Battle of the Bars: The Best Nutrition Bars That Won’t Undo Your Workout

Battle of the Bars: The Best Nutrition Bars That Won’t Undo Your Workout

I eat a borderline inappropriate amount of snack/energy/nutrition bars. They’re perfect to keep in my purse full of crap and even if they get crushed in there, they keep better than fruit (I’m still recovering from the Banana Explosion Incident of 2012), and they help me avoid getting hangry and/or splurging on expensive snacks on the go. However, there are so many options to choose from and it’s hard to tell which is best, let alone best for you. So, I did the work for you. And by work I mean “eating bars I was already eating in the first place.” Here’s the skinny on some of the popular bars in the market and how they stack up against each other.

Simply Protein

These (specifically, the coconut flavor) are one of my personal faves. They have a ton of protein for a relatively small amount of calories. They come in two varieties: whey bars and…regular bars? Idk. The whey ones are a little denser and feel heartier, even though the nutrition for both varieties is the same.

  • The Skinny: All bars are 150 calories or less, 4 grams of sugar or less, and have 15 grams of protein–an impressive ratio, in my book. Legit facts for the coconut bar: 140 calories, 3g fat (1.5 grams saturated), 18 grams carbs, 5 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 15 grams protein. Bonus: 25% of your daily recommended calcium!
  • Features: Gluten Free, vegan (regular) or vegetarian (whey), non-GMO, plant-based
  • What’s Your Flava? As noted above, the coconut flavor is my personal favorite, and I like the texture of the whey bars better than the regular bars. Cinnamon pecan is ok, as is mint chocolate (minimally minty and chocolatey). Definitely avoid banana butterscotch; that one was real weird. Overall, the whey bars are pretty good but the regular bars could definitely taste better. But like, there’s a reason you’re eating this and not ice cream.
  • Da Money: After this I’ll stop talking like a tween girl who just downloaded AOL Instant Messanger, sorry. These guys run between $2.50 and $3.50 at CVS/Duane Reade etc. 12-packs of bars are available on the website for $28.80 or around $20 on Amazon (plus free shipping with Prime, haaay).
  • Ease in Acquiring: 4/5. These are available at chain convenience stores, grocery stores, etc.
  • Good If: You want a lot of protein for not many calories; you’re looking for a low-sugar option
  • Bad If: You’re avoiding soy or whey; you’re looking for more of a meal than a snack; you want something that tastes AMAZING.

RX Bars

You’ve definitely seen these bars before. They’re the ones that say “3 Egg Whites, 4 Cashews, 6 Almonds, 2 Dates, No B.S.” If you’re looking for whole ingredients, this is your bar. They come in tons of flavors and generally taste pretty good, even though I’ve found myself biting into a chocolate chip and thinking “this isn’t a cashew” and then reminding myself not to ask questions to which I don’t want the answer. I’ve been eating these bars nonstop while trying to cut out added sugar since they’re great for a sweet tooth or for when you’re on the go (Does this defeat the purpose of my cleanse? Maybe. Am I going broke? Definitely. Can I stop? God no, please help).

  • The Skinny: These bars generally have about 210 calories and 12 grams of protein. The downside is that they’re pretty high in sugar–flavors range from 12 to 18 grams per bar. If you need real stats: The blueberry flavor has 210 calories, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 26 grams carbs, 6 grams fiber, 17 grams sugar, and 12 grams protein.
  • Features: Gluten Free, whole 30-approved, dairy-free, soy-free, no artificial flavors, no added sugar
  • What’s Your Flava? Bars come in 11 flavors, and I’ve tried most of them. Most of them are pretty good. Coconut chocolate is a personal fave of mine. However, maple pecan is waaaay too maple-y, and coffee chocolate was kind of jarring/had overly strong flavors. The fruit flavors (blueberry and mixed berries) are generally a safe bet.
  • Da Money: These guys run anywhere from $2.50 to $4 a pop in store. If you’re shopping online, they’re about $26 for a box of 12.
  • Ease in Acquiring: 4/5. They’re in CVS, Duane Reade, and–gamechanger–Trader Joe’s! Fun fact: they are NOT at Walgreens, at least the one I went to. But in general these are pretty easy to find.
  • Good If: You’re Whole30 or trying to eat natural foods, you’re trying to avoid processed crap but still want a bar with protein or something sweet
  • Bad If: You’re watching your sugar intake overall.

Larabar

These guys have been around for a while but I generally ignored them because they have a lot of calories for little protein (yes, I am a bodybuilder, thanks for noticing). However, while traveling for work, I wanted a bar without added sugar, and apparently this fits the bill when your Walgreens doesn’t have RX Bars. They consist of mostly dates and kind of taste like cake. Not bad, not bad.

  • The Skinny: Bars generally have about 200-230 calories, 5-6 grams of protein, and 18-19 grams of sugar. The Apple Pie flavor has 190 calories, 10 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 24 grams carbs, 5 grams fiber, 18 grams sugar, and 4 grams protein.
  • Features: Kosher, vegan, non-GMO, soy free, dairy free, gluten free
  • What’s Your Flava? As “the original fruit and nut bar,” these come in a lot of flavors: 21 to be exact. I haven’t tried too many of these, but can confirm apple pie, cherry pie and peanut butter cookie are good. So far, there are no bad flavors.
  • Da Money: These are cheaper than their competitors, likely because they’re not as trendy anymore. $1.69 per bar, or $25.44 for 16 bars.
  • Ease in Acquiring: 5/5. You might not find these in, like, a midwestern gas station, but in general they’re at most major convenience stores and grocery stores. I bought these when Walgreens didn’t have RX bars, if that tells you anything.
  • Good If: You’re Whole30/avoiding artificial ingredients; you want to eat naturally but need a bar on the go and can’t afford to empty your 401(k)
  • Bad If: You’re watching your sugar intake (18-20 grams per bar!), you want protein (220 calories and 5-6 grams isn’t a great ratio, IMO).

Quest Bar

Quest Bars, like Simply Protein bars, are great for those who want maximum protein for minimal calories. This combo, however, comes at a small cost: taste. The marketing isn’t great either – packaging looks less trendy and more like something you’d see on QVC and purchase at GNC. Read on to learn more.

  • The Skinny: All bars seem to have 190 calories and 21 grams of protein, which is pretty great. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bar has 190 calories, 9 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated), 20 grams carbs, 14 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar (?!), and 21 grams protein.
  • Features: Low net carbs, less than one gram of sugar, gluten free
  • What’s Your Flava? These come in 22 flavors and, to put it bluntly–none of them taste great. They have a weird, sand-like texture, likely due to the loads of protein powder crammed into each bar. But you learn to accept it. I’ve actually started to like the chocolate chip cookie dough flavor, and s’mores and cinnamon roll aren’t bad, either. Avoid cookies and cream at all costs. The “cookies” add to the sand-like texture and the cream is nowhere to be found.
  • Da Money: Bars are $2.39 each (or up to $4 in stores because New York is brutal), or $25 for a box of 12.
  • Ease in Acquiring: 4/5. I’ve seen these at Trader Joes, most bodegas/small shops, and CVS.
  • Good If: You want lots of protein, you’re watching carbs
  • Bad If: You want something that tastes good, you’re looking for minimal ingredients

GoMacro Macrobar

I decided to look into Macrobars after the recommendation of a few friends. These bars are newer than some of the above bars and definitely trendier. However, I expected them to be more about carb/fat/protein balance given the name Macrobar. In reality, they are very carb-heavy and have minimal protein, and the first ingredient is brown rice syrup (aka sugar). That said, they’re the best tasting bars in the bunch!

  • The Skinny: Bars range from 230 to about 290 calories. The regular bars are in the 230-240 calorie range and the “high protein” bars are in the 270-290 range. “High Protein” is debatable, as they only have 11-12 grams of protein and more sugar than protein. These aren’t your best bet if you are looking to rebuild muscle.
    The bar I tried, granola+coconut, has 230 calories, 9 grams of fat (2.5 saturated), 34 grams carbs, 3 grams fiber, 12 grams sugar, and 5 grams protein.
  • Features: Vegan, soy-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, organic
  • What’s Your Flava? I tried the granola + coconut flavor and it’s SO GOOD. This is easily the best tasting bar in the group. Tastes like some sort of oat treat. I sampled the peanut butter chocolate chip mini bar a few months ago, and I remember liking it but not being wowed.  Most of the bars have nut butters (cashew, almond, peanut), if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Da Money: A tray of 12 is about $34 on the website. One bar at CVS was $3.69, which is kind of steep, in my opinion.
  • Ease in Acquiring: 2.5/5. I was surprised to see these in CVS. Would normally find these at a Whole Foods type of store. Not at Trader Joes and probably not at many drugstores unless they have a special nutrition bar section.
  • Good If: You want something tasty, you’re vegan, you’re sensitive to soy
  • Bad If: You’re looking for a high protein option, you’re watching added sugar (at a glance, rice syrup is the first ingredient in every bar).