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Never again will you unsuspectingly open a new box of protein bars only to suffer through the taste and texture of chalk. You can end your hunt for the best protein bar: We did the work for you. It wasn’t always fun, but at least we can say we’ve saved our readers the effort of paying for box after box because no bar tastes just right. 

RELATED: Best Vegan Protein Powder

Dozens of Protein Bars Tested—Er, Tasted

Not only did our product testers personally order and taste all of the protein bars on this list, but we have professional backgrounds in fitness and nutrition so we can help you make sense of nutrition labels and ingredients lists. As you read through this guide to find your next favorite protein bar, you’ll not only have the pleasure of reading our brutally honest tasting notes, but you’ll also learn exactly how each bar can support your wellness goals.

Best Protein Bars For 2023

Best Protein Bar Overall: RXBAR Protein Bars

Good for: Anyone looking for a moderate amount of protein in a natural, chewy bar free of artificial ingredients

Best Overall

RX Nutrition RXBAR

GGR Score: 4.85 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Simple ingredients
  • 12 g of protein per bar
  • Gluten-free
  • Kosher
  • Variety of flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No artificial flavors
  • Great for traveling as they don’t need to be refrigerated or warmed up
  • Flavors range from fruity to chocolate to satisfy all cravings
  • Made with simple, easy-to-understand ingredients
  • No artificial ingredients

Cons

  • A different texture that some might have issues with (very chewy)
  • Not a full meal replacement
  • Not for those with nut allergies

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a protein bar that you can keep in your drawer at work, in the glove box of your car, and in your purse or gym bag, this is a great option. These are a great way to get protein in between meals as well as during outdoor activities, or busy travel days.

RXBAR Protein Bars have been a go-to snack for me for years. They’re one of the “cleanest” options on the market, satisfying criteria for people who eat a paleo diet, follow the Whole30, or eat gluten-free. While the protein content isn’t the highest of all the bars on the list, let me make my case. 

I think there’s much more to a good protein bar than the protein content alone. RXBAR has successfully done what I have seen no other brand do: Create a satisfying, tasty, good-textured bar with all-natural ingredients without the need for refrigeration. 

Made with dried egg whites, dried dates, nuts, and sometimes, chocolate and/or salt. That’s it. Really. Thanks to the egg whites, each RXBAR Protein Bar packs 12 grams of protein, and thanks to the dates and nuts, you get a collection of vitamins and minerals as well. You’ll also see “natural flavors” on the ingredients list, which includes plant extracts, oils, and/or essences from spices, fruits, or other plants.

I will say, the ultra-chewy texture isn’t for everyone, and sometimes it kills the vibe for me when I don’t want to work for my food. (It really does take a while to get these down.) But, there’s no chalkiness; they aren’t dry; and besides, thoroughly chewing your food is purportedly good for satiety and nutrient absorption.1

If you’re looking for flavor recommendations, my favorites are Chocolate Sea Salt and Chocolate Coconut.

Protein sourceEgg whites
Protein per bar12 g
Artificial sweetenersNo
Suitable forPaleo, Whole30, gluten-free, Kosher

Best Vegan Protein Bar: 1st Phorm Vegan Power Pro Bars

Good for: Vegans and vegetarians who want a quick, easy snack with a good amount of protein

Best Vegan

1st Phorm Vegan Power Pro Bars

GGR Score: 4.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Vegan
  • 15 g of protein per bar
  • Gluten-free
  • Proprietary vitamin blend added
  • 5 flavors

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great to help meet macro- or micronutrient goals
  • Produced in the U.S.
  • Unique flavors compared to other brands
  • Vegan
  • Good option for people who are lactose-intolerant
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No trans fat

Cons

  • A little pricier than some of their protein bar competition
  • Not a huge selection of flavors available
  • Kind of chalky—typical plant-based protein texture

Bottom Line

If you are lactose-intolerant or follow a vegan diet, this is one of the few protein options that is made specifically for you. 1st Phorm has worked hard to create a unique product that will fill in that gap, and with 5 tasty options, you should be able to find one (or more) that you like.

In the name of honesty, I’m going to first share that our product tester did not enjoy these protein bars in the slightest, finding them unbearably dry and chalky. That said, our tester is not vegan and we’re acutely aware of the fact that people who are not vegan are not used to a vegan palate. 

Additionally, the customer reviews on the 1st Phorm Vegan Power Pro bars are generally very positive, so we’re taking it that people who actively purchase vegan protein bars find the taste and texture to be better than okay. 

Plus, nutritionally, these 1st Phorm Protein bars are sound: They include 15 grams of protein from pea protein (they’re soy-free); they do not include any artificial sweeteners, and the ingredients lists are free from words that make you squint your eyes. 

The calorie count is quite high for the protein content—these have 260 to 280 calories depending on the flavor—but that’s because of the nuts and nut butters used. 

While our tester would recommend a different product for people who can/want to eat whey protein, we appreciate the simple ingredients list and suitability for multiple diet types.

Protein sourcePea protein
Protein per bar15 g
Artificial sweetenersNo
Suitable forVegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free

Best Budget-Friendly Protein Bars: Pure Protein Bars

Good for: People focused on macros and/or those who are on a tight budget

Best Budget-Friendly

Pure Protein Bars

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Low-sugar
  • Gluten-free
  • 20 g of protein per bar
  • Great taste and flavor options
  • Affordable

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Packed with protein that helps you feel full and reduce cravings
  • Great price for overall quality of product
  • Gives you fuel to keep an active lifestyle going
  • Variety of flavor options to satisfy any sweet-tooth
  • Tastes like candy

Cons

  • The specific carb and calorie count will vary by flavor
  • Uses artificial flavoring
  • Includes artificial sweeteners
  • Some customers felt these had a bit more aftertaste than other bars

Bottom Line

If you are trying to keep a diet that is balanced and are struggling to get enough protein in, this would be a great bar to add to your shopping cart, online or in person. Pair it with a piece of fruit, maybe a healthy carb, and a glass of water and you have a great meal on the go.

Pure Protein is a popular budget-friendly brand that makes a lot of nutritional products, including ready-to-drink protein shakes and protein bars. Kate Meier, GGR Head of Content, tested the Pure Protein Bars in chocolate peanut butter and says they taste like candy. 

In fact, “I think these are probably the most candy-bar-like protein bars I’ve ever had,” she says. They are a little chalky—like VERY little—not in the way you taste with other protein bars.” 

As for the texture, it’s “similar to something like a Snickers or a Milky Way,” Kate explains. “Very nougat-ty. Is that a word?” (I don’t think so, but we’ll let it slide.)

Pure Protein Bars have a pretty standard protein content of 20 grams per bar and a decent nutritional profile otherwise: 200 calories; 6 grams of fat; 16 grams of carbohydrates; and a vitamin blend. Note, though, that although these bars are low in sugar (2 grams), Pure Protein uses the sugar alcohol maltitol for sweetness. 

These bars are definitely not what we’d call au naturel, but they taste good, provide protein, and our tester didn’t experience any digestive problems.

Protein sourceWhey protein concentrate and isolate, milk protein
Protein per bar20 g 
Artificial sweetenersYes
Suitable forN/A

Best Low-Sugar Protein Bar: Quest Nutrition Protein Bars

Good for: Those who can tolerate whey and milk protein, and want a versatile protein bar to eat on its own or bake with

Best Low-Sugar

Quest Nutrition Protein Bars

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Gluten-free
  • Low-sugar
  • 16 flavor options
  • 17-21 grams of protein depending on the flavor
  • Low net carbs

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great product to keep your macronutrients on target
  • Simple, grab-and-go snack
  • Gluten-free helps with dietary restrictions
  • Low in sugar
  • Very filling

Cons

  • Chewy texture isn’t for everyone
  • Uses sugar alcohols, which can upset digestion
  • The company recently changed the formula a bit and several customers didn’t like the change
  • Can get too soft if gets too hot (like in a car or gym bag)

Bottom Line

Quest Nutrition has been serving the health and protein market since 2010 and they continue to give people high-quality products. They offer some unique flavors in their bars not seen by competitors such as White Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Sprinkled Donut, and Lemon Cake.This is one of the few bars that is actually recommended to stick in the microwave for about 15 seconds to produce a rich, tasty treat. Using a high-quality dairy-based protein, Quest Bars are dense and chewy in texture.These bars fall pretty well right in the middle as far as price point so you don’t have to break the bank to get your protein in consistently. You will want to pay attention to the ingredients as many of the customers who have used Quest for a long time were not fans of the newer formula, although if you don’t have anything to compare it to, you might find you like it just fine.

Once upon a time, I was a Quest Bar fiend. I kept Quest Bars in my gym bag, school backpack, work bag, desk drawer, car console… You name it. Eventually, I lost the hyperfixation and actually became quite disgusted with Quest Bars—even my previously beloved chocolate chip cookie dough flavor. 

So when I got the news that we’d be writing a guide to the best protein bars, I snapped at the opportunity to return to my old obsession and see if anything had changed (with me or with the formula. This was a twofold experiment). 

Of course, I bought none other than chocolate chip cookie dough, and when the package arrived, I gingerly peeled back a corner of the wrapper and nibbled, wondering if I’d be able to stomach the thing. 

Good news: Apparently all it takes is six years to overcome the nauseating effects of a hyperfixation food. More good news: These bars taste exactly like I remember. They’re protein bars, so it’s not like eating a real cookie, despite what the customer reviews might indicate. 

However, for a snack with 20 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and only 1 gram of sugar, it’s not half bad. These are higher in fat than some other bars, with 9 grams per bar, and I’d be remiss not to call out the use of sugar alcohols. 

Quest Bars contain erythritol, a sugar alcohol known to cause digestive upset in some people. I don’t experience any negative effects from eating one Quest Bar every now and then, but people who are sensitive to sugar alcohols may want to avoid these. 

Related: Best Pre-Workout

Protein sourceWhey protein isolate, milk protein isolate
Protein per bar20-21 g
Artificial sweetenersYes
Suitable forKeto

Best Soft Protein Bar: Perfect Bars

Good for: All-natural food aficionados who appreciate a clean ingredients list (and anyone who enjoys soft, crumbly textures)

Best

Perfect Nutrition Perfect Bars

GGR Score: 4.8 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Whole food protein
  • 20+ superfoods included in each bar
  • USDA certified organic
  • Non-GMO
  • 17 grams of protein per bar
  • Soft, crumbly texture

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Certified kosher, organic, and gluten-free
  • Holds a low glycemic index
  • Great snack full of protein and nutrients for an active lifestyle
  • Unique superfood blend that no other brands have in their protein bars
  • Soft texture
  • No artificial ingredients

Cons

  • Must remain refrigerated
  • Some customers had to order replacements if orders took too long to arrive
  • Delivered in a box with ice packs, which is kind of cumbersome
  • Hard to find full boxes in stores (usually sold as singles)

Bottom Line

Packed with protein, superfoods, and an organic honey binder that holds it all together, you won’t even realize that you are eating an ultra-nutrient-dense snack. Although the need for refrigeration is inconvenient, it’s worth the hassle for the flavor and nutritional profile.

Most protein bars—even the good ones—have an element of dryness and chewiness to them. That’s just what happens when you try to cram 15 to 20 grams of whey or pea protein into a 200-calorie glorified cookie. This is not the case with Perfect Bars. 

Sure, these are low in protein compared to some other options, with 10 to 17 grams per bar depending on the flavor. They’re also higher in calories, with the flavor I tested (dark chocolate almond) clocking in at 310 calories. 

perfect bar

However, this will be worth it for the people who value transparent eating and only want to consume whole-food products—paleo people and Whole30-ers, talking to you. 

Additionally, anyone who wants a sweet and soft but nutritious treat will love Perfect Bars. The texture is unlike any other bar on this list due to its whole-food nature. The ingredients list, for the most part, contains only things you’d see sitting on a shelf in the produce section. There are some oils, nut butters, and flavorings such as pure cocoa, too. 

Perfect Bars get their protein content from rice protein and they include no artificial sweeteners, instead using honey as both a binder and tastemaker.

Related: Best Greens Powder

Protein sourceRice protein
Protein per barVaries by flavor (10 to 12 g)
Artificial sweetenersNo
Suitable forPaleo, Whole30, gluten-free, vegetarian, non-GMO

Best Protein Bar for Sensitive Stomachs: Supergut The Gut Balancing Bar

Good for: Individuals on the hunt for protein without a gut-wrenching effect

Best for Sensitive Stomachs

Supergut Nutrition The Gut Balancing Bar

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Relatively low in calories
  • 3 flavor options
  • 10 g of fiber per bar
  • 10 g of protein per bar
  • Low in sugar
  • Designed to support gut health

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Keto-friendly
  • Contains no soy, making it a great option if you have that dietary restriction
  • No artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors added
  • Can help with digestion support
  • Low in sugar
  • Rich flavors
  • Great overall snack for an on-the-go lifestyle

Cons

  • Has a different texture than a typical protein bar that some customers weren’t huge fans of
  • Some customers had issues with packaging and getting it to open properly without ruining the bar

Bottom Line

The Gut Balancing Bar by Supergut Nutrition might come in as one of the more expensive protein bar options, but it comes backed by a lot of science and some very unique ingredients to help your body function at its highest levels.

The Gut Balancing Bar from Supergut is a protein bar designed to support digestive health. At first glance, I thought the inclusion of milk protein concentrate and erythritol, a sugar alcohol, felt a bit counterintuitive to this mission. Upon further inspection, I found out that these protein bars are stacked with 10 grams of prebiotic fiber. 

The resistant starch blend includes unripened green bananas, oat beta glucan, and allulose, three ingredients shown to support digestive function according to a clinical study (conducted with Supergut, I must note). Still, though there’s a conflict of interest, the results from the study are quite astounding. 

Participants who consumed Supergut’s resistant starch blend saw decreased A1C (an indicator of blood sugar), average weight loss of 3 pounds, and an increase in healthy gut bacterial colonies.

These bars are pretty tasty and very chocolatey, according to tester Lauren Strong, who tried the chocolate brownie flavor. “There is a semi-hard chocolate exterior and a softer (but crispy/dry) interior. I liked it, but not as much as I wanted to like it. It’s a bar I might eat once in a while. It’s also pretty dry and wouldn’t really be great in all situations, such as on a hike in the summer when you’re just a little bit thirsty the whole time.”

Related: Best Probiotics

Protein sourceWhey protein isolate and concentrate, milk protein concentrate
Protein per bar10 g
Artificial sweetenersNo
Suitable forKeto

Best Lactose-Free Protein Bar: MisFits Plant-Powered Protein Bars

Good for: Anyone who wants a tasty protein bar sans milk derivatives

Best Lactose-Free

8 Reasons to Buy/Not to Buy Misfits Plant-Powered Protein Bars

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Vegan
  • Low in sugar
  • 15 g of protein per bar
  • Gluten-free
  • Plant-based protein

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Suitable for a variety of diets
  • Plant-based protein
  • Rich flavors
  • Many flavors to choose from
  • Only 1 g sugar

Cons

  • Contains sugar alcohols
  • Texture is somewhat dry and chalky
  • Some buyers felt the flavor is overrated

Bottom Line

These multi-textured bars use plant-based protein and provide a total of 15 grams per bar. While they’re suitable for a variety of diet types, be aware that these bars contain sugar alcohols, which can cause digestive upset in some people.

For people who can’t or don’t want to consume dairy products, finding a protein bar that actually tastes good and delivers a decent amount of protein is tough. Most protein bars include some form of whey or another milk-derived protein, ruling them out for those with lactose intolerance. 

The MisFits Plant-Powered Protein Bar provides 15 grams of protein from pea and soy sources, making it acceptable for people who follow vegan, vegetarian, and lactose-free diets. These bars are also certified gluten-free. 

I tested the MisFits protein bars and, to my surprise, was not as taken aback as I usually am by vegan food products. (I really, really don’t find vegan options to be tasty, usually). While I can’t say these are a favorite of mine, I do appreciate the absence of a chalk-ified interior. 

I chose the Cookie Butter flavor (obviously) and was pleased overall at the chocolatey coating, chewy caramel-like layer, and crispy nougat-like bits. Some customer reviews say that these bars are way over-hyped and the flavor is overrated, and I’d have to agree—they’re good, but on the relative scale that they’re vegan and lactose-free. Again, it’s likely that someone who eats a vegan diet would find these much more flavorful than someone who’s used to rich milk proteins and chocolate. 

Nutritionally, these run a similar tab to most protein bars: About 200 calories, 15 grams of protein, and inclusion of some emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners, specifically xylitol.

Protein sourcePea protein, soy protein
Protein per bar15 g
Artificial sweetenersYes
Suitable forVegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free

Best Keto Protein Bar: EPIC Bars

Good for: Keto dieters and fans of jerky

Best Keto Protein Bar

EPIC Nutrition EPIC Bars

GGR Score: 4.85 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Grass-fed jerky bars
  • Paleo-friendly
  • Whole30-compliant
  • Dairy-free
  • Gluten-free
  • 8-15 g of protein per bar

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very unique protein bar option
  • Great to pack for outdoor hikes and activities or bring on-the-go
  • Appeals to many different lifestyles including paleo, Whole30, keto, and dairy-free
  • Great flavor combos
  • Soft texture (not like regular beef jerky)
  • 9 flavor options
  • Humane grass-fed beef sources

Cons

  • Have a different texture than typical protein bars
  • Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans
  • Some flavors are kind of greasy

Bottom Line

When you think of protein bars you might consider the word sweet, but savory and spicy probably wouldn’t normally come to mind. EPIC Nutrition is working on changing that up and improving meat-based protein options on the market while also maintaining a high level of respect for the animals and environments that they live in.

If you eat meat and you haven’t tried an EPIC Bar yet, what are you doing with your life? I’m not joking. It’s time to feast! EPIC Bars by EPIC Provisions are a newer take on both protein bars and jerky, because they’re not what you’d expect from either one. Low in carbs and made with a high-quality protein source, EPIC Bars are a keto-friendly healthy snack.

EPIC Bars are made from various grass-fed animal proteins and contain some phenomenal flavor combinations. My favorite, and the type I’ve been consistently munching on for a few years now, is the bison bacon cranberry bar. Other popular flavors include chicken sriracha, beef jalapeno, and venison sea salt pepper. There are currently a total of nine savory flavors, and you can try them all if you buy the variety pack. 

These bars are soft in texture, as if you’re eating fall-off-the-bone ribs from a cookout. They’re friendly for those who eat paleo, keto, or gluten-free diets, as well as people who follow the Whole30. 

The protein content ranges from 7 grams to 12 grams depending on the flavor, and we know that’s not super high for something called a protein bar. But, they also only contain 90 to 170 calories, so the ratio isn’t all that askew. The best protein-to-calorie ratio is found in the chicken BBQ flavor, which has 90 calories and 11 grams of protein. 

EPIC bars are also low in added sugar across the board and have super short ingredient lists containing meat as the first ingredient, with seasonings and binding agents following. 

Protein sourceGrass-fed meat
Protein per barVaries by flavor
Artificial sweetenersNo
Suitable forKeto, Whole30, gluten-free, paleo

Best Organic Protein Bar: Orgain Organic Protein Bar

Good for: People who eat organic and plant-based

Best Organic

Orgain Organic Protein Bar

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Gluten-free
  • Kosher
  • Vegan
  • Non-GMO
  • USDA certified organic
  • 10 g of protein per bar

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Balanced ingredients for steady energy
  • Affordable price point
  • 100% plant-based
  • Great reviews for flavor and texture
  • Affordable compared to other options

Cons

  • Some customers felt the size of the bar was too small and would prefer a full meal-replacement option
  • Lower in protein than some of its competitors
  • Contains sugar alcohols
  • Not suitable for those with tree nut or peanut allergies

Bottom Line

If you have any soy or dairy dietary restrictions, this bar is a good protein option to keep on hand for snacks. The combination of low sugar and high protein is a great way to support satiety in between meals.

Orgain Organic Protein Bars fit the bill for best organic and a great vegan option, according to product tester Lauren Strong. “These are really good, and that’s even with them being a vegan and soy-free option,” she says. 

“I liked the texture; it resembles the texture of cookie dough (soft, chewy, doughy) which is nice because it matches the flavor. I’m not sure how this ultra-compressed texture will do with the other flavors, though,” she says. “There is a little of that aftertaste you get from some of these artificial ingredients like erythritol, and the texture is a bit dry, but that’s to be expected with a vegan product, I think.”

Despite the sugar alcohol content, Lauren said she didn’t experience any digestive discomfort after eating these protein bars. They’re lower in protein than others on the market, with just 10 grams, but that’s not a bad amount for a vegan option in our opinion. 

Orgain Organic Protein bars are certified USDA organic, as well as certified non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher. There are six rich, mostly chocolate flavors to choose from and, at 150 calories, are a great organic snack.

Protein sourceRice protein, pea protein
Protein per bar10 g
Artificial sweetenersYes
Suitable forOrganic, non-GMO, vegetarian, gluten-free

Best Protein Bar for Muscle Growth: Jacked Factory Authentic Bars

Good for: Exercisers looking for a high-calorie bar with natural ingredients

Best for Muscle Growth

Jacked Factory Authentic Bars

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Manufactured in the U.S.
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Contains whey protein isolate
  • 15-16 g  of protein per bar
  • Very strict quality control system in place

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Whole-food protein bar
  • Use to refuel and recover energy from workouts or life in general
  • Great taste and texture
  • 7 flavor options
  • Made with whey protein isolate
  • Made with real honey (no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols)

Cons

  • A little higher in calories than some competitor bar options
  • Some customers didn’t feel that the protein content was high enough for the calorie count
  • High in sugar

Bottom Line

Jacked Factory Authentic Bars are made with whey protein isolate, real nut butters, and honey for a whole-food yet convenient protein option. Although they’re high in calories compared to other options, that’s the tradeoff for refraining from using artificial sweeteners and ingredients.

Nicole, GGR editor, tried the Peanut Butter Pieces flavor of the Jacked Factory Authentic Bars and was very pleased with the taste and texture. “These are really good,” she says simply. “They taste exactly like a peanut butter Perfect Bar but with Reeses Pieces in it—same texture and everything!” 

“If you are a PB lover, you’ll die for this flavor! Also, they’re sweetened with honey, which you can taste. These don’t have any artificial flavor about them, something I find is noticeable in other protein bars”

The texture is also great, Nicole says; it didn’t give her dirt or chalk vibes like many protein bars do. 

From a nutritional standpoint, the Authentic Bars could stand to improve. “This would be a great dessert or treat-type bar,” Nicole says. “At only 15 grams of protein and 270 calories, it’s not the best from a protein standpoint, but it definitely feels like a healthier version of a candy bar. I’ll also say that for the calories, it feels small. But yum!”

The high calorie content is the main reason we recommend this bar for muscle-seekers: Yes, more protein would be nice, but calories are ultimately just as important in the muscle-building process. You can’t build muscle without being in a caloric surplus, so dig in!

Protein sourceWhey protein
Protein per barUp to 16 g (depends on flavor)
Artificial sweetenersNo
Suitable forN/A

Other Protein Bars We Tried And Researched

Want to hear about a near-impossible task? Listing every single protein bar each member of our team has tried. But I’m going to list some popular options we have tried. 

To spare you from reading the same words over and over, here’s a synopsis as to why the following bars didn’t make the list: 

We couldn’t get past the taste and/or texture (and the nutritional components didn’t make it worthwhile); we’ve experienced digestive problems after eating them; they’re called protein bars but really aren’t; or we simply didn’t like them better than an option you see on our top picks list. Also, we didn’t include meal replacement bars in this guide.

  • CLIF Bars
  • CLIF Builder Bars
  • Larabars
  • Z Bars
  • ThinkThin Bars
  • GoMacro Bars
  • Zone Perfect Bars
  • Premier Protein Bars
  • Nature Valley Chewy Protein Bars
  • Power Bars
  • Power Crunch Bars
  • Fiber One Protein Chewy Bars
  • Luna Bars
  • Gatorade Recovery Bars
  • Atkins Advantage Bars
  • METrx Big 100 Bar
  • KIND Protein Bars
  • ONE Protein Bars
  • MyProtein Layered Protein Bars

In reality, our team collectively has likely tried dozens more, and there are still dozens of others that we haven’t touched. The world of protein bars is a big one, but we hope we’ve helped you make a decision today.

How We Picked and Tested the Best Protein Bars

Research, buy, test: That’s the name of the game here at Garage Gym Reviews, and we’re proud of it. Every item on this guide to the best protein bars was delivered to one of our homes and actually eaten by one of our product testers. In fact, many protein bars on this list have been household staples for some of us for years. As fitness enthusiasts, we’re well-versed in the world of nutritional supplements, including protein bars.

Benefits of Protein Bars

Here’s a look at the main benefits of protein bars.

Extra Protein

Probably, if you’re looking for protein bars, you’re looking for a way to increase your protein intake. Or, you’re looking for a more nutrient-dense sweet treat. Either way, protein bars can help you add an additional 8 to 20 grams of protein per day to your diet in an easy, convenient way. Eating a protein snack bar post-workout can aid in muscle recovery just like consuming a protein shake can.

Satiety and Weight Maintenance

Aside from sneaking a bit of extra protein into your diet, protein bars are a useful tool for maintaining satiety throughout the day. If you’re short on time and high on hunger, keeping protein bars handy can help you avoid dreaded hunger pangs between meals. 

Studies show that consuming more protein can help keep you fuller throughout the day due to a variety of mechanisms in the body, according to a 2020 review in the Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome2. As per a 2012 review in the British Journal of Nutrition3, these appetite-suppressing effects could lead to weight maintenance and/or weight loss.

Nutrients

Many protein bars also contain nutrient blends to bump up the overall nutritional profile of the product. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see amounts of vitamin A and B, as well as calcium, potassium, and sodium, that satisfy a large part of the daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Protein Bar

Protein bars may seem like a simple product on the surface, but once you peek at the ingredients label, you’ll realize that there’s much more than meets the eye.

Protein Content and Source

Obviously, a bar is not a protein bar if it doesn’t contain ample protein. In general, protein bars have 10 to 20 grams of protein. This varies depending on a number of factors, including the protein source, the size of the bar, other ingredients in the bar, and the calorie count. 

Generally, the more calories a protein bar has, the more protein it will contain, although this is not always true. If a bar has less than 10 grams of protein, check out the rest of the nutrient profile to see if it’s still worth munching. Every bar we recommend has a minimum of 10 grams of protein, except for some flavors of the EPIC Bars—but they have a strong nutrient profile, are relatively low in calories, and taste dang good. 

The most common protein source in bars are milk derivatives, including whey protein concentrate and isolate. Some also contain collagen. In plant-based protein bars, you’ll commonly see brown rice protein, pea protein, and soy protein.

Diet Type

You’re probably already cognizant of what you purchase if you follow a specific diet. But we still want to point out that many protein bars are not suitable for the following: 

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease
  • Vegan and vegetarian diets
  • Paleo or Whole30
  • Keto diets 
  • Organic and non-GMO diets 

Trust, if a product is certified to meet the requirements for one of the above diet types, it will be advertised. But if you’re not sure about something, check the ingredients list for the protein source. Anything with whey protein concentrate or isolate isn’t vegan, paleo, Whole30-approved, or lactose-free. Many bars with plant-based protein are also dairy-free, non-GMO, and organic. 

Sugar and/or Artificial Sweeteners

If a protein bar is sugar-free, it’s likely that it contains artificial sweeteners. They have to be sweetened somehow. Neither sugar nor artificial sweeteners are inherently bad, but they’re both something to be aware of. 

Common natural sweeteners in protein bars include:

  • Honey
  • Dates 
  • Monk fruit extract 
  • Stevia 
  • Coconut nectar 

Then there are refined sweeteners: 

  • Cane sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Brown rice syrup/rice malt 

Many bars use artificial sweeteners in place of, or in combination with, a natural or refined sweetener. Common artificial sweeteners include: 

  • Sucralose 
  • Aspartame 
  • Saccharin 
  • Acesulfame-K 
  • Neotame 

And, finally, there are sugar alcohols, which I personally see more often in protein bars than any of the above: 

  • Xylitol
  • Maltitol
  • Erythritol
  • Sorbitol 
  • Mannitol 
  • Lactitol


If you have a weight loss goal, sugar-free protein bars might seem more attractive. They can definitely help with craving control and staying within your calorie targets, but some sugar alcohols have been shown to cause gastrointestinal upset4.  The state of research on artificial sweeteners’ effect on the human microbiome is largely inconclusive5

Ingredients

Aside from the sources of protein and sweetness, protein bars typically contain a long list of other ingredients (although we tried to choose several with short, simple lists, like RXBARs, Perfect Bars, and EPIC Bars). 

Lots of protein bars include healthy fats such as cashews, almond butter, and other nut butters. You’ll also see flavoring agents like almond extract, vanilla extract, cocoa, salt, and other spices.

Mostly, the other ingredients in protein bars are emulsifiers, thickening agents, binding agents, and oils. For example, you’ll commonly see things like soy lecithin, palm kernel oil, chicory, glycerin, tapioca starch, canola oil, xanthan gum, and calcium carbonate.

These things are all generally regarded as safe to consume by the FDA, and mostly, they’re used to establish textures of various layers in the protein bar (such as the chocolate coating, nougat-like layers, crunchy crisps, etc.). 

You may see various preservatives in the ingredients list, such as sodium nitrate, but this is more common in bars with whole food ingredients. 

Taste and Texture

Finally, check out customer reviews to get a sense of texture and taste. No matter how good a brand’s marketing photos are, there’s still a chance that the bar is dusty and dry. This is just a fact of protein bars. It’s hard to make various powders all scrumptious and hearty, ya know?

FAQs About Protein Bars

Finally, here are the answers to common questions about protein bars.

Are protein bars healthy? 

The nutrient profile of protein bars is vast. That’s an understatement, actually. There are so many types of protein bars with wildly different ingredients lists, calorie counts, protein content, sweetener sources, and so forth. Some protein bars are very nutritious while others are like glorified candy bars. We hope that our buying guide above helps you make some sense out of the nutrition facts labels on protein bars.

Will protein bars help build muscle? 

More calories and more protein plus strength training equals muscle gain (usually). That’s a super simplified statement, but yes, eating protein bars in conjunction with a progressive resistance training program and a calorie surplus generally can help with muscle gain.

What is the best-tasting protein bar?

Taste is wildly subjective. While we don’t have a specific recommendation for the best-tasting protein bar, all of our top picks are pretty tasty, and even the ones we personally didn’t like much have positive customer reviews.

References

  1. Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108(7):1186-1191. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.04.026
  2. Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020;29(3):166-173. doi:10.7570/jomes20028
  3. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br J Nutr. 2012;108 Suppl 2:S105-S112. doi:10.1017/S0007114512002589
  4. Mäkinen KK. Gastrointestinal Disturbances Associated with the Consumption of Sugar Alcohols with Special Consideration of Xylitol: Scientific Review and Instructions for Dentists and Other Health-Care Professionals. Int J Dent. 2016;2016:5967907. doi:10.1155/2016/5967907
  5. Ruiz-Ojeda FJ, Plaza-Díaz J, Sáez-Lara MJ, Gil A. Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials [published correction appears in Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):468]. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(suppl_1):S31-S48. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy037

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