingredients and is what many would consider to be healthier. The protein content isn’t bad but as you will find with many vegan bars, the common use of nuts will nearly always mean a higher fat and therefore calorie content.
I don’t expect this will be for everyone, but I love the taste and texture of these. These little bars are super dense and packed full of flavour, I just wish they were a bit bigger!
Grenade Peanut Nutter Carb Killa (60g)
P: 21g, C: 15.4g, F: 9.3g
Number of ingredients: 16
I was surprised to see the relatively high carb and fat content in these bars considering they are advertised as a “carb killa”. The protein levels are good however and calories reasonable.
Hands down my favourite and tastes just like a chocolate bar. I have tried every flavour and love them all. If you have not tried Grenade bars, you are missing out.
Fulfil Peanut & Caramel Protein Bar (55g)
P: 20g, C: 10.3g, F: 8.8g
Number of ingredients: 33
The macros for the Fulfil bar are marginally better than the Grenade bar, sacrificing 1g of protein. Calories are even lower but fat still remains slightly more than some of the other bars. I was also very surprised to see this many ingredients!
Again, one of my favourties. Very similar to the Grenade Carb Killa texture and taste. Can’t wait to get my hands on some more flavours!
And the winner is….
Reflex Nutrition Cookies & Cream. The Pulsin Maple & Peanut Protein Snack also scored highly, but the Reflex bar pipped the post as the best protein bar. If you haven’t tried one of these, DO SO IMMEDIATELY. I promise you won’t regret it.
What is your favourite protein bar? Are there any I haven’t listed here that I should try out? Let me know in the comments below!