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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, Amazon, and any other ones I’ve seen often in the wild (aka my local bodega or health food store). Prices are based on

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 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

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto

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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?

    • It’s a little tricky, because half of the Quest bars use Stevia, not sucralose/Splenda.

      Even so, yep — the nutritional profile/rest of the ingredients are marginally better than everything else. But that still shows that even the BEST option (IMO) is still flawed; and it’s exactly why you shouldn’t rely on protein bars if real, whole food is an option.

      • Krishna Rathi

        Bryan, is there anyway I can send you samples of Oorja Nutrition bar? You wrote a really great article above and I feel that it would be nice if you get to try them and provide some feedback for the benefit of your readers. Oorja has no artificial or added sweeteners and doesn’t even have sugar alcohols. So no stevia and no sucralose. It has low naturally occurring sugar and still tastes great. It has high protein content, low net carbs, high fiber and every other good thing you expect from a natural protein bar. And none of the bad things. So you in?

    • Cody

      I haven’t found a perfect protein bar yet. You’re better off eating right (whole foods). That’s a lot more time consuming than eating a pre-made protein bar. We live in a world of “I want convenience now.” That’s also why at least half of Americans’ are obese.

      • Couldn’t agree more. There are no perfect bars, they’re just a healthier option when convenience is necessary. Always go whole food when available.

  • 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.

    • I concur.

    • Cody

      Quest would be perfect if they created an organic lineup. Not because I’m trying to avoid the “unknown chemicals.” Simply because it’s better for the earth. Those synthetic nutrients are washing off our lands and into the oceans. It’s ruining the planet.

  • 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

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

    • Steve

      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


        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.

        • Cody

          Yeah, it’s gluten free, just not 100% gluten free… That’s how the FDA works with most things. Most companies have their executives hands in the FDA’s pockets. Same thing with “USDA certified organic..” That usually doesn’t mean 100% organic, it can actually mean 75% organic depending on the wording/certification used.

    • 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.

    • Sonia

      Hi Krishna,
      I’d like to try the oorjabar for an student/teacher event at OHJS in Orcutt, CA this month. Are there any discounts available for these bars?

      • Krishna Rathi

        Hi Sonia,
        Thank you for connecting with me on phone. Your bars are on the way! For others, we do have a special first-time customer discount with free shipping that expires in a month. Just like our FB page and message us there.

        • Cody

          I might try your product out next time I order bars. I’ve ordered a dozen Quest bars just a few days ago. Trying to get all organic anything is nearly impossible in the bars industry. Most of the USDA certified organic products have a ton of sugar making them just as much garbage as their chemical counterparts.

  • 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.

  • Scott M

    Something isn’t adding up (literally). Given that there are 4 calories per gram of carbs and protein, and 9 calories per fat gram, the total calories are way off. I only bothered to check the top tier bars but I’m wondering if the math can be disputed on the side of the package, how honest are the actual ingredients?

    • Check any processed food and you’ll likely have the same issue. It’s one of the issues with labeling anything that has a ton of inconspicuous ingredients — you often get HIGH variation in the calorie counts from item to item, literally, but brands just slap on an average.

      Calories/nutrient calculations usually only hold up for whole, natural foods (e.g. carrots, chicken, fish, nuts).

    • jane

      fiber as carb counts zero calory

  • I appreciate the fact that you had put the effort of breaking down how misleading a lot of the bars in the market are. In my opinion, if you really want a healthy protein bar, you’d definitely have to make it yourself. There are actually a handful of promising recipes trending on the internet. I may give them a go in the future. Have you ever made your own bars?

    I thought Quest provided the best bars for awhile. It’s a shame they got sued for mislabeling.

    Anyways, great website! I can’t believe I only found it now. It’s very informative. I’m definitely bookmarking it on my browser.

  • Gary

    What about the sodium content in these bars?

    • We looked into it. Most bars have anywhere from 50-300mg, which is pretty minimal. There wasn’t enough variation to make it a point of differentiation (but if you’re hypertensive or extremely sensitive, it’s worth evaluating and taking into consideration).

      If you’re curious about an individual bar, has the nutrition facts for almost everything.

  • Gary

    Thank you Bryan for your reply. I have to watch the sodium intake and I noticed that many if not most of the bars listed in the tier 1 and 2 have high sodium content.

    • Go with the Rise Bars — they’ve only got 25mg/bar.

      Oatmega has 73mg, and VPX Life Lift has 85mg. Quest is significantly higher, comparatively, and probably isn’t your best option (260mg).

  • Mike M.

    quest does have Erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. you guys missed it. not that it’s bad, it is actually good and one of the few SAs that causes no gastrointestinal discomfort. VPX’s bars are just nasty. rise bar has as much sugar and fat as othe “bad” bars. how did it end up in your “clean powerhouse” category?

  • Wellnessman

    Greens Plus belongs in tier one-great ingredients and the PB/Choc is very good. Judging only by the ingredients, I concur with the VPX and Oatmega placements, but haven’t tasted them. Rise could use some chocolate, but they’re good and have only 3 ingredients. Quest bars suck; I can’t stand their texture, after several tries. AND they contain sucralose, which drops them a couple of tiers. Last time I checked, even the stevia ones also have sucralose (or was it some other ingredient problem, like soy?). I’m mystified as to why some people like them. You’ve missed several unquestionably tier one bars: Square Bars, RX bars, Bonk Breaker High Protein bars; and Epic Turkey bars. 22 Days PB/Choc is a good tier two bar. I speak as a nutritional consultant/personal trainer and a food bar freak for 14 years.

    • No doubt new HQ bars are constantly popping up, like the ones you mentioned. When we run an updated version 2 I’ll re-vet the entire landscape and include anything new (I’m personally a big fan of Bonk Breakers and Square Bars).

  • SA_NYC

    Terrific article. Thanks for all the work! Appreciated.

  • Jay Gee

    Thanks for the advice. Yesterday, I stop at the gas station store to get a protein bar. I was kinda overwhelmed on what to pick up. The one I grab was the Supreme Protein Peanut Butter Crunch, but it was 30g of Protein and 390 calories. In your article you had one similar to it, with only 15g of Protein… and 200+ calories, it was in the DO NOT EAT category! Ugh, just my luck to grab the worst one of the bunch. Oh well, I slaughtered it .. I was hungry. Thanks again.. this article directed me to a High protein low in fat protein bar…

    • Don’t beat yourself up, it was still SO MUCH better than grabbing a burger/hot dog/any of the other crap you could’ve grabbed. Plus, now you know for the future! It’s such a complicated market, most people make the same exact mistake (which is exactly why we made this guide).

      • 12yearoldfag

        Uhm, man. you lust like totally discredited any possible rep you could have had. Saying that food is or can be in any way worse than a protein bar, a food substitute is a demonstration of complete misunderstanding of what food is and how your body processes it. Eating a burger or a meal in any place is better than any one of your “best” protein bars. It’s not food. It’s a substitute. It will never have everything you need in the exact quantity and quality that you need. This body was using the actual food for ages. It is not build to digest protein bars and if you weren’t so dense you could just try and go one day on burgers or one day on your best protein bars and see the effects. You’d be bloated like a balloon by the end of the day because of missing nutrients and unnatural composition of your touted super-food. We have so many specialists these days who claim to know everything yet haven’t studied the simplest basic facts of what they claim to know it’s nauseating. Unfortunately you happen to be one of them.

      • Jeff

        It is not a poor option for somebody who is developing muscle mass! Different protein bars do different things. You have lumped them all into one box. Your number 1 choice would not be much use to somebody on a weight training program.

        • Javier Delgado

          and that´s why the ¨LEAN¨ banner Sr…

  • Faruk

    Thanks for the statistical study. No, I’m not being sarcastic but you have to admit you only rely on posted nutrition facts. I’m not a conspiracy freak but if you check out the studies carried out by 3rd party labs on fish oil, whey protein powder etc. you’ll see actual values barely meet advertised values. It shows that multi-million supplement market is not strictly regulated.

    • The only factor I didn’t account for was taste. It’s a qualitative analysis based on the ingredients and quality more than anything else.

      Nutritional numbers weigh in, but they’re really a secondary input.

  • Steve

    Quest and VPX bars are made from highly processed ingredients, none of which are GMO free or organic. You fail sir. Your 4 and 3 pics are much better than your 2 and 1 pics.

    • Cody

      People eat organic to help the planet (prevent run-off from synthetic fertilizers) and to avoid pesticides. Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it’s superior or better for your body. It’s just as much as a marketing scheme as anything else. Pick out an organic protein bar and I’ll pick it apart. Most of them have way too many sugars and carbs. I eat mostly but not all organic. I understand what organic really means.

      • D Dangerous

        Organic is a crock. Conventional food manufacturers just put an organic label on it and jack up the price. True organic produce, for example, is not all the same size and color, it has little bug bites and bruises and no waxy coating. The “organic” vendors are crooks taking people for fools.

        • Kyle Smith

          Its a crock either way. They have done studies – no nutritional benefit to organic. I say better living through chemistry. Organic is for people who don’t understand science. I want things as genetically modified as possible so they maximize performance.

  • Eliott

    How come there is no review of Six Pac bars (

  • Samuel Gandasaputra

    I’ve tried the VPX and the Quest bar – they are simply the worst tasting bar I’ve had…I’d use them for “truth and dare” game.

  • ana

    I was wondering about those oatmega bars. I want to buy them but heard mixed reviews on taste. I don’t want to purchase unless I know they are good. I read your review on the power crunch bars and completely agree! Although, I prefer the vanilla& peanut butter crème.
    I usually eat one after my morning run, however, I want variety. I also like robert irvine fit crunch bars–only the pb variety though. I’m talking taste wise, what other bars would you recommend?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Javier Delgado

      Try the QuestBars… simply delicious and a lot of flavors. My fav Cookies & Cream (Oreo).

  • AntiSedentary

    This author is obviously a skinny, long-distance runner. If you know anything about building real strength and muscle, go to the gym frequently, eat a clean diet, and just finished a long run, the Met-Rx bar, for example, is the perfect quick fill. Add that with a full bottle of REGULAR gatorade and you get a 4:1 carb to protein ratio… which is what you need after an intense workout.

    I will not get into the science behind this; you all have access to google, yourselves. But any of the bars on this list are absolutely ideal for the very active, clean-eating athlete. If you live a sedentary lifestyle and slack on diet, then yes, these bars are useless for you.

    Don’t be scared off by the fats or carbs. Your body needs them. But if you are just looking for a quick meal replacement, then, sure, don’t eat this stuff.

    These bars are designed for people who need to replenish energy QUICKLY after an intense workout or long run.

    • Jumanji242

      Yeah but those bars have tons of sugar and sugar is bad for you in just about every way. If you want energy, at least try and skip the fructose and go for glucose so you can get the energy you want oh so badly.

    • You’d never eat a Met-Rx bar unless it was during or around training, athletics, or competition.

      Sure, to supplement intense training they’re solid, but there’s WAY too much sugar for lifestyle purposes.

  • Elsin Heinzen

    I think the funniest part of this article is that the #1 bar contains sucralose. If I weight train 4 days a week and eat 16-30 sucralose servings per month, that is without equivocation far worse for you long term than putting away 20-30g of sugar when you’ve burned 400 calories in your workout anyways. I agree with AntiSedentary 100%. The fact that you wrote an entire article on protein bars and you recommend even in jest or as hyperbole eating quarter pounders over any of these bars is laughable. The fact that you recommend a frequent dose of sucralose is the real punchline here. Go google sucralose and do SOME research then maybe re-write this entire article. Good thing I didn’t waste more than 10 seconds of reading your prose after checking your credibility.

    • Depends on the flavor, but most of the bars were reformulated without sucralose. Moot point.

      Bars are never going to be perfect or compare to whole foods, but in a vacuum I’ll easily go with Quest.

  • kprost

    For a lighter bar I like Absolute Whey. 3.5g fat, 4 g sugar, 14g protein, 24g carbs, 130 calories. I like the dense not powdery texture. Minimal ingredients.

  • kprost

    Ooh also half of your daily fibre which, in my mind, takes away from the carb count. BOOM.

  • sam0

    Author got no idea about real-good protein bars go check QuestBars nutrition labels and then edit your nonsense article

  • Cesar

    Great article, thanks for sharing. MuscleTech’s Mission1 Clean Protein Bar and Yup’s Bar B Up are 2 other bars that compare similar to Quests nutritional value, taste, and cost. Would recommend those as well.

  • Kat Guillot

    I noticed that Isagenix Bars are not even listed. Are these Commercial only bars? if you want to know more

  • Alyson Denza

    I’d love to know where the new PhD Diet Whey and Power bars come in this line up?
    They have fewer carbs than the Quest and with 25g protein to 177cal are the best ratio for a ‘diet’ bar that I’ve found.

  • Jay

    How is Bhu Fit bars not on here?!

  • hi bro., i really love the way you write this article. its really nice. i am impressed .