Updated: Nov 8
Protein bars have become a popular snack option for people who lead busy lifestyles or are always on-the-go. While they can be a great source of protein and other nutrients, it's important to remember that they should not be relied on as meal replacements. Rather, protein bars are a convenient and easy option to have in your bag when you need something quick and filling to tide you over until you can eat a more balanced meal. In this review, I’ll take a closer look at different protein bars available on the market and highlight some benefits, drawbacks, and my own, subjective opinion on them. So, whether you're looking for a post-workout snack or need something to munch on during a busy day, bookmark this post + return to it when you need help finding the right protein bar for your needs.
Quest Bar - S'mores
Thoughts on Nutrient Content
These bars back a PUNCH when it comes to fiber - 12g in one 60g bar. That’s a great start to reaching your daily fiber goal (if it’s the recommended ~30g daily). From experience, I do know that with this amount of fiber, sometimes Quest bars can give me gas or feel bloated - and any symptoms I might feel seem to depend on what else I have eaten that day and/or if I’ve had my morning bowel movement.
There’s also a great amount of protein, 21g, in each bar. Perfect for post-workout recovery especially when paired with some fruit or a carb-y grab-n-go option to replenish glycogen stores.
I had to do some digging for the protein source. It seems that Quest utilizes whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate in their bars. Key amino acids found in these types of protein are the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). Having access to these amino acids is PERFECT for recovery.
Carb:Protein Ratio - 1:0.913
The fat content is ok, I’m not sure it’s adequate enough to be a meal replacement bar - and that’s fine! Keeping this as a snack bar is A-OK with me.
Allergens: Milk, Almonds
Made in a factory that also handles peanuts, soy, wheat, and other tree nuts.
Price: These bars are particularly pricey. On the Quest website, you can get a 12-pack for ~34, that is ~$2.83/bar. I got mine in the dietary aid aisle at the grocery store and it was $2.99.
I’ll be honest, Quest bars are some of my favorites. I ate half of this bar before heading into a 90-minute ballet class because it was a 12noon class and I forgot to grab a snack prior to getting to the studio. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat the whole thing. Half the bar kept me pretty satisfied and energized for class, but I did notice hunger start to creep in right around the time class was wrapping up - aka we were getting to grande allegro. I managed to get home in pretty good time to then eat a comfy + yummy lunch before continuing on with the rest of my day. I ended up eating the other half of this bar as a late-afternoon snack while doing work at the computer and prepping for a few client sessions. The chocolatey taste and softness was just what my palette was craving at that time of the day - now it’s no substitute for an actual s’more or a chocolate chip cookie, but it was yummy and kept me satisfied until dinner time.
Doing a search online (here, here), it's clear that many people have concerns about the highly processed nature of certain types of protein bars. While I understand these concerns, I personally don't eat protein bars every day and only rely on them when I need a quick and convenient snack to prevent hunger or when I don't have time to eat a proper meal. For me, the convenience and satisfaction of having a bar on hand outweighs any worries I may have about the processing of the ingredients. The same goes for the use of sweeteners in these bars. While some people may have concerns about their effects on health, I believe that, with balanced food intake, they can be a helpful addition to your diet.
Quest Bar Summary -
The Quest protein bar is a great option to keep in your bag for those times when you need a quick and convenient snack to tide you over until your next meal. While it may not be the best choice for a pre-dance or pre-workout energy boost, it's high in protein and fiber, making it a good option for post-workout or post-dance recovery when paired with a carb-rich snack like fruit or yogurt. With a range of delicious flavors to choose from, the Quest protein bar is a tasty and convenient snack choice. However, it's always important to be mindful of your overall food choices and to aim for a balanced diet.
Power Crunch Bar - Mint Chocolate Chip
Thoughts on Nutrient Content
The Power Crunch bar contains 1g of fiber, although there is no specification between soluble and insoluble fiber. Compared to the other bars in my review, the fiber content is relatively low.
With 13g of protein sourced from High-DH whey hydrolysates, this bar offers a form of pre-digested protein that is quickly absorbed by the body.
The carb-to-protein ratio of this bar is 1:0.846, indicating a higher carb content relative to protein. This ratio may be beneficial, especially considering the form of protein in the bar, although more research is needed for conclusive evidence.
Notably, this bar contains a higher amount of fat. Despite this, I was surprised that it didn't provide a greater feeling of fullness, possibly due to the low fiber content.
Allergens present in the Power Crunch bar include milk, wheat, soy, and it is manufactured in a facility that handles peanuts.
Among the bars I reviewed, the Power Crunch bar was the least expensive. On the Power Crunch website, a 12-count pack of bars costs $21.99. I purchased a single bar at the grocery store for $1.79.
I had high expectations for the Power Crunch bar, especially with its name and my usual preference for its flavor. However, I was quite surprised by the texture after taking a bite. It reminded me of those long and skinny wafer cookies from the past, available in vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate flavors. While the texture was interesting, I didn't find the bar to be very filling, and I wish I had another snack to complement it during my busy rehearsal day. Typically, I like to eat a bar like this after a 45-minute company warm-up and a few run-throughs of a 5-minute contemporary piece. I thought it would be a good time to have it, considering we had a break before our full-length ballet rehearsal in the afternoon.
Power Crunch Bar Summary -
Overall, I don’t think I would recommend this bar for a busy dance day. The protein form and carbohydrate content is likely most beneficial as a recovery snack after exercise due to its ease of absorption. Despite its higher fat content, the bar did not provide a strong feeling of fullness, possibly due to the low fiber content. It is one of the more affordable bars that I tested but fell short in terms of satiety and left me needing more snacks than I would normally plan/pack for a busy day.
Builders Protein Clif Bar - Mint Chocolate Chip
Thoughts on Nutrient Content
This bar contains 3g dietary fiber (1g insoluble fiber). Nothing to shake a stick at, but also not terrible when considering the 31g of carbohydrate.
This bar contains 20g of protein. This protein is sourced from soy which contains the amino acids: lysine, leucine, histidine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, serine, threonine, and valine. You’ll notice this list includes the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine) and some essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine). This is pretty awesome! Essential amino acids are essential because we must obtain them via our diet - our body is not able to synthesize them.
Carb to protein ratio: 1:0.645
With this higher carb content, certainly worth considering this bar for support in maintaining glycogen stores + overall energy for a busy day.
Fat content in this bar is fine. Not worth using this bar as a meal replacement, but that seems to be a trend in my overall review.
Allergens: Soy, May contain Peanuts, Tree nuts, and Milk.
These bars ring in on the higher end of price. On the Clif website, you can get a 12-pack of bars for $25.44. I purchased a single bar in the dietary supplement aisle at the grocery store for $2.39.
During a particularly busy day filled with dance activities, including a ballet barre warm-up, a community outreach performance, and several hours of rehearsals, I decided to bring along the Clif Builders Protein Bar as a snack. I chose this bar because of its higher calorie content and carb-to-protein ratio compared to other bars I had on hand. Having relied on Clif bars in college, I was pleasantly surprised by the added crunch, which reminded me of crispy rice. The chocolate flavor was also satisfying and hit the spot. I ate the entire bar during a break between the community show and rehearsals and felt good for the next few hours. However, after several more hours of intense dancing with minimal breaks, I started to feel hungry again. It's important to note that while these bars can be a helpful addition to your meal and snack plan, they should not be relied on as the sole source of sustenance for the day. In hindsight, I would have paired the bar with a piece of fruit and some nut butter for sustained energy.
Builders Protein Clif Bar Summary -
As someone who used to rely on Clif bars during busy college days, I appreciate the crunch, flavor, and texture of the Clif Builders Protein Bar. This bar contains a high content of essential amino acids and is a more balanced protein source than whey-based bars. Despite the relatively higher calorie and carb:protein ratio, I don’t recommend this bar as a meal replacement. To stay satisfied longer and maintain energy levels, it's best to pair the bar with some fruit or an additional snack. This is a great bar to have on hand for a quick and convenient snack, and it's important to incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense + balanced foods into your diet.
Evolve Plant-Based Protein Bar - Cherry Almond
Thoughts on Nutrient Content
This bar contains 2g of fiber, which is on the lower side compared to the other bars in my review. Considering the inclusion of chia and flaxseed, I expected a higher fiber content.
With 10g of protein, this bar derives its protein from a combination of sources: Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMO), almonds, pea protein isolate, and partially hydrolyzed pea protein. IMO, a soluble vegetable powder, acts as a prebiotic due to its digestion-resistant property. Pea protein is an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans seeking plant-based protein sources.
The carb-to-protein ratio of this bar is 1:0.37, indicating a higher carbohydrate content compared to other bars in the review. This may have contributed to the enjoyable flavor I experienced and the sustained energy I felt throughout the afternoon.
The fat content in this bar, particularly for a plant-based protein, is quite good, likely due to the inclusion of nuts.
Allergens: This bar contains almonds and cashews and is manufactured on equipment that also processes peanuts, other tree nuts, milk, soy, egg, and wheat.
In terms of pricing, this bar is on the higher end, costing $2.49 at my local grocery store. On Amazon, a 12-count package is available for $19.99.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Evolve plant-based protein bar. Despite having low expectations, particularly due to my usual dislike for cherry flavors and skepticism about plant-based protein's ability to keep me full and energized, this bar exceeded my expectations. The taste, texture, and level of satiety it provided were all impressive. I consumed it during my drive to the studio before a 90-minute ballet class, following a busy morning of administrative work involving phone calls and emails. Throughout the entire class, the bar kept me satisfied and energized. It's important to note that while it was a great snack, it should not be considered a meal replacement. I happily had lunch about 2.5 hours after eating the bar. However, if you're not fond of chewy protein bars, this may not be the ideal option for you. The texture was slightly chewy, with occasional bits of cherry or something with a harder texture (similar to dried cherries) mixed in.
Evolve Plant-Based Protein Bar Summary -
The Evolve plant-based protein bar surpassed my expectations with its delicious taste and satisfying texture. It kept me full and energized during class. This is a great plant-based protein bar option for vegetarians and vegans. I wouldn’t recommend this bar as a meal replacement and can certainly be a part of your snacks planned for a busy day of dancing. Overall, it was a pleasant surprise and a satisfying choice.
I always recommend that you focus on your nutrient balance in meals + snacks to best optimize and empower your performance. When needed, bars like these listed in my review can be great additions to your daily routine - they're easy to toss in your bag, have a long shelf life (unlike that banana we always forget about in the bottom of our dance bag), and great to grab on-the-go (no need for silverware or a napkin!).
Generally, I would rank these included bars in this order:
Quest Protein Bar - like I mentioned, I'm a little biased here because I love the flavor of these bars.
Builders Protein Clif Bar
Evolve Plant-based Protein Bar
Power Crunch - simply because it wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped looking at the nutrient content.
Please note, I am not compensated in anyway for reviewing these bars. I purchased them at my local grocery store and there are no sponsorships related to this blog post. If you have a protein bar you would like me to review 👇 drop it in the comments.
Ready to start your eMpower performance journey!? Schedule your strategy session today.