During the week, a study from SafeFood stated that the main ingredient in almost 40% of protein bars was chocolate and that most of them had a similar calorie content to a regular bar of chocolate.
They also went on to say that many were also high in saturated fat and contained added sugar and salt.
The research also stated that 37 per cent of people believed protein bars were “healthy”.
So, what is the deal with protein bars?
Are they something that you can have in your diet or are they a glorified bar of chocolate?
First things first.
Protein bars are a convenience food.
They are there for you to get some protein in If you struggle to hit your daily protein needs from your diet.
Unfortunately, like protein shakes before them, people tend to have an over reliance on convenience foods and tend to put more emphasis on them than they do on their diet.
You diet should be 80-90% wholefoods and that is where you should be getting the majority of your food intake from.
This will ensure that you are getting enough micronutrients, macronutrients and enough calories to suit your goals.
If this is not in place, no amount of protein bars will help.
You may think that you are doing the right thing by having your daily protein bar, but if your diet as a whole is a disaster, you are wasting your money.
You are putting a BandAid on a gunshot wound and hoping for the best.
But this is what people tend to do.
They focus on the small things that they think will make big differences and then wonder why they aren’t getting any results.
Setting up your diet is like baking a cake.
The cake body is your vegetables, your healthy carbs, your protein intake from lean cuts of meat and your healthy fats from olive oil etc.
The Icing around the cake is your training, getting your water in, taking your vitamins.
The sprinkles on top is things like your protein bars.
You can’t make a decent cake with just sprinkles and you will never get any results with just protein bars.
There are also many other ways to get protein when it comes to snacks.
• Greek Yogurt
• Tuna Pots
They are simple ‘grab and go’ snacks that you can use, and all will allow you to get the same amount of protein in as one of those bars, but you will be getting it from a better source.
The article recommended nuts for a protein source, but they aren’t a great source due to the high fat and calorie ratio to protein you get.
So, the short and long of it is this;
You do not need to take protein bars if your diet is set up properly.
They are simply a convenient way to get some protein in if you are caught out that day.
Do not over rely on them.
Don’t use them as your sole snack each day.
The second thing I want to go over is the claims that was made about protein needs and the harmful effects that a higher protein diet may have.
It was stated that people are getting more than enough protein and don’t actually need any more.
It stated that a male with a 2500cal daily intake only needs 56g of protein per day and a female with a 200cal daily intake only needs 47g of protein per day.
If you are someone who doesn’t train and inactive, then this may meet your needs.
The World health Organisations recommendations for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Which means a 70kg person would only need 56g of protein per day.
This RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day. Source Harvard health
So, the saying that people are getting enough each day is a bit of a loose statement.
The research on people who are active and on those who are training shows different intake levels.
It falls between 1.6 – 3g/kg of bodyweight depending on your goals and activity levels.
So, the same 70kg person (who is active or training), can go between 112g – 210g of protein per day without any issues.
In an RTE article reporting on the protein bar usage, claims were also made to do with high protein use and health effects.
“The evidence we found showed that there may be some short-term weight loss and muscle gain from high protein diet, but no consistent evidence that this is maintained in the long term. In fact, a very high protein diet may be associated with liver disease, kidney disease and vascular disease.”
This however is no longer a ‘fact’ and there have been several studies that has debunked this.
• Some high-protein diets restrict carbohydrate intake so much that they can result in nutritional deficiencies or insufficient fibre, which can cause problems such as bad breath, headache and constipation.
• Some high-protein diets include foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
• A high-protein diet may worsen kidney function in people with kidney disease because your body may have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism.
source the mayo clinic
Protein is not harmful, and you don’t need to be wary of taking in too much.
It is one of the main macronutrients in your diet and as long as you are getting it mainly from wholefood sources and not from convenience foods and supplementation, you will be fine.