Are protein bars a healthy snack?

For the past few years, protein diets have been the weight loss craze. Have you heard people say, "Eat more protein and you‘ll lose weight"? The US RDA for people over the age of 14 is 46-56 grams of protein daily. The correct amount for each person depends on age, activity level, and other health considerations. If you consume too much protein, it can be challenging to your kidneys and liver. It can also cause constipation if you don't increase your fiber and water intake.

Although protein bars tout a high level of protein, there are other ingredients that may not be so healthy, such as high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sodium, and partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils. Some contain sugar alcohols, which not everyone can tolerate. Be sure to look at the nutrition label and take into account the extra calories that the protein bar contains toward your daily caloric intake.

The type of protein in different bars can also vary. Some are more processed than others, and processing affects the body's ability to use the protein. Look for organic whey protein concentrate from grass-fed cows as a high quality protein ingredient. Avoid soy protein if possible. The isolate form is not easily absorbable (so a 20-gram bar may give your body a fraction of that to use) and is linked to diminished libido and erectile dysfunction. Well over 90% of soy crops are genetically modified, and in this form it is linked to a long list of serious diseases and conditions.

Some of us reach for a protein bar as a filler between mealtimes, and others may eat protein bars as a meal replacement. Protein bars are most effective after a workout because they contain protein and a complex carbohydrate, which helps build muscle. To increase lean muscle, lift weights and then eat a protein bar within 30-60 minutes of your workout to replenish your muscles. A well-chosen bar, while not as good for you as a whole-food meal or snack, is better than a high-sugar processed snack.