What To Know About Protein Bars


Some students at Williston spend a lot of time in the gym, supplements like protein bars, drinks, and powders are now even offered at the StuBop.

According to the Washington Post, 71% of people say they want more protein in their diets. The article goes to say how these people are, “Enticed by the promise that it can help you lose weight, get stronger, and avoid age-related muscle loss.”

Many people who want to try to include more protein into their diets are most likely looking for more satiating or filling foods so they can reach their health goals. An important benefit of protein is that it represses appetite and helps people eat less, meaning that they will unknowingly eat fewer calories by leaving out snack foods which are not satiating and are often high in calories.

An article from the Healthline says the number one protein bar, according to dietitians, is the RXBAR, because it “checks every box,” claiming to be high in fiber with only 12 grams of protein (equivalent to two eggs). Analyzing the nutrition label shows that there are over 200 calories and more than 20 grams of carbohydrates. For an actual source of protein, this is far too many calories and carbs for only a small percentage of a recommended intake for athletes.

The product description for the RXBAR from Amazon states how the 12 grams of protein will “fuel your day.” They say that because their bar contains “real food ingredients… and that there’s no gluten or B.S.”

This is a very common sales tactic used by many brands: they try to tell you their product is the only one that can deliver positive results.

Some, but not all companies producing these foods are promising multiple health benefits on their FDA-required packaging, but if you know what to look for in the nutrition label, many of these product claims fall short.

The health organization from Harvard states that you can determine your daily protein intake by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36. It is important to note that there is a substantial difference for those who just have general health goals, compared to those who are pursuing large muscle gain combined with a regular weightlifting routine. So with that number, someone who weighs 170 pounds should eat around 60 grams of protein a day.

This is not a difficult number to reach with a normal three meal diet model that includes various meats, but some pose the a question: can vegans hit this number, and is being vegetarian or vegan detrimental to building muscle?

There are some options, like soybeans and lentils, that could possibly provide enough protein for a generally healthy diet. But if you were looking to increase performance and or muscle growth, it would be recommended to supplement additional protein by taking some form of protein powder with a wide range of plant based protein powders.

However, this number does not reflect what a daily intake should be for an athlete or regular lifter. According to Ansel Garvey, the Director of Sports Medicine at Williston, students who fall under these categories should be aiming for a daily intake of at least one gram of protein per pound of lean body weight.

Although you can go over one gram of protein per lean pound of body weight, there is an upper limit where trying to eat too much protein could make you go over your recommended daily caloric intake, which would result in gaining weight.

Director of Sport Performance, Blayne Lapan, said people but may not be fixing the right parts of their diet.

“Protein shakes, bars, and supplements can be a valuable piece to help reach goals/recover from hard training if and only if you are paying close attention to your diet,” he said. “They are not a fix-all for an incomplete diet.”

He also notes that vegan or vegetarian proteins makes body composition improvements more difficult because plant proteins are “incomplete,” meaning that they lack important “essential amino acids, these are the ammino acids we cannot produce in the body and therefor need to consume.”

In his expert opinion, he thinks that with a regular healthy diet, protein shakes and bars can be helpful when you can’t get a hot meal or are on the go, but that paying attention to their nutritional components is arguably more important.

“They can be valuable in a pinch (when food isn’t readily available) to help get you some extra calories from protein and carbs (carbs are also critical for an athlete/person because they are our bodied primary energy source),” he said. “With that said, there are a lot of highly-processed bars and shakes out there, loaded with simple carbs and lots of other processed junk. Highly processed foods are terrible for us as we want to stick to eating a diet that is full of things we can kill or grow.”

Lapan does believe that reaching most general protein goals are possible with food from the dinning hall. These foods include eggs, chicken, cheese, fish, red meat, peanut butter, and chocolate milk.