What is a better protein source, Protein Bars or Protein Powders?
Protein comes in many forms from a succulent New York Strip Steak to an omelet to even protein gel. Protein powder and protein bars are two of the most protein options, but one is not deserving of this mantle.
Protein powders are for the most part derived from milk in either Whey form or Casein. Protein powders are highly concentrated, coming in at around 25 grams of protein per scoop, and are highly bioavailable meaning the protein is highly digestible by the body and very little protein goes unused. Protein powders can be mixed with water or milk or any other liquid if you so choose and mix well in liquid. Protein powders, specifically whey and casein have great amino acid profiles and contain only trace amounts of fat and no carbohydrates. Additionally when you read the label on a good protein powder (check my post about how to pick a good protein powder here) whatever type of protein you are buying should be the first and only ingredient listed.
“Soy Nuts, Protein Blend[Blend Consisting Of Whey Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Caseinate), Hydrolyzed Gelatin], White Coating(Maltitol, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Milk Protein Isolate, Nonfat Dry Milk, Soy Lecithin, Distilled Monoglycerides, Natural Flavor, Sucralose), Caramel(Sugar, Corn Syrup, Nonfat Dry Milk, Maltitol Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Cornstarch, Butter, Sucralose, Soy Lecithin, Natural And Artificial Flavors), Peanuts, Glycerine, Peanut Flour, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Lecithin(An Emulsifier), Natural And Artificial Flavors, Salt, Sucralose, Potassium Sorbate as A Preservative.”
The above is the ingredient list from one of the most popular protein bars on the market. Soy nuts are the first ingredients listed and they are definitely not a good protein choice. The second ingredient listed is a protein blend which contains five different proteins but does not list the % of each protein used. Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate, and Calcium Casseinate can be good quality proteins but we do not know enough about the source or quantity of them in the mix. Milk Protein Concentrate is a lower quality protein and Soy Protein Isolate should be avoided. That is the end of the protein portion of the bars, the rest of the ingredient list is the flavoring, texture creating preservatives and added fats and carbs. One bar weights in at 370 calories, 28 g Protein, 33 g Carbs, and 14 g of fat. Stack that up against one scoop of Whey Protein Isolate which comes in at 100 calories, 25 g Protein, 0 g carbs, and 0 g fat. This is just a sample of one type of protein bar but all protein bars follow the same formula with blended protein sources and a lot of extras that make it a poor choice for protein intake. Some bars are even worse nutritionally than the one discussed above.
This battle was over before it started, protein powder is the clear winner in this fight. Do yourself a favor and never buy a protein bar again, instead opt for a shake or get your protein from a whole food source like beef, fish, or poultry.