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[Review] The Protein Bar Power Rankings — 30 Popular Bars Torn Apart And Ranked

protein bar rankings, protein bar reviews

Protein bars are insidious, menacing little gremlins. They’re capable of playing devious mind games and derailing diets, unassumingly, without receiving any of the blame when diets stall, or worse — spontaneously combust, opening the floodgates for fat to flow in.

At first glance, the prospect of a quick, convenient, high-protein infusion sounds fantastic. The blunt reality, though, is that most protein bars fall closer to chemically engineered, nuclear fuel rods than actual food itself. They’re a feeding ground for synthetic, processed ingredients, with a smathering of protein mixed in.

To varying degrees, manufacturers leverage high protein counts to mask the overwhelming amount of saturated fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients hiding inside, yet people continue to shove them down their esophagi, unfettered, as if they’re health food.

Let’s rehash a little game used in our review of Quest Bars. Below is the nutritional profile for three mystery bars — 2 protein bars, 1 Snickers — with their protein content stripped away:

  • Bar A — 410 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 28 g sugar1
  • Bar B – 300 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 25 g sugar2
  • Bar C — 250 calories, 12 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 27 g sugar3

If you had to guess, which one is the Snickers?

Bar C

 

Remove their precious protein — 31 grams and 20 grams, respectively — and the Met-Rx protein Bar/ProMax protein Bar look eerily similar to a Snickers, plus they’re loaded with A LOT more artificial sweeteners and ingredients (the Met-RX bar has SIXTY-NINE ingredients).



 

The Protein Bar Power Rankings – 30 Popular Protein Bars Ranked


[Review] The Protein Bar Power Rankings -- 30 Popular Bars Torn Apart And Ranked

We’ve power ranked 30 juggernauts from the protein bar universe based a number of factors, including: ingredient profile, protein quality, % of calories as protein, sugar, sugar alcohol, sweeteners used, fiber, and fat quality.456 Taste & flavor were EXCLUDED to filter out subjectivity; caloric composition — NOT volume — was used, due to varying bar sizes.

Bars are ranked in descending order (30→1), in order of quality, and fall into 5 distinct tiers:

  • Tier 1: Lean, Clean Powerhouses – Lean It UP’s top picks and the absolute best protein bars on the market; buy in bulk and stock up. They’re clean, lean, muscle-building powerhouses.
  • Tier 2: Upper Echelon – Not quite as pristine as the bars in tier 1, but high quality options in their own right. Whole food is still preferred, but they’re healthy to eat as a snack or post-workout on a regular basis.
  • Tier 3: Travel Companions – Seek out if you’re in a bind. Solid options if you’re on-the-go, trapped in an airport, or stuck on a golf course and need a protein-packed snack. Don’t buy them proactively though, and always opt for real food if it’s available.
  • Tier 4: Middle-of-Nowhere Bars – Last resort in a bind. These are edible as a last resort if nothing else remotely healthy is available. Think gas station or convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Don’t buy them proactively, and DO NOT eat them regularly.
  • Tier 5: The Nuclear Waste Zone – Do. Not. Put. Into. Body. These bars are complete garbage, either due to a poor nutritional profile or an overabundance of artificial ingredients and sweeteners. They should NEVER go into your body; you’d be better off with a McD’s Quarter-Pounder.

 

A few other notes on the rankings and protein bars in general:

- Protein bars are ranked and graded based on their utility as an everyday, protein-rich snack or meal replacement; NOT as a performance enhancer, intra-workout, or endurance booster.

- Rankings include the most popular bars from BodyBuilding.com, Amazon, and any other ones I’ve seen often in the wild (aka my local bodega or health food store). Prices are based on Amazon.com.

- Predominant protein quality is a critical marker of a bar’s overall quality and impact on the body. Whey protein isolate, whey hydrolysate, and egg protein are viewed as extremely HQ; whey concentrate, milk, rice, and casein are viewed as quality; soy and veggie-based protein are viewed unfavorably as low quality.

- Sugar alcohols are extremely popular in protein bars (typically sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, or erythritol); they’re a class of reduced-calorie sweeteners that substitute for sugar and have minimal impact on blood sugar. SA’s often have a laxative effect and cause major gastrointestinal discomfort (gas and bloating) in high doses, especially if you have IBS. Maltitol causes the worst GI pain.78

 

Tier-5: The Nuclear Waste Zone



 

30. Met-Rx Big 100 Colossal Protein Bar — $1.74/bar

MetRx Big 100 Colossal Protein Bar nutrition and ingredients

29. EAS Myoplex 30 Protein Bar — $2.32/bar

EAS Myoplex 30 Protein Bar nutrition and ingredients

28. ProMax Classic Protein Bar — $1.32/bar

ProMax Classic Protein Bar Nutrition and ingredients

27. EAS Lean 15 Protein Bar — $1.20/bar

EAS Lean 15 Protein Bar Nutrition and ingredients

26. ZonePerfect Protein Bar – $1.27/bar

ZonePerfect Protein Bar Nutrition and ingredients

25. ABB Steel Protein Bar – $1.81/bar

ABB Steel Protein Bar nutrition and ingredients

24. ISS Research OhYeah! Protein Bar — $1.36/bar

ISS Research OhYeah Protein Bar nutrition and ingredients

23. Supreme Protein Carb Conscious Bar — $2.17/bar

Supreme Protein Carb Conscious Protein Bar nutrition and ingredients




 

Pages: Tier 5 (30-23) | Tier 4 (22-16)  | Tier 3 (15-9) | Tier 2 (8-5) | Tier 1 (4-1) | Recap

 

 
 

References, Notes, Links

  1. Met-RX Big 100 Colossal Bar Nutrition Info []
  2. ProMax Bar Nutrition Info []
  3. Snickers Nutrition Info []
  4. Nutrition facts and ingredients are based on 1 flavor – randomly selected — for each bar. Nutrition and ingredients will vary slightly from flavor-to-flavor. For bars that come in small and large sizes, the smaller size was used. []
  5. All nutrition data is sourced from Bodybuilding.com and individual company websites []
  6. Bars must contain > 10g of protein for inclusion []
  7. ADA — Sugar Alcohol []
  8. Mark’s Daily Apple — Sugar Alcohol []

 

Bryan DiSanto

Owner & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
Bryan DiSanto is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, ACE-CPT & CSN, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness/nutrition nutjob.

When he’s not working on his (or somebody else’s) abs, whipping up Eggocados, or running a Tough Mudder, he’s probably off yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

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  • rnjbond

    Great list! Thanks for putting this together. One thing that might help in terms of what should be the staple protein bar may be a taste test, if you’ve done that.

  • Stephen Hill

    are you seriously putting a bar that contains sucralose at the top of the list?

  • Thomas

    One thing you have to remember is that simplicity rules. The lower the ingredient list, the better. The ones towards the bottom are LOADED with chemicals. I was glad to see Quest bars at the top. They are my go to bar when needed.

  • Krishna Rathi

    I would like you to check out a new bar in the market – Oorja Nutrition Bar. I am the CEO and founder. I sincerely believe it will change the landscape of nutrition bars. High bioavailable protein (17g), no gluten, high fiber, low net carbs (7g), low sugar (7g – far lower than most bars mentioned here), sourced from organic ingredients, low sodium, no chemicals, no artificial preservatives/additives, no GMO. And tasty! Check out oorjabar.com.

    If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer.

    • Steve

      Krishna,
      Your product states that it is gluten-free, but the ingredients say otherwise. The label says “may contain… wheat”, which is exactly where gluten comes from. In the USA it is illegal by FDA standards to say something is gluten-free, when it is not. I would suggest you do some homework or you might have an attorney calling you soon.

      • Krishna Rathi

        Steve,

        Thank you for your thoughtfulness. This bar is gluten free. Our claims are thoroughly vetted by FDA. We can only make a claim on our labels if they are approved by FDA. I understand why there can be confusion though when a label says “may contain traces of wheat..” and also claims it is gluten free.

        Allow me to explain.

        Per FDA, even if the product is gluten free, it is important to always mention “may contain traces of wheat..” if at any point the facility is also used to manufacture any goods that may contain wheat. We obviously are very careful about preventing any cross contamination. But in strict adherence to FDA laws we have to add “may contain traces of …” clause even if there may be no wheat in the product. This is a standard practice.

        The product is gluten free per FDA standards. Per FDA rules, the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This bar meets that standard satisfactorily. Each production batch is subjected to thorough testing to ensure compliance.

        I hope this helps clarify the concerns you or other readers may have about gluten. I hope you get to enjoy the bars. They are worth it.

        Please let me know if you still have any further questions. I will be happy to answer them.

    • http://ibankcoin.com/stocksrider/ StocksRider

      I want to second this bar. It tastes a bit like Southern divinity. Unbelievable natural taste. Surprising given how healthy the ingredients are. This has become my breakfast of the champions! Good work, Oorja.

  • Daniel

    I totally agree and like how you present the different bars. Protein bar manufacturers always make it sounds like their bars are the best thing since sliced bread, but the reality can be very disappointing if you pick the wrong one. However there are also really good ones out there. I’ve tried many different bars myself and also run a site that focuses on especially protein bars that are gluten free.
    http://www.glutenfreeproteinbarreviews.com/

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